Last month I got an Apple Watch. The questions I repeatedly get asked about it are: “What do you use it for?” and “Do you like it?” And there seems to be a third, unspoken question: “Is it worth the cost?”
In this post I answer those questions. My aim is to help you decide whether you would find it useful, whether you would like it, and whether you would think it worth the cost.
What I Like About the Apple Watch
1. Health and Wellness Benefits
The watch tracks your heart rate, which is useful in assessing your health. Furthermore, you can configure the watch to alert you if your heartrate rises above a limit you set—for instance, 100 BPM—while you appear to have been inactive during the prior 10 minutes. That could be just the early warning you need to prevent a major health scare.
When used with the app AutoSleep ($2.99), the watch automatically tracks your sleep with very good accuracy (if you wear it while you sleep, which I quickly got used to doing). It uses a combination of heart rate, watch movement, and phone movement to determine how long you slept, the quality of each night’s sleep, how long you were in “deep sleep,” etc.
I’m honestly not yet sure how I will make the most of this information. But given how important I think sleep is, I’m committed to giving it some thought. For instance, I’m considering independently recording how tired I feel each day. I could then compare those data points with the info provided by AutoSleep. Imagine if doing so helped me figure out, for instance, that I feel more rested after 7.5 hours of sleep than after 8 hours (which is plausible because 7.5 hours is an even five, 90-minute sleep cycles). Such a discovery could save me a lot of time over the course of life, while simultaneously helping me to feel more rested.
2. Notification Benefits
More Certain Notifications
There are notifications I don’t want to miss: e.g., incoming calls, text messages, and calendar appointments. But my phone is often on vibrate, and I don’t always feel the phone vibrate in my pocket. But I always feel the watch vibrate on my wrist.
The previous point notwithstanding, the watch counterintuitively reduces the number of times notifications interrupt me during the day.
That’s because I configured my watch to alert me only to those notifications that I am willing to let interrupt me. For all other notifications of interest (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn alerts), I only allow them to display silently on my iPhone, where I can check them next time I grab my phone.
3. Relationship Benefits
Fewer Interruptions *for Others*
When a phone vibrates, especially when lying on a table, it tends to interrupt a conversation or meeting. When my watch vibrates instead, however, no one else even knows that I’m receiving a notification. I can therefore be fully aware that a notification has arrived without its arrival interrupting the conversation.
Sleep Benefits *for Others*
If you share a bed and wake up before the other person, most any alarm you set will disturb his or her sleep. But the vibration of the watch, while plenty significant to wake you up, won’t disturb the other person.
Less Phone Presence
Since I can receive the most important notifications on my watch, I don’t feel the need to have my phone on me when at home. And since the watch is nowhere near as tempting to jump on, that freedom from my phone helps me be more present to my wife and kids.
James Bond Aspirations
When driving, I always use my phone as a GPS. Doing so, however, makes it awkward when a call comes in. I often have to ditch my GPS to answer the call, at least until I can connect a hands-free device. But with the watch always paired to the phone via Bluetooth, I can take the call on my watch, leaving my phone for its GPS duty. This is the stuff of which James Bond movies are made! Well, maybe not the movies from this decade, but the first 20 films, anyway. . . . 🙂
Tells the Time
For most of my life I haven’t worn a watch. But being able to tell the time without digging my phone out of my pocket is nice, it turns out.
What I Don’t Like About the Apple Watch
There are a few things I don’t like about the Apple Watch:
Bulky with Dress Shirt
The Apple Watch is bulky. Some of the Brooks Brothers dress shirts I love cannot be buttoned over it. And I find it uncomfortable to wear the watch further down my wrist with my dress shirt scrunched up against it.
So, when wearing such a dress shirt without a coat or sweater, I roll up the sleeves. When wearing a dress shirt with a coat or sweater, I leave the shirt sleeve unbuttoned or else use a button extender. It’s not my favorite arrangement, but it works. At some point I may get the buttons on my left shirt sleeve moved. But it would be ideal if the Apple Watch were thinner. (I have the larger, 42mm watch.)
A Tad Slow
When the Apple Watch 3 came out, I purchased the Apple Watch 2 as I got a great deal on it. I find the Apple Watch 2 less responsive than I would like. The slight lag reminds me of the responsiveness on the earlier versions of the iPhone. The Apple Watch 3’s S3 processor is, on paper, 1.7x faster than the Apple Watch 2’s S2 processor. If it truly feels 1.7x more responsive in real-world use, that would make a big difference.
Why No Watch-Enhanced Smart Alarm?
There are apps for the iPhone that are designed to wake you up at the optimal point in your sleep cycle. But for them to work you must either place your iPhone under your fitted sheet (annoying) or else rely on it to monitor your sleep by listening for noises you might make that indicate that you are stirring. I don’t put a lot of stock in that.
It would seem so much better to use the watch’s ability to detect movement and heartrate to identify when you are at an optimal time to be awoken. But to the best of my research and experimentation, there does not appear to be an app that does that (even among those that seem to suggest they do).
Is the Apple Watch Worth the Cost?
A computer is a gamechanger. A smartphone is a gamechanger. I enjoy my Apple Watch a lot, but it is not a gamechanger.
If the watch would help me wake up at the optimal time in my sleep cycle, that could be a gamechanger for me. Every little bit of feeling more rested, over the course of a life, could make a huge difference in terms of one’s mood, one’s energy, and therefore one’s relationships, work, etc. So I’m hoping for someone to develop the app that will make my Apple Watch a gamechanger and totally worth the cost for me.
For those who go on long runs, the Apple Watch 3 with independent LTE could be a gamechanger. That watch can communicate directly with cell phone towers rather than only communicating with your phone via Bluetooth. As a result, you could jog without your phone while still being able to text and make and receive phone calls. But most people probably wouldn’t benefit much from independent LTE, which requires both a more expensive watch and a data plan of $10/month on most US carriers.
In the end, I think the Apple Watch is a great gift (for someone who would like one). That’s because it is fun/cool/useful enough to be desirable, but not quite useful enough to be a no-brainer in terms of ROI.
Question: If you have an Apple Watch, what do you like about it? If you don’t have one, what questions do you have about it? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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