My experience so far with an Apple Watch

A little more than a week ago, I excitedly received an Apple Watch in the mail. Some days before, I won an auction on eBay for a used, stainless steel version. It was a present from my family, combining Christmas, Father's Day, and birthday presents into one. The funny thing is that I never wanted an Apple Watch or was interested in it before, and my decision to buy one was somewhat spur-of-the-moment.

We are heavy Apple users in my family. We have an iMac at home, and I use a MacBook Pro and a third generation iPad at work. We also own several different iPhones and iPads. But I remained disinterested in the Apple Watch mainly because I don't particularly like watches -- I haven't worn one for almost ten years, using my cell phone instead for that purpose -- and because of the exorbitant price of the Apple Watch. The one I got via eBay cost less than half of the purchase price of a new one. Still, that is a lot of money and I struggle with a sense of guilt for spending that much money on a watch. Now that I've had some extended time with it, I can say that I'm pretty happy with it. Here are some reason why.

Like many Apple products, the Apple Watch is beautifully designed and crafted, perhaps more so than most others. Even though my used model is about a year old, it is in great shape. There are a few minor scratches on the bottom of the stainless steel wristband but otherwise it looks brand new. There are no scratches anywhere else, particularly none on the bezel. The wristband -- called a Milanese loop -- is very comfortable and easily adjusts. One of the reasons I chose not to wear a watch for so many years was because of problems with the comfort of wristbands, so I wanted the wristband of the Apple Watch to succeed, and it does. The bezel is made of sapphire and is marvelously clear and easy to read. The digital crown looks and feels great, and the charger setup is also in great shape. I'm far from being a design snob but I think we sometimes take Apple's notoriously fussy craftsmanship for granted. The attention to every detail for the Apple Watch really stands out.

But does it function well? In a word, yes. Remember that I've been without a watch for many years and so it's taking some time for me to adjust to wearing and using one again. It's still odd for me to lift my wrist to find out what time it is, for example, or look at some notification, rather than pulling out my iPhone. But I'm getting more and more used to that and to me, that's a distinct benefit. It's a lot more convenient to glance at something on my wrist, and I also think it's less obtrusive. One of the worries I had about getting the watch was being inundated with too many notifications and therefore being frequently distracted. A lot of reviews I've read emphasized this aspect, but I've found this to be a non-issue, mainly because I'd already given a lot of time and consideration to fine-tuning notifications on my iPhone and the Apple Watch is set up to default to mirroring what's on the iPhone. I made a few tweaks so that the notifications on my Apple Watch are different in a few cases, but that was easy to do.

Another frequently mentioned complaint about the device is that the software is slow. I'm on some version of watchOS 2.x and I only rarely experience that slowness for a particular app to load or whatever. This is largely a non-issue for me. Instead, I am delighted at the choices for software that are already available for use on the watch, and I get real benefit from them. For example, my password manager has an Apple Watch app. This is one of my most frequently used and important apps, one that I use and sync across all devices. Now I have the ability (and I make use of it) to sync passwords to my Apple Watch. It's great. Another example: my banking app. With much greater ease than on my iPhone, I can quickly check balances of my bank accounts. Even something as mundane as the Messages app has benefits for me by using it on the Apple Watch. For example, some sites require two-factor authentication via a randomly generated code sent to your phone via text message. It's a lot easier for me to receive and read those codes on my watch than to pull out my iPhone.

There are many surprising, extra touches that I enjoy, also. When you connect the watch to its charger and set it on its side, it automatically switches to an alarm clock display. The time will appear in green for a few seconds, then the display will shut off. During the night if you want to check the time, you can give the watch a tap and it'll display again. I'm somewhat light sensitive and that is why I haven't had an alarm clock for years, so this approach works well for me. Another surprise is that I am able to load playlists of iTunes songs onto the Apple Watch -- meaning that songs are physically stored on the watch and not streamed from my iPhone. I didn't expect that, and I find it pretty handy. Yet another aspect that I knew about but didn't think would be a big deal is the ability to customize the watch face. Turns out, that is one of my favorite features, because I can choose exactly how I want things to display and I have choices over colors, etc.

And there's more. Testing out the call feature (in a Dick Tracy-like move, you can call someone from the watch, although technically it's routed through your iPhone) shows that the call quality is very good. People I've called don't even realize I'm talking to them through the watch. Battery life has been a consistent complaint for reviewers but here again, I don't see what the big deal is. I've never come close to running out of battery in a single day's use, and I always take off the watch at night anyway, so having to charge it each night is a non-issue. I discovered that, like the iPhone and iPad, you can easily take a screenshot on the Apple Watch. Not a big deal but neat. When I have an alarm set on my iPhone, I can snooze or dismiss it from the Apple Watch.

Many of these features and uses are little things, but when put together into an overall package, they are compelling. And they just work. Very Apple-like. I'm sold on the Apple Watch and hope to be using mine for a long time to come.

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