One Month with the Apple Watch: Three Dot Lounge for August 8, 2015

One Month with the Apple Watch

A month ago I bought my Apple Watch. I’ve been wearing it ever since, with the exception of two days where I more or less was welded to my office and didn’t think to put it on.

Why did I get it? Read the first article below by Jim Dalrymple, about how the watch has helped him get in better shape and lose a significant chunk of weight. Using the watch as an activity tracker and to see whether it was useful and whether it helped me as I’ve tried to push forward my fitness goals. I was also very curious what else I’d find it useful for — if anything. I didn’t have any strong preconceptions other than I’ve been curious about wearables for a while and this is the second one that’s interested me enough to try it.

The first wearable I used was a FitBit. I found it interesting and frustrating. it gave me a sense of what I was doing, but didn’t put it in context, and it has some strange weaknesses — for instance, when I would go out on a photo trip to a refuge and drive the gravel, unpaved roads at a place like Merced, I’d come home to find out I’d somehow climbed anywhere from 30-50 flights of stairs. While driving.

I found myself wearing the FitBit less, because on typical days, I already knew what my baseline was, and I didn’t see any reason to wear it. I am not the kind of person challenged by the step goals, it was more about monitoring what I was doing — you won’t find me marching in my office to get to 10,000 steps any time soon. Eventually, I misplaced it and didn’t care, and when I finally found it, it went in a drawer.

I wasn’t tempted by another wearable until the Watch was announced. I’ve been wearing my Watch for a month now — 42mm with the leather loop because that’s the only band that fits my wrists. What do I think?

I really like it. I’m glad I bought it. It’s comfortable, it’s worked reliably, it solves some real-world problems for me, and it has more than met me expectations as far as being useful and worth my money.

That said, I don’t love it, I don’t depend on it, and I don’t think it’s a necessary item in a person’s life. And that’s fine, because not everything in the universe has to be life or death or some kind of killer product that changes the world. Unlike what some seem to insist about everything from Apple.

Do you need an Apple Watch? I think Peter Cohen is right; nobody needs an Apple Watch. Does that mean you shouldn’t buy one or that the product is a failure and shouldn’t exist? Not in the least. It’s a very good and very usable product that for many of us can serve a useful and important purpose. Unlike your iPhone, if you leave home and forget to put it on, you’ll won’t turn around to go back and get it.

I’m using mine for very few things — Notifications and Fitness Tracking — but I find those things very useful. I’ve experimented with some of the third party apps with Watch support and decided that’s a thing best left for when WatchOS 2 and native support ships. The experience is pretty universally disappointing. I have a few things installed, I use some glances occasionally, Weather and Calendor being two of them, but mostly, it’s a watch, it’s a notifier, and it’s a fitness tracker. I use the Mickey Mouse face (of course — hey, I worked for the Mouse back in the ancient days) with a couple of complications.

This is a device I think best kept simple and best used in a way that you mostly ignore it until it taps you on the arm and requests your attention. I’ve seen the geeks trying to turn it into a watch, trying to write novels on it, trying to make it a mini-macintosh and mostly being unhappy with the results. We see that with all of these new products.

Mostly I think the Watch is a way to reduce distraction. One big way that works for me: when I’m driving, I can wire in directions in the Maps app. When a turn or some other event is pending, the Watch taps my wrist to let me know. I can glance at the Watch to see the turn, and I’m back focusing on the driving. I’m not glancing at the map on the phone on the dash, I’m driving.

That to me is what makes this device wonderfully useful to me. And when you set up your notifications well, you can streamline your distractions from other things as well. Email? you get tapped on the wrist, a quick glance shows you the subject and sender, and you can go back to what you’re doing. No more worrying if it was important, no more fifteen or 20 seconds grabbing the phone, pulling it out, looking to see if you need to deal with the email, and then putting the phone down to try to remember what you were doing before you broke to look at email. A quick glance and back to work. Trade 15-20 seconds and an interrupted train of thought for 1-2 seconds and back to work. For me, that’s pure gold.

You can easily tune down notifications to the minimum you need to see on the phone, and you should. For me, I made the decision that (with 1-2 exceptions) if I didn’t need them on the watch, I didn’t need them on the phone, either. It made me more thoughtful about what was interrupting me, and caused me to think about it and make some decisions about what interruptions I could do away with. Beyond that, the watch makes those interruptions much less intrusive and so I find I can keep my train of thought going and I don’t lose momentum on what I’m working on AND I can still make that quick check to make sure whatever just tapped my wrist is something that can really wait.

In my case, in the first month of wearing the watch I’m down about 5 pounds. It’s been a complicated couple of months so I can’t clearly point to the Watch being the cause of all of that change, but I do know it’s made me a lot more aware of needing to get up and move around during the day since my job involves sitting at a computer more or less permanently. I’ve gone out and started my walking routine, at least until I tweaked a hamstring and ended up living with an icebag for two weeks (welcome to my life). That I’m actively watching this again is, I think, making me more conscious about other aspects such as being more careful about what and how I eat, and I’ve noticed my glucose numbers, especially mid-day, are down. It’s not the significant transformation Jim Dalrymple’s seen, but it’s a start, and we all need that thing to get us started. This seems to be mine, at least for now.

If the iPhone was Apple’s Grand Slam Homerun product, the Apple Watch feels like a solid double and I wouldn’t be surprised it steals third with the upcoming release of WatchOS 2. That would be a very good product for most companies, but there are those who feel life should be a home run derby and anything that falls short of the fence on the first pitch is a failure. Mostly, I feel sorry for those people because there must be so little in their life that lives up to their standards.

I am comfortable thinking most of us set our expectations more reasonably, and if the Watch does things you think would be useful, I believe it will meet your expectations pretty well. It did mine, and I have no regrets about owning and wearing it.

This issue’s Special Thing

Crystal Springs bald eagles raise two more chicks: The Bald Eagles on Crystal Springs Reservoir have sucessfully fledge chicks for the second year. This is a great success for them and their species. This is the first Bald Eagle nest in San Mateo county in a century. Down here in Santa Clara county there are at least four Bald Eagle nests and there are maturing eagles around the county at a number of other locations, so we expect it’s just a matter of time where basically every body of water that can sustain a pair will. Fifteen years ago the number of nests in the county was zero, and it wasn’t that long ago that the species was in such decline we thought we’d lose them all in the state.

So this is a wonderful story of repairing our mistaks and helping a species recover, and these birds are becoming more and more commonly seen around the county by casual watchers.

Once you watch one of these hunt in person, you realize why they’re special and why we need to protect birds and animals like this so our children and grand-children will be able to appreciate them as well.

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About Three Dot Lounge

Three Dot Lounge is an email newsletter that collects interesting things that catch my attention and the opinions they generate. Current interests include high tech, living in Silicon Valley and California, the challenges of protecting our wild areas and the impact of the drought on those areas, but content in this newsletter will vary wildly.

Three Dot Lounge is written and produced by Chuq Von Rospach. Chuq is a long-time high tech and internet citizen who’s places of employment include Sun, Palm Computing, HP, Cisco, National Semiconductor and a 17 year tenure at Apple. You can follow Chuq on twitter at @chuq or on Google+ or Facebook.

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