AppleWatch first impressions

I received my AppleWatch (the “developer special”, 42mm blue sport band) Friday, and so far I’m happy with it overall.

For the last year, I’ve been wearing a Pebble Smartwatch and I’ve gotten used to receiving notifications on my watch. I got into the habit of keeping my phone in my pocket most of the time and just looking at my wrist when I get a notification.

The Pebble & AppleWatch notifications are very different. With the Pebble, the phone still makes a sound & vibrates, and then a few seconds later I’d feel a vibration on my wrist and it would appear on the Pebble. The Pebble often disconnected or would stop receiving notifications every few days. The AppleWatch notifications are more subtle and a lot less annoying – instead of vibrating, it makes a soft ‘ping’ and taps me on the wrist. While the Pebble always presents all enabled phone notifications, the AppleWatch only presents notifications when the phone is locked. The AppleWatch also gives you a lot more control over which notifications are presented.

I find that “activate on wrist raise” isn’t always reliable. I’ll often activate it unintentionally, and many times it won’t activate when I want it to. Hopefully future software updates will let you adjust the sensitivity.

I’m very happy with the AppleWatch’s battery life. After a day of normal use, the battery is usually at 50% or more, and I charge it every night before I go to sleep. The Pebble claims 5-7 days between charges, but I found about 4 days is more realistic.

Applications on the Pebble are an afterthought and are inconvenient to access, requiring navigating through the menu. Apps are a central feature on the AppleWatch and are a lot easier to access, by pressing the digital crown, although the app screen is cluttered and can be difficult to navigate. Hopefully the UI will improve in later software updates.

Glances on the AppleWatch make applications easier to access and launch, although having many glances enabled means swiping through a long list of items to get to the one you want. My favorite use of a glance is the Transit app, which can instantly show me the next departure time of the two nearest MUNI lines.

I was hoping the AppleWatch would replace my FitBit One, which I lost on several occasions and I often forget to put in my pocket. This is one area where the AppleWatch doesn’t quite measure up. I still use the FitBit for sleep tracking, and the AppleWatch doesn’t let you enter meals and doesn’t measure flights of stairs, like the FitBit does. I also find that the AppleWatch and FitBit report different numbers of steps and distance traveled.


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