I'm by no means a "watch person", and if you simply showed me 10 iconic watches in person, I wouldn't have much interest. But I couldn't stop reading this. I find it fascinating how the various differences in watches came about, and also how much detail Apple put into their watch faces.
It's made me think of watches a lot differently, and while I don't think I'm going to go out and start a mechanical watch collection, I think I have a new found appreciation for watch face design.
I’ll start with the fact that I’ve not been the Apple Watch’s biggest fan for a while. I’ve used a Series 0 and Series 3, but for quite a few months I’ve been watch free.
In my ideal scenario, I’d like Apple to offer a smart band instead of a full watch. But I’ve come to terms that it’s probably not going to happen any time soon. And in a weird U-turn, I ended up ordering a Series 6 yesterday in size 101.
The watch I ordered was a 44mm Space Grey Aluminium one with a Charcoal Braided Solo Loop. And it was because of a few reasons:
The new blood oxygen sensor. Maybe not impressive on its own, but I think having that and the heart rate monitor, the health/fitness capabilities will increase massively.
watchOS 7. I haven’t had a good look at watchOS 7 before this event, and I was really surprised to see how good it was. Especially the new watch faces. (Matt Birchler has a great review on watchOS 7).
Going back to work. A big reason why I stopped wearing the watch was because of the lockdown, and that I was no longer commuting to work anymore. Well, I’m going to have to start again soon, and I used my watch a ton while on the way or at work.
The new straps. The new Loop and Braided Loop straps are really nice. I found it really annoying that the buckle of the Sports Loop always dug into my wrist, so that’s definitely a good thing.
It’s a decent upgrade. As my last watch was the Series 3, the changes over the past three years have added up to become quite a large improvement. So I’m just generally interested in what an Apple Watch can do for me now.
The new Apple Watch Series 6 is here (I’ve already ordered mine). But before I write up my thoughts on everything that was announced, I thought I’d play around with the sizes for the new watch straps, seeing as the new Solo Loop and Braided Solo Loop come in 9 sizes (Although the size guide has 12?). Mainly because I wanted to see if I see any interesting trends, but also, why not?
So it turns out that it’s not as simple as having a representative “Apple” size for a range of measurements. Instead, there are ranges for every strap size, and also one specific millimetre-precise measurement for every strap size that has two “fits”. A precise fit, which they say is for active lifestyles, and a relaxed fit for everyday use. They always recommend the precise fit.
Here are how wrist sizes relate to the new strap size:
Wrist Size (cm)
12.6 ≦ 13.1
Precise (Recommended): 1 Relaxed: 2
13.3 ≦ 13.7
Precise (Recommended): 2 Relaxed: 3
13.9 ≦ 14.3
Precise (Recommended): 3 Relaxed: 4
14.5 ≦ 14.9
Precise (Recommended): 4 Relaxed: 5
15.1 ≦ 15.6
Precise (Recommended): 5 Relaxed: 6
15.8 ≦ 16.3
Precise (Recommended): 6 Relaxed: 7
16.5 ≦ 17
Precise (Recommended): 7 Relaxed: 8
17.2 ≦ 17.7
Precise (Recommended): 8 Relaxed: 9
17.9 ≦ 18.4
Precise (Recommended): 9 Relaxed: 10
18.6 ≦ 19.1
Precise (Recommended): 10 Relaxed: 11
19.3 ≦ 19.8
Precise (Recommended): 11 Relaxed: 12
20 ≦ 20.6
As you can see the sizes span from 12.6 cm to 20.6 cm. But the Loop Solo and Braided Loop Solo only come in sizes 3 to 12, so the sizes are actually from 13.9 cm to 20.6 cm. If your wrist is smaller or bigger, you’re going to have to find another strap.
While that data is interesting (and maybe useful), I wondered if I could find anything else from the data. So I flipped the columns and simplified the data to represent a precise fit as being inclusive in the relevant sizes.
Wrist Size (cm)
12.6 ≦ 13.2
13.3 ≦ 13.8
13.9 ≦ 14.4
14.5 ≦ 15.0
15.1 ≦ 15.7
15.8 ≦ 16.4
16.5 ≦ 17.1
17.2 ≦ 17.8
17.9 ≦ 18.5
18.6 ≦ 19.2
19.3 ≦ 19.9
20 ≦ 20.6
To be honest, I didn’t see anything useful here. But I did work out that the first two sizes have a range of 0.7 cm, the next 3 sizes have a range of 0.6 cm, and the latter 7 have a range of 0.7 cm. I had a theory that the bigger the strap is, it makes sense that it would be able to stretch to a larger size. But I was expecting to see a higher variability.
Apple’s next event is just around the corner and seeing as it’s very much expected that the event will focus on the Apple Watch. Which, alongside journalists, is suggested by the name of the event, ‘Time Flies’.
The Apple Watch has certainly been a strange product for me. I had the very first model, and absolutely loved it. I eventually bought a series 3, and I was certainly still enjoying using it. But that all changed at the start of this year, when I stopped wearing it completely. I tried to start wearing it again recently, this time with no notifications, or third-party apps, but it still wasn’t a product that I wanted in my life anymore.
But for a while now, there has been a similar product that I’ve had in mind, that I would like from Apple. And that would be a smart band. Not a smartwatch. There are tons of smart bands available now, and they all have their own collection of features, whether it’s fitness tracking, receiving phone calls, listening to music, etc. But I want one from Apple. Partially because I’m a big fan of Apple products, but also because I’m heavily invested in the ecosystem. And any other smart band might have the features I want in principle, but it probably won’t ever be as integrated as something that Apple could make themselves.
Essentially, I want an Apple Watch, but without nearly everything that comes with the Apple Watch. I don’t want a big screen, third-party apps, notifications, or ability to make phone calls. Ideally, the benefit of this product would be that it wouldn’t be directly used. I want a device that acts as a constant health and fitness sensor, and feeds that data back to my other devices, whether it’s directly to my iPhone, or even with its own connect to iCloud.
In total, these are the features that I want this ideal product to have:
Takes form as a strap/bracelet, that’s around the same size as a typical smart band.
A small display used to show time, date, and maybe a few small health metrics such as heart rate.
Ability to upload data via nearby devices, or via a WiFi connection.
Long battery life.
It could be that this product is so “basic”, that there’s no reason why Apple would create such a device. But there’s certainly a market for it. Call it the Apple Watch Mini, or the Apple Watch Strap for all I care. I just want a smart band, that’s designed and built by Apple, that works perfectly with my other Apple devices.
Apart from that dream device. I can’t say I’m that excited about anything else from the event. Unless they give hints about the next iPhone or do something unexpected of course. There’s a lot of rumours regarding a new iPad, but my mind is set on a new iPad Pro, so I assume I’ll have to wait a little longer for that.
Remember my theory that Google has grown bored with Android and doesn’t really care about it? That’s me talking about phones, which, in general, Google does care about insofar as they know that billions of people spend hours per day every day using them. With wearables Google never even cared in the first place, except for making goofy demo concepts like Google Glass. The customers who bought Wear OS devices care about them; the company that designed them clearly does not. If they cared, how could it be that you can’t listen to Google’s music platform on Google’s wearable platform?
He goes on to mention that it’s actually bad for the Apple ecosystem, since there’s no real competition. And even as someone who has stopped wearing an Apple Watch, I still agree that there is no real other worthy alternative.
I don’t think it’s just smartwatch market where Apple seems to be miles ahead of the competition as well. You just need to have a think about what the real options are for a tablet computer. Nothing else even comes close to iPad.
Furthermore, I think the problem is even bigger than just the smartwatch and tablet market. Because when you think about smartphones, there’s only two major players. Which means there’s no real need for innovation anymore, all you need to do is match and/or slightly out do the other player. I really want a third player to join the smartphone game, and have a real go at it. But then again, I can see why they wouldn’t. Apple and Google have both got massive head starts, and ecosystems already exist for both platforms. Sure, Android is bigger than just Google, and there are loads of companies creating their own Android phone. But that still doesn’t provide any real competition.
I’ll start by saying, I haven’t worn my Apple Watch in about two weeks. There was no big decision when I stopped wearing it, but I’ve noticed that over the past month or so, I would just be less bothered about wearing it. So much so, the tan line on my wrist has near-enough disappeared.
I know it was about two weeks because that’s when my heart rate data has ended on the Health app. But it occurred regularly before that, where I would wake up and instantly grab my phone and watch. But I would sit down with a coffee, put my phone and my watch both on the side, and never pay any attention to my watch until it was time to put it on charge again.
My original lack of interest with the watch started I think when I wasn’t going to work. Because that’s probably the only time that I felt I needed constant access to everything. Whether it’s the time, the weather, access to music that’s playing from a device just in my pocket, or all the notifications that I would instantly dismiss.
Now when I think about what I can actually gain from the Apple Watch, I’m not sure if I’m ever really going to wear it regularly again.
Here is a list of all the things I’ve ever done with an Apple Watch:
Get the time.
Track a workout. (Not a real workout, just small walks)
Checked the weather. (Not that it matters to me that much, my outfit doesn’t change all year-round)
Now for what I use my watch for, just before I started to not wear it as often:
Get the time.
I’m starting to think I don’t need a smart watch anymore.
No music/podcasts are being controlled on the watch anymore, because I have AirPods that can do that. I don’t track workouts because they were never real workouts anyway. I don’t play Field Day or Pokémon GO anymore. And if I want to check anything like the weather, football scores, text messages, I just take my phone out of my pocket.
I’ve started to actually like not having my wrist being the interface between myself and the internet. And I’ve grown tired about being notified about things that I just don’t care about.
Maybe I’ll eventually put my watch back on charge and then I can see if there is any remaining use for it. But for now I’ll be keeping it off. Maybe I’ll even think about buying an analogue watch.
I regularly read articles about Apple products that seem to try and be negative just for clickbait reasons, or because it’s a trendy thing to do. But not many of them are as confusing as this article in New Scientist.
In just under 500 words, Clare Wilson describes the new heart rate monitoring features in the Series 4 Apple Watch, the main one being the ability to run an ECG. However counter to the title, the main body of the article seems to praise the new feature. With about 20% of it actually explaining the point they’re trying to make:
But many people have an irregular heart rhythm without symptoms. They will be told by their watch to take the ECG result to a doctor. They could then get potentially risky surgery, go on unnecessary medications risking side effects such as dizziness. At the least, they will be falsely alarmed.
Several trials have investigated whether it is helpful to give ECGs to people without symptoms and the US Preventive Services Task Force has concluded that the evidence fails to show this approach does more good than harm.
The point they’re trying to make is that people will be diagnosed with irregular heart rhythms, but as they lack any negative symptoms, they may be lead to having unnecessary risky procedures.
I have two points to make regarding this. Firstly, if you have an irregular heart rhythm, and the watch detects it, then it’s doing exactly what it’s meant to do. And secondly, if you find you do have one, and even without symptoms, your doctor puts you through risky surgery, then that’s by no means the fault of the watch.
Some people will always read any slightly negative diagnosis with the worst case scenario in mind. That’s why there are such things as hypochondriacs. But then that’s also where qualified doctors come into it. By no means do I think Apple wants you to take an ECG on your watch, and based on that one result, have heart surgery. It’s an indicator that you can use to diagnose atrial fibrillation, and then you can go to a medical professional to further diagnose any issues.
I had my third experience triggering Emergency SOS on my Apple Watch this morning, but this one was the most annoying.
If you haven’t heard of it, then iMore has a good guide on what it is and how to set it up. But basically, it’s something that when triggered, will start beeping loudly while it counts down from 10, and when finished it will call your local emergency services, and share your location with a rather urgent message to your emergency contacts.
To be honest, it sounds really useful. Not something that would get used 99.9% of the time, but it’s nice to know it’s there if you need it. However the action to trigger it, is by holding down the buttons on your watch. Which I believe, is a terrible idea.
As I mentioned before, I’ve accidentally triggered this a few times. I was pretty sure that I saw somewhere that the latest betas had an issue with cancelling it, I’m not sure if this is still true, but nothing I did stopped everything from happening. So my watch beeped loudly on the train for 10 seconds, the (not so equal to 911) emergency services were dialled, and my location was shared with a few people. All because I was leaning on my wrist in a weird way when trying to get off the train.
It’s a nice feature, and is vital to someone in an emergency. But it should be harder to trigger.
It’s nearly halfway through the year already, and I’m surprised to say that apart from the odd accessory, I haven’t purchased any new gadgets this year. And the only big things last year was my new MacBook with Touch Bar and an Echo Dot (which I rarely use now).
That probably isn’t anything spectacular for most people, but I’m a young lover of technology, and a general fan of most things new and shiny. But with a mix of being a student, and the prolonged life of most devices nowadays, I simply haven’t needed to upgrade anything.
But there are a few things that I think may be due an upgrade in the next six months – my Apple Watch and my iPad.
As I’ve wrote about before, I’m still using my Series 0 Apple Watch. And while it’s providing me with everything I think I need from it, I was slightly tempted to upgrade to the Series 2. So if Apple were to come out with another updated model – the new features, speed increase, and the fact that my current watch screen has had a chip for about a year may push me to upgrade.
So there isn’t an immediate requirement for me to upgrade my watch, I think a Series 3 would be time to do so. I’ve had my current one for quite some time.
My iPad is another weird one, I’m currently using an iPad Air 2, so it’s still a relatively new device. But it’s not a pro.
Ever since the Apple Pencil was announced, I really wanted to get one, but this was when my iPad was still pretty new, so I knew I couldn’t warrant an upgrade so soon. And the 12.9" iPad Pro was also a thought, but with the "recent" purchase of a new MacBook Pro, I thought that I would simply not use it enough. However, I’m growing into using my iPad more and more everyday, and while I’m not Federico Viticci, CGP Grey, or Matt Gemmel, the iPad is becoming more of an important device in my life.
Usually the need to upgrade a device is because it is no longer fit for purpose. But that doesn’t apply to my iPad, and it’s mainly because of the software. Sure, Apple makes iOS available on a huge number of previous devices, but I’m talking about apps. I’ve started using a few apps recently that while have reignited my iPad usage, also reinvigorated my iPad, giving it a new sense of power.
These apps are Workflow, Magic Launcher, 1Password, Ulysses, and Todoist, just to name a few. Granted these apps have been available for a while, but I’m now starting to use them properly. Which has made a lot of difference to the way I see my iPad, and has now led me to understand even more how people have moved fully to iOS. One of the best parts of these apps are the widgets you get to use in the Today view. By seeing more at a glance, and to compile bigger actions together in Workflow/Magic Launcher, it lets you do more by actually doing much less.
Putting all of this in the simplest terms, my iPad has become so much more, and it’s leading me to want to use it to do even more of my daily tasks.
What I want in my future iPad is Pencil support, a slightly larger screen than my iPad Air 2, a smart connector for an external keyboard, and general speed improvements. Everything else is down to iOS. And in that regard I’m hoping to see a deeper Siri integration, native drag and drop, and a better way to handle choosing apps in split view.
Apart from these two apple devices, there’s nothing else that I particularly need. I think I’d like to get a Nintendo Switch, but then again I’d probably stop using it quite quickly, as I do with most other games consoles.
Then there’s the next iPhone, but for once I don’t have a desire to upgrade my phone at all. I’m using a 7 Plus, and it’s a mature device that I honestly can’t think of many features right now that would push me to upgrade.
What I’ve learned over the last 6 months to a year, is that hardware isn’t really ever the issue, software is. Which is what got me in this predicament having a bunch of old devices.
Software nowadays can be an elixir of life for old devices, and as much as hardware manufactures won’t like it, they’re lasting a lot longer than they used to.
The very first Apple Watch was released 21 months ago, in April 2015. It was to me, a revolutionary new product, and I just had to get it. So I did.
In September 2016, 18 months after the original Watch was released, Apple then updated the original model, naming it Series 1, while also releasing a whole new version, Series 2.
You could argue that the Series 0 (first edition) to 1 change wasn’t even worth noting, the only main difference was that the Apple S1 processor used in the Watch was replaced with a dual-core variant. However in the Series 2, they added a newer Apple S2 processor which was also dual-core, but also an ambient light sensor, 50 m water resistance, 2x brighter display, and a GPS sensor.
So we can all agree that Series 0 → 2 was a decent update.
Therefore, you would expect that because of this, along with the fact that the Series 0 is a version 1.0 of a new product, that the need and desire to upgrade would be huge.
Except for me, it wasn’t. And it still isn’t.
My Watch is a 42 mm Sport in Space Grey with the original matching Sport band, it still provides the same use as when I first purchased it, but now so much more.
At The Beginning
When I first started using the watch, the main feature that I used was the notifications. This was the major benefit for me, as it meant when I was on the move, be it walking or on the train for example, I didn’t have to keep taking my phone out of my pocket to find out what was trying to catch my attention.
Since then, I have rethought my take on how I manage notifications, but this has been a steady constant on the benefits of wearing the Apple Watch.
Of course, like everyone else, I thought the Apple Watch would be the kickstart I needed to become more active. I would start a new workout whenever I was walking somewhere, or maybe I’d try and jog, or maybe I would take an extra trip somewhere simply because I knew it was tracking me.
Then there was the apps, they took an awfully long time to load, and at the beginning they were run off the paired iPhone, so even at runtime they weren’t the best experience. Although in September 2015, Apple released watchOS 2, which meant that apps could be installed directly on the watch, and therefore would be faster. This was slightly the case, but it still wasn’t the best situation, as sometimes it would be much faster to take your phone out of your pocket, than it would be to just do the simple task on your wrist.
By wearing my watch more often, I was getting more comfortable with it, sometimes even forgot I was wearing it. Slowly I was realising that the things I was using my watch for, simply were being forced, and I didn’t actually want to do them. I just wanted to use the watch.
With the release of watchOS 3 in September 2016, the Apple Watch was suddenly brought back to life.
This update brought significant increases to the speed of the device, which was helped out largely by the new Dock. By choosing to keep apps in the dock, the system would automatically keep them in memory, and therefore would be quicker to load. Alongside the speed benefits, there was also a bunch of new watch faces, and a huge overhaul to the way that the watch worked.
It also meant that because of these updates, developers were more likely to spend more time working on quality apps for the device, since they were able to provide a better experience for their users.
This really was the rebirth of the Apple Watch.
This Moment in Time
So right now, my watch has become a really essential part of my life, and it’s started to feel like it’s providing me with a use.
Here are the main things I now use my watch for:
Telling the time.
Notifications (Only for certain apps).
Checking what’s next in my calendar.
Monitoring my activity and health.
Tracking my sleep.
Pokémon GO (yes I still play it).
Before I go into the “smart” side of the watch, it still is a watch, so I of course use it for the time. But very much like the iPhone, the “native” use of the device isn’t what brings people to use it.
Then there were the notifications, these have been narrowed down to the very few things that require my attention. So I have Messages, a select few email notifications from Airmail, and the occasional thing such as OneFootball when I want to specifically be updated about a game when I’m out doing something.
Recently I’ve been trying to use my calendar more and more, for university lectures, events, and time-sensitive events like flights. Because of this, knowing my next calendar event is essential, as the more I rely on the calendar as my primary schedule, I relinquish control over monitoring what I should be doing. Fantastical has a brilliant app for iOS, and I use their complication on the watch to check my next event, and with a simple tap I can quickly get a list of any other events in the future (made possible by the speed increases I watchOS 3).
It’s a similar situation to the weather, with DarkSky I can have a simple complication that updates super fast, so I can find out the weather in a few seconds.
In what has become a more silent feature of the watch, is the activity and health tracking. As I’m always wearing the watch, I get an accurate measurement of my activity throughout the day, how much I’ve walked, and of course my heart rate is also monitored. I don’t have any health conditions that I need to worry about, but it’s nice to know I have all of this data being logged without me doing anything.
In addition to the health tracking that is done automatically by the watch, by using an iOS app called AutoSleep, I can track the length and quality of my sleep by wearing my watch at night. It still of course needs to be charged, but as I’m sat at my desk, or when I’m not doing anything that involves moving around or needing to receive notifications, I pop it on my little watch stand, and it’s charges pretty quickly. The app uses a whole bunch of metrics to measure the sleep, such as the last time you used your phone, whether it’s on charge, or if you’re moving. But it’s the way in which you manage the sleep tracking is what got me, you just go to sleep. There’s no need to manually say “I’m going to sleep”, you just do it, and it knows. It’s the silent processes of the watch that makes me really love it.
So I’ve got the time, notifications, calendar, activity monitoring, and sleep tracking, there must be something I do on the watch for fun? Well, I do use the Pokémon GO watch app, in companion to the iOS game, in order to gain workout based rewards. It’s the closest to a game experience I have on the device, and it also doubles as a workout tracker, so there’s something else behind it as well.
I wouldn’t say there’s that much else that I use the watch regularly to do. Sometimes I control what I’m listening to, via the Music or Overcast app. As mentioned before, I use the OneFootball app to keep updated on certain football games. Once in a blue moon I use a timer, and that’s probably the only thing I use Watch Siri for. The only other thing I’ve been using is the iOS Wallet, which brings up my boarding passes whenever they’re needed.
When I look back at all of these activities that I now do on my watch, I can clearly see that it has become so much more than a time-telling, notification bringing device.
My Watch as an Appliance
Right now, I use my watch a lot. But even so, it’s not something I desperately need to get any better. I like it how it is.
With the benefits that came with watchOS 3, the device was given a new lease of life. Which made it feel like I’d already purchased a new watch.
I no longer need to worry about it syncing to my phone, whether the apps will be refreshed in time, or even about the speed of the hardware. It’s transformed to yet another computer that sits on my wrist, to a stable appliance that I can trust.
What I Still Don’t Like
Of course nothing is perfect, and I would like a few improvements to be made to the watch experience. But these are mainly down to the software, something that can be changed without the need for me to purchase a new device.
I really don’t like the grid layout of the apps, and I think that a redesign there would be a great improvement. But saying that, the way I interact with my watch is through complications via the watch face, or by launching apps from the dock.
I would also encourage the ability to customise the watch faces even further, so you would be able to have a more custom design and colour options.