Audible has updated their iOS app, and now includes an Apple Watch app, so you can sync audiobooks from your iPhone to the Apple Watch. This allows you to listen to audiobooks on the go, using Bluetooth headphones, even if you don’t have your iPhone handy.
In practice, this highlights one of the biggest flaws of the Apple Watch. While Apple’s wrist computer has storage that can hold its operating system, apps, music, and more, it’s extremely difficult to get anything onto the device. You’ll have seen this when you wait for an update to get copied to the Apple Watch, or if you have ever tried to put music on the device. It is slow. Glacially slow. If you want, for example, to copy a couple of gigabytes to the Apple Watch – after all, it comes with either 8 or 16 GB storage – the cellular Apple Watch 3 offered 16 GB, the GPS-only had 8, and the Series 4 comes with 16 GB for all models – you were best off doing it overnight. Copies to the Apple Watch seem to only go over Bluetooth, even though the device uses wifi for connectivity.
The Audible Apple Watch app explains what you need to do:
So I went ahead and tried.
First, the Audible app says that it is “preparing your content.” It’s not clear what this is doing, but it might be downsampling the file so it takes up less space. I hope not; standard Audible files are 32 kbps, which is adequate for spoken word, but if shrinks them to 16 kbps, that’s not great.
Then it begins syncing. After about 10 minutes, I checked, and this was its progress:
17 minutes later – note the time on my iPhone in the screenshot – it had made more progress.
And when I checked back about 50 minutes later, it said it had finished syncing.
Alas, it hadn’t actually synced anything. When I checked on my Apple Watch, there was nothing. (You can’t get a screenshot of the playback screen showing that there is no content, because the bit on the bottom below, explaining how to transfer audiobooks, slides up as soon as you open it.)
The app does note that the transfer will be quicker if you put your watch on the “Magnetic Charger;” that really makes no difference.
However, when it’s not on the charger, nothing syncs, and the Audible app informs you of this.
This (most likely) is not Audible’s fault. Syncing content to the Apple Watch, as I said above, is a very slow process.
Marco Arment, developer of the Overcast podcast player, added syncing to the Apple Watch in the latest version of his app has. He says:
Sending podcasts to the Watch is slow. Overcast shrinks them to reduce the transfer time, but when (and how quickly) podcasts transfer is tightly controlled by watchOS to preserve battery life. Transfers still sometimes wait forever or silently fail.
So it seems like this is an Apple problem. If the Apple Watch contains storage for audio files, then Apple needs to make this process work. What’s the point of shipping the new Apple Watch with 16 GB storage if you can’t put anything on it? There aren’t enough apps for the Apple Watch to fill up all that space.