It’s Time to Give the Apple Watch a Rest

Apple watchAs someone who writes about technology for a living, it behooves me to try out new devices and new technologies when they become available to the general public. Because of this, I bought the first Apple Watch when it was released, and bought the second iteration of the device was updated a few months ago.

But I’ve never been truly convinced that the Apple Watch made my life any better. So it’s time to give the Apple Watch a rest. In the next couple of days, I will remove it from my wrist and place it in a drawer. I want to ignore it entirely; I still write about this stuff, so I will test it from time to time as Apple updates the device’s software. But I don’t see any reason to keep using the Apple Watch.

Apple used early Apple Watch buyers as beta testers and guinea pigs. The device was poorly thought out at its launch: it tried to do too much, and it didn’t do anything as well as it could have. The improvements made in the third version of the Apple Watch software changed many things about the device, and for the better. Nevertheless, for the way I live and work, it just doesn’t offer me any compelling features.

For a year and a half, I have used the Apple Watch for three things: time, fitness tracking, and notifications. For the first of these, the Apple Watch is an excellent device. It keeps time. Like watches do.

FitbitFitness tracking is a mixed bag. The Apple Watch is very unreliable at tracking activity. The only type of exercise I can do is walking, and the Apple Watch just isn’t accurate at counting steps. If I compare it to the Fitbit One, which I wear on my waistband, the Apple Watch records from 10 to 20% more steps. The Fitbit One is extremely accurate; I have tested it and compared it to other fitness trackers, and, because of where it is worn, it counts steps correctly. All fitness trackers that you wear on your wrist either undercount or overcount. In addition, the Apple Watch incorrectly records active minutes, its heart rate sensor is wonky, and, seriously, that thing about having to stand once an hour for twelve hours… That was neat for about two days.

Notifications are the only thing that I will miss. It is practical to have my watch vibrate when I get a text message or a phone call, but I have only ever really used the Apple Watch for those notifications. Early on, I realized that one can drown in the sea of notifications so I turned most of them off. I will have to adjust my iPhone, to make it vibrate a bit longer (I always keep it on silent) when I get messages or phone calls. But I can live with that.

Using third-party apps was a horrible experience early on, but, even now that they launch faster, I don’t find any to be useful. It’s too much of a hassle to use the tiny display of the Apple Watch when I have my iPhone handy. As such, I have only used Apple’s stock apps, with the exception of one or two apps that added complications.

I understand that, for people who lead more active lives, notably with commutes, the Apple Watch may be more attractive. I work at home, so the advantage of getting information when I’m on the move doesn’t exist for me. You may find the Apple Watch just fine for the way you live; it just doesn’t offer me any advantages.

One more thing, and I’ve thought this from the beginning: the Apple Watch is ugly. In ten years, when Apple has figured out how to make an attractive wearable, we’ll look back on this device the way we now look at those watch/calculators from the 1970s. It’s just unattractive design. I don’t blame Jony Ive; he had to work with the limitation of a rectangular display, and I predict that Apple will make a round one at some point, which will be a lot better looking.

One thing that’s interesting is that the Apple Watch has made me rethink watches. For a long time, I did not wear a watch. But with the Apple Watch, I have found that I check the time fairly often. So while I am going to put away the Apple Watch, I’m going to buy one or two analog watches. I like nice things; an attractive watch is a piece of jewelry, and, since I don’t wear any other jewelry, it might be nice to make a change. But I will no longer need to worry about charging a watch every night (to be fair, the second generation Apple Watch lasts about two days on the charge), or remember to put it on so I can get notifications and track my activity.

Max billSo, in a couple of days, when I get the nice new watch that I’ve ordered (this watch, with its subtle design, thanks to Boxing Day sales here in the UK), I will put the Apple Watch to rest. I’ll go back to using my Fitbit One to track my activity, because I do want to keep track of my step count, in order to motivate me to stay active.

It’s been an interesting experience, and I can understand that for some people — people a lot more active than I am — the Apple Watch is a useful device. Part of the promise of the Apple Watch was that it would simplify my life, because I’d need to use my iPhone less. But rather than simplify my life it has just made it more complicated.

My iPhone does what I need, and I really don’t need another device connected to it.