Goodbye, Apple Watch

Note: this article was originally published on 21st February 2016

Baa. Baaaa. Baa.

This, I’m reliably informed by Travelex’s Android engineers, is how I sound when talking about Apple products. An iSheep.

Now whilst I’d like to think I have a little more objectivity than that, they’re probably not too far wrong. I fell in love with Apple products whilst at school with the advent of the iPod. From there I progressed to iPhone, obeying the annual marginal-improvement release cycle, and then unequivocally to the iPad, MacBook, iMac, and Apple TV. To say my front room looks like an Apple showroom wouldn’t be too far wrong.

So last September when Apple announced the Apple Watch, you can imagine my pant-wetting reaction. I sat furiously refreshing at 8am on 10th April to preorder, and at the end of the month I began rocking an Apple Watch on my wrist (42mm Space Grey Sport, if you’re interested).

At first, it was easy to overlook its faults and endlessly rationalise its misgivings;

“I charge my phone every night, it’s no problem to charge my watch too”

“I move my wrist when I want to see the time anyway, so it’s no problem that the watch only shows the time when I move my wrist”

“I can’t afford to miss important notifications, so it’s no problem that I get frequently interrupted by spam messages too”

“It’s great that it tells me to stand up every hour, as I’m always forgetting to stand. I’m sure this won’t become irritating”

I maintained these views for a while, but slowly I began to get frustrated with the watch. I moved from reasoning why I should wear the watch (because the watch was useful, or “enhanced my life” in Apple-speak) to reasoning why I couldn’t take it off (I work in mobile, I have to understand how this works / my wife would kill me – I spent £500 on this thing!).

The battery slowly became an issue. Sure, I charge my iPhone every night but if for some reason I can’t, the next day I’m surrounded by people with iPhone cables. With the Apple Watch, a charge-less night results in wearing a £500 paperweight the next day and endless people gleefully asking you what the time is.

The biggest frustration grew to be the need to rotate my wrist for the watch to wake and the time to be visible. This sounds like a minor point, and when I’ve discussed it with other Apple Watch owners they rationalise it as I did; “don’t you need to do that with any normal watch anyway?”. Well, the answer to this is unequivocally no.

Picture this; I’m interviewing a candidate and need to discreetly check the time so we don’t run over. I find an opportune moment and glance down at my wrist. Damn. I can’t see the time. Okay, no problem, I’ll subtly move my wrist and I’m sure it’ll come on. No joy. I proceed to move my wrist anti-clockwise and lift it slightly. Joy! I can see the time. Horror! The candidate then says “Sorry, am I boring you?”. Looking at your watch is a cue that you’re either bored or have somewhere else better to be. And with the Apple Watch, you convey this every time you check the time. Not good.

After living with the Apple Watch for a few months I also began suffering phantom wrist vibrations. Any slight tinge on my wrist and I’d be checking the watch. Sound ridiculous? Ever been driving your car and felt your phone go off, only to check it and there are no notifications? That’s a phantom vibration. It’s the mental mis-association of a vibration, leading to you falsely assume your phone has vibrated. Now I don’t know about you, but my jeans pockets don’t vibrate too often, so phantom vibrations relating to my phone are few and far between. The wrist, however – that’s a whole new ball game. Throughout the day your wrist gets multiple minor vibrations and many of these then present themselves as phantom vibrations. You’re left in a state where you check your wrist falsely multiple times per hour, or you don’t check and you miss notifications (one of the selling points of the watch).

All of these frustrations boiled over recently and I did the unthinkable – I ditched the Apple Watch. I have to admit I did feel somewhat liberated, and it’s replacement (the Pebble Time Round) has been a dream. It’s lighter, lasts longer and is always on.

On disclosing this to other iSheep their reaction has been two-fold;

Reaction: What about the apps?!

Answer: I never used any apps apart from the stock apps (usually greeted with “oh yeah, me too”).

Reaction: I’ve been thinking about swapping too… let me know how you get on.

Despite all of the above, I wouldn’t say the Apple Watch is a terrible device. It’s clearly a version 1 product with many kinks that need to be ironed out. It’s biggest problem? It’s primarily a watch. And it’s… well… a terrible watch.

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