Should I get an Apple Watch?
February 9, 2018 2:05 PM   Subscribe

I've been toying with the idea of an Apple Watch (series 3, not the cellular one) for a while now, but I'm still not sure if it would be something I would really get a lot of use out of.

Things that appeal to me:
> I like the idea of being able to check notifications without pulling out my phone
> activity tracking throughout the day would be nice (although not strictly needed for exercising; see below)
> my (regular) watch is currently broken and needs to be replaced anyway

Things that may be complicating factors:
I have a TomTom running watch that I currently use while running. It's accurate, has a good interval timer I like, and syncs with my phone via bluetooth afterwards to transfer the activity to MapMyFitness. I also have a separate heart rate strap I wear sometimes that will work with the watch. So this is something I wouldn't necessarily need an Apple Watch to do for me - although if it did it better or more elegantly, great.

I'm also an avid Spotify user, which I understand might not work with the Apple Watch as well as Apple Music.

Apple Watch users, are there things I'm missing, or super killer features that I may not know about, or other ways that your watch has changed your digital life that you didn't expect? Anything else about the experience of using a traditional GPS running watch vs. an Apple Watch with GPS?
posted by rossination to Technology (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You may want to consider a Pebble Time instead. While the company itself got gobbled up by Fitbit, the Pebble watches are designed to work independently of their servers. They can track sleep and daily steps, sync notifications and texts, work with Spotify, have a week-long battery life, and are a lot cheaper now than at launch ( I've seen some on clearance online for $50-75).
posted by Rhaomi at 2:53 PM on February 9, 2018

If you get the chance to try out a watch that shows notifications, I recommend it before sinking a lot of $$$ into one. I wore a Pebble Time for two weeks and it really distracted me every time a notification came in. I have a Fitbit now that buzzes if someone calls me but otherwise doesn't ping every time I get a new email.
posted by katrielalex at 3:07 PM on February 9, 2018

I really like my apple watch. Even though I don’t use all the fitness stuff, it still tells me when I’ve been very fit and goads me into trying to break records, like last summer, being active for 110 days in a row. Notifications are great, and with some careful option curating, I don’t have to look at my phone for hardly anything.

Probably the best feature for me, as I work outdoors, is the use of Dark Sky, both as notifications and as a complication on the watch face. To explain, a complication is data that is on the face when you glance at the watch, so when I look at mine, it tells me the current conditions, low and high temps, and when the sun sets or rises. As well as when it’s going to rain/snow. And it notifies me when conditions are going to change. People are always asking me the weather conditions, even when they’re checking their phones, because the watch tapped me on the wrist and let me know what’s coming up. Which is cool.

The Dick Tracy phone watch feature is also pretty nifty. Calls work, and if you can get beyond the talking to your wrist stigma, it becomes pretty natural.

I also really like the fact that I can set my phone down, walk across the room, and then turn on the phone camera with the watch, and see through it on my watch. It’s like being Simon Pegg as Benji in Mission Impossible. I just haven’t found a non-creepy application for it yet. To be honest, I call it remote viewing, and I’m seriously afraid I’ll see some weird Paranormal Activity stuff going on.

The only downside I can speak of is making sure you charge it, every night. That’s not a problem for me, but remembering to bring the charging cable can be, as it isn’t just a lightning cable. As much as people like to harsh on apple, their stuff really is top notch. I’ve had mine for three years now, and it’s not scratched or dinged up and works great. And I beat the shit out of stuff. Hope this helps.
posted by valkane at 4:51 PM on February 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

May not be considered a killer feature, but I like that the watch shows audio controls whenever it's playing music via bluetooth to headphones, speakers, Echos, etc. Works for Spotify, too, and makes it easy to change tracks/volume without reaching for the phone.
posted by homesickness at 5:58 PM on February 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

I’ve got a series 0 watch. Being able to glance at notfications in a meeting without having to take out my phone is great. Or, I’m in lecture and a phone call comes—is it the kids school? No? Then I can ignore it. And setting timers and adding things to the grocery list while I’m cooking and my hands are covered with stuff (via Siri) is great (although she doesn’t always pay attention to me, but I’ve heard that it’s better with newer watches). And it taps me when I’ve got an appointment scheduled.

I have mine set to tap for iMessages/texts, but not for email. (You can choose.)
posted by leahwrenn at 6:12 PM on February 9, 2018

My second most favorite feature is that mine is set to show the time of my next appointment in the top corner, if I touch it, my calendar shows up and I can see the details. On days when I am running back to back to back, it helps me track the where, when and who effortlessly.

My most favorite feature is "ping my iphone" - with two taps I can make my phone give off a single sonar style ping - making it possible to find it, even under a pile of mail or stuffed between sofa cushions.

A bonus feature that I won't pay for but is kind of fun is that I can switch to a different, fancier watch face when I am getting dressed up to go out (I liked the butterflies with just the time showing in the corner)
posted by metahawk at 6:21 PM on February 9, 2018

I had an Apple Watch Series 1 for a week - it couldn't replace my Pebble and my dedicated GPS watch (Garmin Fenix 3), and I returned it.

Notifications on your wrist are great - if you have limited your phone's notifications to only those that matter, otherwise it's just going to be an annoyance. I didn't like that the Apple Watch would automatically hide the last notification if you missed it - the Pebble leaves the notification on the screen until you dismiss it. The Apple Watch shows an easily missable tiny dot at the top of the screen when you have unseen notifications.

The Apple Watch's daily activity tracking seemed worse than my Garmin. Sure it has cool rings, but the goals aren't dynamic, and it doesn't do any sleep tracking natively. I bought a $5 app for sleep tracking but since the battery life isn't designed for it, charging became a chore.

I couldn't stand the fact that it required a rather vigorous arm motion to turn on, or I had to click a button to see the screen. Both the Pebble and Fenix have always-on screens.

From what I've read, the Apple Watch has one of the worse optical heart rate sensors on the market, especially if you do any kind of high intensity training or intervals.

You get your choice of generic watch faces only, since Apple doesn't allow third-party watch faces. Both the Pebble and Fenix have custom faces. They may not be as elegant as the Apple, but they are more interesting and customizable to me.

Interacting with the watch was miserable. It feels like someone took a 4" iPhone screen and shrunk it down to 1.7 inches. Buttons were impossible to push accurately, and Siri didn't seem to work. I regularly felt like I should just take out my phone to do anything.
posted by meowzilla at 7:42 PM on February 9, 2018

I have one. Bought it because I’m a loser who loves gadgets and thought I might not use it. I don’t use it for a LOT, but the things I do use it for make it really useful. Namely:

1) seeing weather and sunrise/sunset times at a glance (I’m a SAD girl so gotta know my sun times)
2) knowing if I’m getting an incoming call without caring where my phone is
3) turning on text notifications while walking around with my phone in my bag, like shopping or something, especially if I’m meeting or waiting for someone but don’t want my phone out
4) “find my phone” feature that makes the phone ping
5) podcast app controls on my wrist

There are some other apps with neat stuff (Dark Skies, as mentioned!) but even these core features make it worthwhile IMO. Not sure how many are specific to Apple vs. Android Wear or Pebble, Fitbit, etc.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:43 PM on February 9, 2018

The other things that haven't been touched on that are useful:
If you like to run, you can put music on your watch, pair it with bluetooth headphones and not have to carry anything else to listen as you run, and then, at the end of your run, if you pass the store and you want to buy something, you can tap with your Apple Pay on your wrist.
Remote shutter release is useful for taking family photos or the like - you set up your camera, and instead of hitting the countdown timer and rushing to get into the right position - you just click (and there is a three second countdown, so you can put your arm down after checking the viewfinder view on your watch).
You can set different watch faces with different complications - so that when I'm at work, I use one, but when I'm exercising, I use another with more health related complications.
It is fantastic for being able to quickly reply to Messages with individually curated pre-populated responses, for example while driving (at a stop light) without having to pull out your phone.
If you have an iPhone, and you normally wear a watch anyways, you cannot go wrong with an Apple Watch. I prefer the stainless steel for the sapphire crystal face, but I believe the aluminum one is pretty hardy, too.
Last point, depending on how much it matters, the ability to easily and securely change straps is well implemented (don't buy your straps from Apple - like memory for their computers - buy them elsewhere).
posted by birdsquared at 10:36 PM on February 9, 2018

I enjoy mine. I like gadgets, but I'm not a total gadget hound. I enjoy it for listening to music while I run with bluetooth headphones without needing to carry a phone, and the fitness tracking is perfectly adequate for that. Wife enjoys it for unlocking her mac. I find it incredibly useful because I carry a personal phone and a work phone, and (especially during fieldwork, or when my hands are busy, or during a phone call) it's incredibly handy to see if the call/text coming in is important or ignorable. Also useful for one-word answers without taking my phone out. I have the series 2, but I don't want to pay for an extra data connection so the series 3 isn't much more useful to me.

If you're already using Apple devices, nothing will integrate as well or as easily, so I would base your decision off that. If you're not using Apple devices, it's almost certainly not worth bothering with. I had a GPS watch with chest band before this, and the Apple watch is considerably more comfortable, but I also have very small wrists.

One more thing that bears mentioning - for years, I hated wearing watches because the bands were frequently uncomfortable on my small wrists. I've found that Apple's bands, and the knock-offs based on them, are considerably more comfortable than what I had access to in the past, and switching them is really easy, so sometimes I wear something "dressier", or sometimes something more comfortable. The knock-offs are pretty much just as good for half the price or less in a lot of cases.
posted by Strudel at 2:48 PM on February 10, 2018

You may want to consider a Pebble Time instead. While the company itself got gobbled up by Fitbit, the Pebble watches are designed to work independently of their servers.

Fitbit is ending support for the Pebble in June of this year.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:28 PM on February 11, 2018

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