366 Days of Thinking Deeply About the Apple Watch

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 9 min read

We just hit one full year of the Apple Watch's release and I realized I've written a lot about it in that time. I've been an outspoken advocate for the value of smart watches in general, as well as a supporter of the Apple Watch as the best smart watch on the market. We've had some ups and downs, but at the end of the day this is a product that I love and want to see have a bright future.

Because I've split so much digital ink on the Apple Watch over the past year, I don't think I have much new to say today on its anniversary. Instead, I've compiled a collection of some of my favorite writing from the past year on the Apple Watch. It will take you a couple hours to read everything linked below, so if you just want to see "the hits," the below 4 pieces are the ones I'm most proud of and I think are most worthy of your time.

Day 2

I wrote 15 Impressions from My First Day with an Apple Watch, and had some impressions that still hold true one year later.

  • Battery life is still great, I've never even used low power mode except to see what it's like.
  • I noted apps are very slow. It's been a year and that's still true.
  • I wished for more complications. watchOS 2 granted that wish

I did get one thing very wrong though:

The friends button is super-useful: No matter where I am in the OS, I can easily initiate a message or call to any of my 12 closest friends and family. It’s a clever choice, and a good one.

Yeah, I stopped using that button after a few weeks.

Day 3

I was still processing everything, so I just published 10 more impressions on day 3. I complained that fitness stats were a little buggy (this has since been fixed) and that the Watch was draining my iPhone battery quite a bit. I fixed that by upgrading to a 6 Plus just a week later.

I gushed about the screen quality (it still looks great, and is the best on any smart watch I've seen), that it made for a nice timer, and that it was a nice running companion.

Day 11

After a week and a half with the Apple Watch I felt comfortable writing a massive review. My reading time calculator says it will take you 27 minutes to read from start to finish and that's almost certainly about right. It's the longest thing I've written in the past 12 months, and I'm super proud of it.

The Apple Watch has not freed me from being a slave to my phone. Nor has it overloaded me with notifications so I can’t get any peace. The Apple Watch has made interacting with my digital life a little easier. I don’t know if smart watches are going to take off and be as mainstream as smartphones, but I hope they do so that Apple (and other companies) are pushed to refine and enhance these devices for years. The Apple Watch is not perfect (more on that later), but it is a delightful first entry.

I went on to explain how I was using the Apple Watch, what features were working for me, and what just wasn't. It was a positive review overall, but I warned that the Apple Watch was not an essential product like the iPhone or Mac might be for most people. It was worth the price of admission to me, but it wasn't for everyone:

However, if you are still on the fence, don’t feel like you need to rush out and order one today. Almost all of my current problems with the Apple Watch will be fixed by software and hardware releases down the road. We expect to see an SDK for apps to run natively on the Watch either this summer or fall, and we’ll almost certainly see a new version of the hardware with faster internals within the next year or two. Apple is betting big on this thing, so expect them to work tirelessly to make you want one.

Day 13

In what could be described as my first "hit piece" on the Apple Watch, I published The Agony of Syncing Podcasts to an Apple Watch with iTunes Match in which I described the pain of getting podcasts onto the Apple Watch so that I could go for a run without my phone. The process took my about half an hour, but it could take longer, and my frustration reared it's ugly head in step 7 of the process:

  1. Sync the playlist from the iPhone to the Apple Watch – 10 minutes-****ing forever

The article was about me trying to find a way to listen to podcasts on my runs without an iPhone in my pocket, but while it is technically possible I have just invested in running shorts that let me tie them nice and tight so they don't fall down.

Day 15

It was clear the Apple Watch didn't have a ton of great third party apps on it from the get go, but I finally wrote something about it 2 weeks in entitled Early Days on the Watch (or How Even the Best Watch App Sucks):

Even as a fan of the Apple Watch, I recognize that almost all third party apps on the thing are lacking in some way or another. Developers were writing software for a 1.0 device, with a new design paradigm, and hardware they weren’t able to use. It’s no surprise most apps suck!

I was, and still remain, confident that apps will get better in the future, but we're still in early days for smart watch software.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a gallary of some of MacLife’s favorite apps from 2008. Looking great, everyone 🙂

Day 24

I love to run…a lot, actually…and a few weeks in I was comfortable talking about how the Apple Watch functioned as a running companion in Running with Apple Watch:

Despite these flaws, I am going to stick with Workouts for all my run tracking for the foreseeable future. Its ease of use, heart monitoring, and iPhone-free capabilities make it a solid running companion for me. If you’re deeply invested in a competing service, most of them already have Apple Watch apps available, so you can continue to use them if you prefer.

I still have some issues with the Workouts app for Apple Watch, but it is pretty darn good at the basics. I have some ideas for what Apple should add in the next iteration of the app, but it serves its purpose well.

Since writing this piece, I have stopped using Workouts for my runs/bike rides exclusively because of the lack of cloud backup. I still don't understand why Apple is not saving this to my iCloud account. They're tied to my Apple Watch backup, which is just nuts. If I buy a new iPhone this fall and decide I don't want to restore from a backup, I'll lose all my Apple Watch data, including my workout history. Please Apple, save this for me!

I also wrote about what third party complications might look like in watchOS 2, which would be revealed about a month later.

Day 45

I wrote the obviously-titled 45 Days with the Apple Watch, and basically every feeling I have in that article hold true today. I don't know if that's good or bad news that I had a compete understanding of the product after a month and a half. The only thing that's really changed is that I don't get asked about the watch everyday like I did last summer.

Day 76

This was the last milestone where I wrote a specific update on how I was using the Apple Watch in 10 Impressions After Almost 3 Months with Apple Watch. You can check out that list, but the most important one was right up front:

  1. I’ve worn it everyday

I wore it each of the first 76 days, and I've worn it every single day after that too.

Day 201

The Apple Watch is Good, Not Great (it just needs a little zip)

Speed has got to be the name of the game with Apple Watch 2. Hell, they could call it the Apple Watch S. If Jony Ive and crew have a whiteboard with their ideas for the next Watch, I really hope the word “FAST” is written in permanent marker across the top. All changes made to the hardware should be in the interest of ensuring they can get a much faster device on people’s wrists in 2016. Whether that’s getting a significantly faster CPU in there, improving the Bluetooth connection, or whatever else, they need to be thinking faster, faster, faster… I don’t want one that thinner or lighter, I just want one that’s faster.

Day 221

Upgrade your Apple Watch Band for Less Than $30

There is a way to get a nice new band for your Apple Watch and not break the bank doing it.

These bands are the a couple of my most-worn bands.

Day 299

I wrote The Apple Watch’s Draw to Non-Tech People after my wife started to talk about maybe, possibly getting an Apple Watch in the future. I'm rubbing off on her!

Day 312

This one was a doozy! The Best Health, Better Apps, and Outstanding Communication: My watchOS 3 Pitch

I have to imagine there are some big changes coming to the Apple Watch this year, so I wanted to make my pitch for what 3 areas Apple should focus on to make the Apple Watch better for existing owners and entice those who have’t bought in yet.

It's a beast of a read, but if you only click one of the links in this piece, make it this one.

Day 340

We were a little past Valentine's Day, but I was feeling a bit mushy about my Apple Watch at this point. A Love Letter to My Apple Watch was an absolute joy to write!

I love my Apple Watch and have not gone a single day since April 24, 2015 without wearing it. It is an absolutely essential part of my life and is something I never want to be without in the future. If Apple threw in the towel today and said they’re never making another Apple Watch, I’d keep wearing this one until it stopped working.

There is a lot of seemingly gleeful negativity out there about the Apple Watch, and I felt the need to present the counter point. I really adore this product and am so happy to have it.

Day 347

The side button on the Apple Watch has turned out to be a waste of a button for many people, so I suggested my solution for how to fix it.

What if the side button was treated as an “auxiliary button” who’s function would change based on what app you have open on your iPhone? It would;t matter what screen you were on in the watch, this would trigger something on your phone to happen.

Day 362

My last Apple Watch piece of the year was What Ambient Apple Watch Faces Might Look Like. I think that this is something Apple really needs to add to the Apple Watch as soon as they can, and I created some mockups for what the current crop of watch faces might look like if they were designed to be "always on."

Day 367

I compiled this entire post on my Apple Watch and haven't touched my iPhone or Mac in months!

Okay not really, but I have indeed worn the Apple Watch every day since I first got it in the mail a year ago today. It's the tech device I feel I want to give up the least. Let me put it this way: I have a nice cell phone plan with T-Mobile that allows me to trade in my cell phone basically whenever I want. I have been tempted to trade in my iPhone 6S Plus for the Samsung Galaxy S7 or the HTC 10, but I haven't because doing so would mean giving up my Apple Watch while I used that phone. I'm not willing to do it, even though I naturally want to try every single phone out there.

We should start to hear some rumblings about the future of the Apple Watch in the coming months, and rest assured that I'll be paying very close attention to all updates coming out of Cupertino.