One thing I bought on my recent trip to Hong Kong was an Apple Watch. I realized that since the watch has now been on the market for more than six months, it would be easy enough to find a used one relatively cheap on DC Fever and I was correct.
Why did I want one?
I’m less of an Apple fanboi than I used to be. I feel zero need to buy the iPhone 6s or the iPad Pro. But I like “wearables” and find them useful.
I started off with the Nike Fuel band but that only lasted on my wrist for a few weeks. Next I went to the Jawbone UP, and after about a year I still wear it sometimes (these days I mostly use it for sleep tracking).
Millions of people around the world are obsessed with watches. You see this especially in Hong Kong – but it’s a global phenomenon. People pay thousands, tens of thousands for luxury brands for many reasons. Me? I’ve worn the same Casio solar G-Shock for about ten years now. I’ve never needed to change a battery and the watch looks about the same as the day I bought it. The downside is I can never remember how to change the time when I travel; I end up leaving it alone and computing in my head each time I look at it. I don’t think I would buy a Rolex or Patek Philippe even if I could afford one.
The Apple Watch intrigued me because I’m the kind of person who pulls his iPhone out of his pocket 67 times a day. Half the time I think I felt a vibration and pull it out to check the screen but there’s nothing new. And half the time I don’t feel the vibration and miss calls and text messages. So the idea of being able to get a “buzz” on my wrist and simply glance at my wrist to see what’s going on was appealing to me.
I read through a bunch of reviews, especially looking for ones that were written by writers after they’d lived with the watch for awhile. The consensus seemed to be that while the watch hadn’t become an essential piece of gear in their lives, most were still wearing it and loving it. One review (sorry, can’t find the links now) said that while the Apple Watch wasn’t a great smart watch, for the money it was a pretty great watch.
So which one to buy? There are several different configurations, starting with the materials used for the case and the “crystal.” The internals (CPU and memory) are the same across all of the models. When this first came out and I went into an Apple store to check them out, I’d thought I might go for one costing around US$800. What I found was that the only ones selling used on DC Fever were the bottom-end Apple Sport Watch. I decided I didn’t need anything more than that. My used one came with a second band and a screen protector (since the Sport edition uses cheaper materials for the crystal).
The Apple Watch is notoriously slow to load apps. Watch OS2 brought about apps that run natively on the watch, rather than just beaming information from the iPhone. Still slow but not quite as slow. The number of apps is quite limited compared to what’s available in iOS, but there are still plenty of useful ones.
The clincher for me is that one of the apps will allow me to control my GoPro Hero4 camera from the watch. I bought an all-black housing for the GoPro to make it less visible. I have a mount that allows me to put it on the strap of my backpack. And now I can walk down the street and take photos simply by tapping on my watch. I think that’s pretty cool.
The other thing that’s proven useful? My wife messages me a hundred times a day. (Sigh.) It used to be that I’d have to pull the phone out of my pocket, unlock the screen, read her message, type a reply. Now all I have to do is glance at my wrist, scroll through her message using one finger, and then tap the little “thumbs up” symbol to send her a quick reply.
The Apple Watch is not as immediately intuitive as some other Apple products. I had to use Google to find out how to change the watch face – and there are a lot of options, many of which are almost infinitely configurable. There’s an animated version of the classic Mickey Mouse watch face, which is nice for about 13 seconds. One really cool one is the “Timelapse” – you can set it for one of 6 different cities (Hong Kong, New York, London, Paris, Shanghai, Mack Lake). For Hong Kong you get a view from The Peak which changes according to the time of day (and has some animations in it). Mostly I prefer a simple watch face, but I have added in the date, the current weather, a world clock, battery status and a button for the GoPro.
It’s also quite cool that I can make and receive calls directly on the watch. (I can only call out to those on my favorites list, which is fine.) I don’t know how often I’ll actually use it, but what the heck. I can control my music from the watch, get turn-by-turn directions as I’m walking down the street via Apple or Google Maps or Waze, and a few other things.
The Apple Watch is extremely light weight and quite thin. It’s big on my wrist because I bought the 42mm model (instead of the 38mm) because I wanted the bigger screen, but it’s so light that I barely realize I’m wearing it. And it’s a pleasant surprise that my crappy old eyes are able to read the screen without my needing to reach for my reading glasses.
One thing I don’t like is the watch band. The guy I bought it from had the basic black plastic band that comes with the Sport Watch model, along with what I think is a knock-off version of their “Milanese woven steel loop”. Apple makes a dizzying variety of bands and they’re expensive. Apple being Apple, the band attaches to the watch in a proprietary fashion. There are cheaper third party options, but I suspect they are not widely available in the Philippines. I need to find a thicker metal band or a leather one.
Battery life has proven to be better than expected. My day Friday started at 8 AM and I didn’t get home until almost 2 AM that night. I did use the battery pack I carry around to charge the watch around 5 PM but I think it would have lasted until 2 AM even if I hadn’t done that.
As the title of this post says, I’ve only had the gizmo for three days. Of course I’m happy with it so far. How will I feel about it in 3 months? How will I feel about it after the inevitable release of Apple Watch 2? Stay tuned.