My lackluster experience with the Apple Watch Series 4

#1

Hi!

I’d like to share my experiences the Apple Watch Series 4 (44mm) I purchased in October 2018.

I had not owned an Apple Watch prior and after thoroughly researching the device I purchased it with the aspiration that it would allow me to become more productive by helping to stay on top of things. However, deep down I knew I didn’t NEED it but based on the lists of reasons I created to justify the purchase I did it anyway.

I’ve found that these 6-7 months the Apple Watch has not enhanced my life positively in any meaningful way and in some cases has detracted from it and if I’m honest, most days I couldn’t care less if I wore it or not.

I’ll go into more detail in a moment into my reasons but I just wanted to preface this by saying that I am not trying to put down people who want it/find it useful.

Unlike most other Apple products this product, the Apple Watch’s has a niche purpose. With the Apple Watch, I’ve had to find reasons to use it whereas buying a phone Mac/MacBook for example is a no-brainer.

I’m currently about 25-28% of the way through reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport and while going through the first exercise of listing the digital tools I currently use and then categorise them into the groups of ‘banned’, ‘must-have’ and ‘limited usage’ I found the Apple Watch to fall into the group of limited usage, perhaps even banned.

Cal refers to something he calls the Maximalists, those are people to whom if they find ANY benefit to using some digital tool they justify its usage without must consideration to its downsides (2nd order consequences). Evidently, I was a maximalist when purchasing the watch…

I’m sure people have very good reasons to use it and its a technological marvel but the following overview of my experiences is for those who are thinking of buying a watch and still trying to justify the purchase.

What I like about using the watch

  • Due app - Fantastic for ensuring you do not miss certain appointments.

  • Volume, pause and play controls on the watch face when listening to audio on my Bluetooth headphones (not AirPods)

  • Checking if the email/message I’ve just received is important enough to warrant an immediate response (never is, but you never know…)

  • Time & Date

  • Quick access to timers

  • Add tasks to Things/Drafts using text-to-speech

All the above can be achieved using the iPhone in roughly the same amount of time except for the adding tasks to Things/Drafts. The watch removes the tiniest of friction, I suppose sometimes reduce the initiation of a task from 8 secs on the phone to 6-7 secs on the phone makes a difference to some but not worth it, in my opinion, when factoring the things I don’t care much for outlined below.

What I don’t care much for

  • Viewing Things 3 tasks on the modular watch face to determine my next action. In all honesty, I rarely use it, I much prefer managing/adding/executing tasks from the iPhone or MacBook (if I had an iPad I’d probable prefer that also).

  • The text-to-speech when replying to messages is cool, but I don’t find it useful in any scenario where my phone would be better suited. I thought it would make it easier to add tasks while driving seeing as its just on my wrist… however… it’s dangerous to use when driving! Reading the message, pressing the button to record the response, then proof reading before sending is something you should never do when driving. Just use CarPlay or Siri to add tasks/ideas. Another example, is that if you wanted to use it in the office because you’re not allowed to take out your phone then everyone would know your business. If you were to whisper into the watch then it might not pick up the words correctly and so you’ll have to go back and edit.

  • I don’t take calls on my watch - why? Lol. Again, everyone would know my business. It might be useful if you are alone and it’s quiet (watch picks up a lot of ambient noise) and the phone is not on hand but not much of a selling point. Could also be good if you’re jogging and you don’t take your phone with you but still why? My thought process is why pay £10+ per month for cellular when I could just strap the phone to my arm and save £120+ per year.

  • Typing responses on the watch is onerous.

  • Tracking my sleep worsened my sleep as I was getting anxious about making sure I had good sleep and improved my numbers.

  • The watch is something else I need to charge, monitor and make sure I wear (to get my monies worth) and further strengthens the existential dread that I’m becoming more and more of a cyborg with my ever increasing usage of digital tools to manage/control every aspect of my life.

  • Notifications break focus, but it’s one of its best reasons for having it. Disabling them reduces the watch’s usefulness. I feel sorry for anyone who has chosen not to disable most their notifications.

  • The watch faces are ok but are too cartoony. If Apple would let third parties create faces it would remedy this but I doubt they will otherwise it might hit their trillion dollar bottom line :wink:

Conclusion

So those are my main reasons for my apathy towards the Apple Watch. It was an interesting experiment which I’m glad I did but I’ve found it to be the antithesis of Digital Minimalism.

I don’t feel like I’ve become a better human for it whereas the same couldn’t be said for my iPhone/Macbook or my recent purchase of a 34" Alienware Ultrawide monitor (Ultrawide is insane)!

I am now going to see about selling it and give it the home it deserves lol! I am not the right customer for the watch and I just do not have the inclination to go out my way to make it useful. Again, I don’t think there is anything wrong with the watch. It’s incredible. I’m just not the market target.

Thanks for reading. It seems silly being so dramatic over a watch but it’s kinda cathartic writing out my thoughts.

i’m planning on starting a 30 day Digital Declutter so might log my progress in this forum for anyone interested in what my life will be life not spending 80% of my waking hours looking at some form of screen.

Beresford

#2

Completely understandable. I have a gen 1 watch (talk about slow!) that i put on way back when to understand the technology and behaviors of this watch thing. I had not worn a watch for many years and found that that part of skin real estate should not be occupied by just anything. The apple watch quickly turned into a fairly useless gimmick with exception to the sports tracking capabilities.

I removed the watch for a number of months to enjoy a free wrist again, but found i did like the sports tracking too much an have since put it back on. But i do get annoyed with it sometimes - i removed most of its notification functions which are crippled at best on the gen 1 and sometimes the band irritates. As of late the display is fading and i now need to think if i purchase another watch. Ideas of coding up some cool app for it have vanished once it became clear that it is just a mini tethered iphone, useful for only very specific use cases.

The watch features/apps are oversold IMHO, with exception for tracking and health related functions. For those i think Apple just hit it on the nose.

#3

I’ve loved my Apple watch for Due, setting reminders, setting tea timers, adjusting volume and, most usefully, messaging my wife with things like “on my way”.

Then my battery died and I have chosen not to replace it, which is very telling. It’s good, just not compelling for me right now. If the heart thing worked here, I might reconsider.

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#4

I totally get what you are talking about. And you might be right that the Apple Watch is not for you. And that is fine.

I could not imagine myself not having one.

  • Activity tracking: do I need that? No. But I love it. It has absolutely had an impact on me. I always have been a couch potato to some degree. The watch has changed that a lot and I have fun with it.

  • Health: even without the “heart stuff”, I find the watch to be a tremendous way to monitor how I live my life. And to think about what I do health-wise.

  • ApplePay: the ability to pay without the need to get my iPhone or to pull something out of my pockets is just amazing.

  • Especially when being outside in bad weather and having no hands free, the watch is great to get an idea if I need to answer an incoming call (I see who is calling).

  • Notifications on my watch are great: I have disabled all app notifications I do not need. The few that are still enabled are very helpful to me.

  • The detox reason: for me, the watch was a way to detox digitally. Not that I intended it to be a “detox device”. It just has worked out this way. Especially with the more controlled way to notifications, I find myself way less checking unnecessary stuff on my iPhone and I am still up to date if it is important.

But as I said, I totally get that you can see this device totally differently.

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#5

Thanks for sharing your experience with the watch! I don’t have one yet, because I can’t find the use case for it. In fact I’m excited when I meet apple watch tech savvy users because I’d like to ask them for their thoughts and how they use the watch… (Spotted it on my boss’s wrist a few days ago. Will have to ask him for comments soon.)

Reasons I’ve been debating about getting a watch since it first came out:

  1. $. If I have infinite resources I would just buy it and there would be no debate. But alas, I’m not as rich as I dream to be and I’m worried about adding another gadget to the list of “items to buy every couple of years”. I’m fairly careful with my electronics in general (never broke a phone screen before) but I do get a bit clumsy with myself sometimes. Like I’d underestimate the amount of clearance space I need when walking and whack my hand on something. Seems to have happened less recently. But adding an expensive screen on my wrist does worry me a bit!

  2. I wanted the watch for activity tracking. So that I can track my steps when I leave the phone to charge at my desk for example. But alas, I upgraded my 6s to the XR a few months back and the phone battery issue is solved.

Maybe having the watch would motivate me/be reason for me to actually get some exercise. But of course that’s just an excuse to get the watch. I don’t need the watch to go for a swim or a jog. I just need to erm, get my a$$ moving. Would definitely give me more incentive but I think other mental health and lifestyle changes might be more beneficial.

  1. Notifications/phone calls. Would definitely be nice if I could see whatsapp messages or emails on my wrist. But I’m kinda shy - I hardly even use Siri unless I’m alone in my room. Certainly wouldn’t dictate messages or answer/make phone calls on my watch on a regular basis. Unless the lab is empty or something. I just don’t get the whole “talk to the air” kind of thing. Maybe it’s just a psychological thing and it would change over time… And I might actually use Siri more often on my watch. But making phone calls? Still no. And in the end all these could still be accomplished with my phone. Which I carry around with me all the time now that the battery life is a non-issue. Do I really need the apple watch?

  2. Apple pay. Now this I do love and use a lot. And with the face recognition I find it actually more awkward to use compared to the old fingerprint sensor - merchant NFC device might be really high up, or in some awkward, out of the way location etc. But those are not insurmountable problems. I tend to be holding my phone a lot anyway. I don’t have to dig around my purse/bag for my phone because it’s either in my jeans pocket or I’m holding it. Is it really THAT much of an improvement if I use my watch? I’m not buying things with my phone a hundred times a day. I’m usually not in a rush when paying for things. That few seconds saved would be barely noticeable.

Now what would make a difference though, is if the Singapore transportation system actually accepts apple pay. I take public transportation to and fro work daily. I’m typically in a rush. Switching to Apple pay would be great since I don’t have to carry an extra card around - a card that need topping up every week or so. Not sure how it’ll work if it gets implemented… But if I need to verify my face on the iPhone everytime, that’ll actually slow things down versus just wiping out and scanning my wallet. Whereas with the watch you just scan and there’s no need for identity verification (correct me if I’m wrong!)

So yeah. Still waiting for either apple pay to work on public transport here, or for a stronger use case for the watch to appear. I very much want the watch. But do I need it? Unfortunately, no.

#6

This is known as orthosomnia. I work in sleep and see this a lot. Good sleep doesn’t need lots of effort. The algorithms underpinning the analysis of the raw data of commercial wearable sleep trackers are proprietary and have not been made publicly available. So it is not possible to ascertain their validity. The lack of transparency of the algorithms used by such devices, the limited sampling rate in comparison to actigraphy (10 times less sensitive than actigraphy), and the absence of validation against the gold standard of sleep measurement (polysomnography), mean that the validity of the claims made for these products is untestable. I have a colleague who compared the data obtained by autographs vs FitBits and the FitBits produced results that were physiologically impossible.

Anyway, back to your regular scheduled programme.

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#7

Reading your post clarified some of my own thoughts about my Apple Watch. I do a lot of the same things with it that you do, but even though I continue to wear it, I have found myself simply pulling out my phone again when I need to do anything more than check the time and date.

Long story short, I think I’ve realized I would enjoy having a nice regular watch again. But my current Apple Watch is getting older and I really don’t think I’ll be upgrading.

I like the idea of tracking my activity, but who am I kidding? I don’t do anything with the data, and anyway, if I’m being honest, I really need to track my activity only slightly more often than I need to rent a tuxedo. :joy:

#8

Wow this was so insightful! Another reason to not use the device…

I did notice that irrespective of how I changed my habits my score would remain the same. This would lead me to believe those variables didn’t matter (going sleep a certain time, more/less sleep or going to be at the same time each night) made no difference or I couldn’t find the key variable or the watch doesn’t measure properly.

The first two seemed implausible based on the science (Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker) so it makes more sense the watch is not accurate/or doesn’t enough of the measure the appropriate biomarkers. Which makes sense with what you’re saying.

#9

I’m starting to enjoy my Watch 4. I finally found the faces and complications that I liked after some experimenting.

Activity tracking is made easier for me now. Instead of sitting down at my desk to do computer work, I’ll bring my laptop to a higher countertop and work standing up. It reminds me to complete my Stand ring. The Exercise ring is a great way to remind me to keep exercising. It’s gimmicky but I like the idea of completing this ring.

Success depends a lot on being able to capture the measurables.

My first face is the Siri face which shows my upcoming events and some notifications I haven’t handled yet.

My second face is my traveling face. It has the weather, maps, and find my friends. I included the Drafts complication so that I can just capture a quick voice draft with my watch without taking my iPhone out of my pocket when I’m driving.

My third face is my office face. it has the timer complication for doing quick pomodoros and the alarm complication if i need to do an impromptu timer. I am starting to use the stopwatch app to measure how long it takes me to complete certain tasks. I’m measuring this to see if I can get better estimated duration to include in OmniFocus.

My third face is my Exercise face. It shows my heartbeat, the activity rings, the Streaks Workout complication, and the Exercise complication. This face reminds me to get out of my desk chair and start doing other things besides sitting on my arse.

I’m experimenting with a sleeping face with complications for Autosleep, Autowake, and Breathing. I’m curious to see how much this is working for me.


In the end, using the Watch to track measurables is much easier now. I switch faces depending on what I want to do (today’s schedule and notifications, traveling, office work, exercise, and sleep).

would miss my Watch 4 if I lost it.