If you have read any of my previous posts about the Apple Watch, you will know that it’s been somewhat of a rollercoaster ride. From not seeing what it could offer me; to getting caught up in the hype; hitting the pre-order line; only to then return the Watch for a refund; to being convinced by Apple that I had not given the Watch a fair opportunity to prove itself to me, and that I should give it a second chance.
This mix of thoughts and emotions probably makes me a prime example of the hype-cycle and confusion so common when Apple moves into a new product category - it’s going to be the best thing ever; it’s going to be the worst thing ever; what is this thing, is it useful, and why would I want it?
As it’s been 6 months since I first boarded this rollercoaster, I thought that perhaps it was time to see if my previously mixed feelings about the Apple Watch had become any clearer. Is it actually any good? Good at what? What is it for?
The simple answer is that it provides me with lots of small conveniences throughout my day. I have still to find any ‘killer’ apps or use cases which offer significant benefits over my iPhone. But, glancing at notifications, checking the weather for the next hour, paying for some groceries, controlling music playback on my AirPlay speakers are all a little quicker and easier on the Apple Watch. Each saves pulling my iPhone from my pocket and arguably provide a more satisfying user experience.
It’s that little bit of extra convenience which I would miss if I now had to live without the Watch. Does that make it worth the cost? Well, that’s for each individual to determine. But, for me, I have come to think of the Apple Watch as a useful luxury. Something that I could easily live without, but enjoy having for those little conveniences.
However, last month’s release of watchOS 2 has shown that the Watch has the potential to become something more than a useful luxury. Apps developed to now work natively on the Watch can offer a more satisfying and complete user experience, and 3rd party Watch complications can make it quicker and easier to access the information and tools that matter to you.
Two good examples of this are Dark Sky and CARROT Weather. Both now work natively on the Watch and offer 3rd party Watch Complications. This has made checking the weather quicker and easier on the Watch than reaching for my iPhone. For my needs, the actual user experience is also just as complete and satisfying, and doesn't feel so compromised as was nearly always the case with most tasks under watchOS 1.
In both these cases, the developer has taken am already great iPhone app and shown how the Apple Watch can be used to complement and improve upon what that app offers. However, I would be hard pressed to argue that either app has raised the bar significantly. At best, they have turned something which was already convenient to do on the Watch to something which is now more convenient; more complete; and a more satisfying user experience.
If you want to see how watchOS 2 has made if possible for the Apple Watch to become more than a luxury with some conveniences, then I would suggest that Drafts is a great example. In my view, it demonstrates the potential for the Apple Watch to become a useful and productive tool that you might come to rely on.
For those unfamiliar with Drafts, it is a powerful yet simple tool that aims to make it quick and easy to capture text and then do clever things with that text. Its developers have seen and exploited the opportunity presented by the Apple Watch to extend that capture capability to your wrist. Using their Watch app, you can now use voice dictation to capture thoughts and notes even more quickly than before. For now, doing interesting and clever things with that captured text can only be done on the iPhone, but hopefully some of this power will be made available on the Watch over future updates.
This makes me excited to see what ways other developers will find to exploit the capabilities that watchOS 2 offers. At a very basic level, I am hoping that somebody will find a way for the Watch to tell me the time … a way which doesn’t require everybody in my immediate vicinity to know that I have just checked the time (yes, it’s a tap on the wrist that I have in mind). My greater hope is that I will wake one morning to find that there is an update to BlindSquare in the App Store which takes full advantage of the Taptic Engine, Digital Crown, accelerometer, speaker and microphone. The vision is something that would instantly make the Apple Watch much more than a useful luxury and a very compelling purchase for a lot of blind users. Knowing how much BlindSquare has evolved and grown over time, I suspect that there is a very good chance that my vision will become a reality.
My current use case for the Apple Watch is such that I have only a taster of the apps which have been released since watchOS 2. So, I would be thrilled to hear in the comments of any interesting apps that you have found and which you believe make the Watch more than a useful luxury.