Some folks regard me as a tad eccentric. Although I have been retired for many years, I still wake up every morning, put on a nice pair of slacks, a long sleeved dress shirt, and hard soled leather shoes. Basically, I dress for work, but I don't leave for the office and no one writes me a check. Other fellow retirees around my neighborhood would likely sport tennis shoes or slippers, shorts or blue jeans, and they would almost certainly don a comfy shirt without a pocket. Those same guys probably would not even pull on a nice pair of black socks like those that I wear proudly to the gym every day.
My current fashion choices are not completely wacko because I require lots of pockets. I put doggy bags and keys in my right front pants pocket. Often, I drop in my knife and some extra USB cables. Next, the AirPods and my wallet go in the left front pocket, occasionally joined by a large reserve battery and stuff my wife does not want to carry. The right rear pocket holds my comb and handkerchief. The left rear pocket remains empty for emergency storage. I like being organized.
The most important pocket is the one nearest to my heart. My shirt pocket has long been reserved for things that talked to me. This was critical in the era of wired headphones. Back before my hair went silver, I used to stuff my modified Sony cassette player into that pocket so that I could listen to Talking Books on the go. That gadget was expensive, fragile and heavy. Evolving talking technologies like the Road Runner, Book Courier and Book Port were all carried in that pocket, each straining the stitches and tugging on the fabric.
In 2010, I purchased my first iPhone, the iPhone 4, and it took up residence in my shirt pocket. With its protective case, the dead weight was like an albatross. As I upgraded to newer and more capable iPhones, they were all heavy and warm, causing me to sweat in rectangular swaths.
The introduction of AirPods gave me hope for a more comfortable future. Switching to BlueTooth headphones meant that the phone itself no longer needed to stay in my shirt pocket. However, putting an iPhone into my rear pants pocket could make it vulnerable to bending, banditry and butt dialing. So, I let the iPhone stay in place, where it would continue to warm my heart.
I have always coveted accessible technology that was small, really small. When the Apple Watch was first introduced, I fantasized about its potential. I longed for a beautiful new device that could rest gently and comfortably on my wrist, something gorgeous that would tell me everything I wanted to hear. I imagined that I might be able to quit carrying my phone everywhere and start to breathe comfortably again. Unfortunately, the VoiceOver volume on that first Apple Watch was more of a whisper, and navigation was slower than running in mud. It was not yet what I needed.
Over time, each new Apple Watch had increased processor speed, louder VoiceOver volume and greater water resistance. However, early models would not let me leave my phone at home and still remain online. At least not until the Series 3 arrived with an option for cellular connectivity.
Several months after the Series 3 Apple Watch was introduced, I decided to make my dreams come true. I visited my local Apple Store and then promptly left my brains at the door. I completely disregarded why I wanted the new Apple Watch. The thought of paying my carrier an extra ten bucks a month suddenly seemed outrageous. I left the store with the new watch, but without the cellular capabilities. Not my brightest hour.
Even so, I was impressed with the Series 3. I could leave my phone sitting in the living room and answer calls in my office from my Apple Watch. I could receive alerts and notifications in the kitchen. I enjoyed setting timers in the laundry room. And, I loved creating alarms that would quietly tap on my wrist. I found the Apple Watch compelling and useful, as long as my iPhone was nearby.
In September, Apple unveiled the Series 4. Although I had only owned my Series 3 for eight months, I knew I needed the latest iteration, with cellular connectivity, extended heart monitoring, bigger screen, slimmer body, fall detection and snappier processor. My new watch is the 44mm space gray aluminum Series 4 with the cellular chip. And, it runs Watch OS 5. The new operating system runs on all but the original Apple Watch. If my Series 3 had been a cellular model, I likely would have been quite happy with it. Sharing my enthusiasm, my wife now has her first Apple Watch, a 40MM Series 4 with the same connectivity. These days, unless we are traveling out of town, we almost always leave our iPhones at home.
Using just my Apple Watch, miles away from my iPhone, I can go through my email, respond to messages, check the weather, record a lecture, chat with Siri, and interact with my calendar. I can also enjoy my music, monitor my workouts, listen to podcasts, relax with Audible books, update my reminders, and create simple text files with a third party app that will automatically save to the cloud. One of my favorite features is that I can now tap on a link and a simple Web viewer will pop up on the watch. It is not full featured, but I can listen to articles on Web pages with VoiceOver. Along with all that, I can make and receive calls. This Apple Watch is a truly phenomenal and very personal device.
Is my new Apple Watch perfect? Of course not, but it is really good. My concerns are not show stoppers. I do wish AirPods and BeatsX headphones were much quicker in switching between an iPhone and the watch. I would really like a gesture to read multiple pages all at once. I wish VoiceOver volume control worked a bit smoother with the two finger double tap and drag. I also find some of the third party apps pretty inaccessible for blind folks and many Apple Watch apps do not yet take advantage of cellular connectivity. I also hope that we begin to see news apps that deliver more than just headlines with minimal summations. Lastly, as much as I deeply appreciate their efforts, Audible still has a way to go with their Apple Watch app. Transferring lengthy Audible books to the Apple Watch requires the patience of a saint and I do hope Audible gets around to properly labeling all their buttons. Still, I have a dozen Audible books on my Apple Watch and I absolutely love being able to read anywhere and at any time.
Some balance in my life has been restored. When I was always lugging my iPhone around, I tended to be absorbed in the virtual world and not so much the real one. The Apple Watch is significantly less intrusive. Nowadays, I generally have a Bluetooth earpiece in place so that I can discretely check mail, messages and alerts. Because the Apple Watch is so comfortable, it is also easy to ignore, meaning that I have cut down some of the screen time that used to capture so much of my day. My wife has enjoyed the same positive experience. We remain connected to the world through our watches, but are more aware of everything else around us. That's a nice feeling.
When I am at home, nestled in my big comfy chair, I am still using the iPhone 8 as my primary computer. While relaxing there, my watch is usually getting charged on the table next to me. When I get up to go somewhere, I slip on my fully charged Apple Watch and take off with a lighter heart. It is so nice not having to carry my iPhone. I must confess that I have been feeling so liberated that I am actually thinking about putting on a short sleeved shirt, one without a pocket. I feel really good just having shared that with you. Glad I got it off my chest.
Fifty years ago, on June 14, 1968, G. Morgan Watkins and Steve Jobs both graduated from Cupertino Junior High. The route to school from our old Los Altos neighborhood involved cutting through apricot orchards or walking on broken seashells that doubled for sidewalks on Homestead Road. Silicon Valley was a very different place back then.
Morgan has created 20 other blogs for AppleVis, including "Cutting Loose: Unleashing The Power Of My iPhone 8," "Power Trip: Hurricane Harvey and My iPhone" and "Down To Earth: My First Hundred Days With AirPods."
Morgan would love to hear about your experiences with the Apple Watch. Please share your comments below.