Another Apple Watch Review

watchOS & Apple Watch Apps

Hello everyone!

I've already read a few Apple Watch reviews on the AppleVis forums, but hopefully my own thoughts will add some insights for someone who's on the fence about the Apple Watch.

Like most other reviewers I've seen, I didn't see an immediate, drastic need for the Apple Watch in my life. Between my iPhone and my Mac, I've got all my immediate technology needs met, not to mention an iPad which I use for reading, but don't strictly need. Like some other reviewers, I was pushed over the edge into purchasing the watch by the promise that it's fully accessible right out of the box. I was initially afraid that, like the first iPhone, the Apple Watch wouldn't gain accessibility features until the next generation. But posts here and elsewhere put me at ease on that score.

I don't have much to add about the purchasing and unboxing experience that hasn't been said better elsewhere. My experience with ordering the watch was that Apple shipped me my unit a couple weeks earlier than scheduled, which was great. I'm sure they have an "under-promise and over-deliver" policy in that regard, and it works. The only slight bummer was that I ordered a couple extra bands--more on that later--which arrived before my watch. But I didn't have to wait long.

Before talking about the setup and user experience of the watch, let me briefly describe my vision and how I use my other Apple devices. I guess I'd be considered a mid-partial; I have some functional vision, but not much. I use Zoom on my iPhone 6+ in day-to-day use, and use Zoom on my Mac, but I use VoiceOver and other speech aids regularly to read long chunks of text.

So, on to the Apple Watch setup, which was pretty simple. You just point the camera of your iPhone at the Watch once the Watch is powered on. Though I didn't do this, I believe you can triple-click the digital crown to enable VoiceOver during setup. Pairing failed the first time, which was disheartening, but after a few tense moments it succeeded the second time. You can also pair manually, presumably using a code, which I think would be great for users who have trouble getting the camera magic to happen.

On to user experience: Although, as I said, I'm normally a Zoom user, I find I use VoiceOver almost exclusively on the Apple Watch. This is for a few reasons. The zoom works pretty well on the Watch, but when you're using the Watch you generally want to get in and out quickly and get on with your day--otherwise you'd just take out your iPhone. And navigating with Zoom on such a small screen adds extra time to even simple operations. Another reason I like using VoiceOver is that it's the only way I've found to disable the annoying "show watch face on wrist raise" feature, which tries to be helpful but ends up turning on the display every time you wave your hand, wasting precious batteryand adding a degree of seeming randomness to an otherwise streamlined device. You can set VoiceOver to speak the time when raising your wrist, but I think this owuld get annoying quickly. So,if I want to know the time, I just press the digital crown or tap the screen. I read another recent review that said this was annoying, and defeats the purpose of a hands-free device, but it hasn't bothered me. The other great thing is that once you're done using the Watch and want to put the screen to sleep, you just slap your other palm over the display, which is both effective and satisfying. :)

The final reason I use VoiceOver on the watch is that, with a few exceptions, it just works beautifully. You use the same double-tap, swipe, and scroll gestures you've gotten used to on other iOS devices, and for the most part it's super-responsive. I'm going to list a couple areas where VoiceOver doesn't quite work well, but these are exceptions to the rule. It's the same fantastic Apple accessibility VoiceOver experience, on your wrist.

The main shortcoming with VoiceOver on the Apple Watch is that I don't think they've quite figured out how to integrate the digital crown into VoiceOver very fluidly yet. A primary example is the Friends screen, activated by pressing the oblong button below the digital crown. With VoiceOver off, you use the digital crown to scroll through friends, organized in a circle around a larger icon that shows the current friend selected. The experience is fluid and intuitive. When you turn on VoiceOver, though, using the digital crown does nothing on this screen, leaving you to swipe through friends, and this doesn't work particularly well, to the extent that I turn off VoiceOver on this screen (and obviously this wouldn't be an option for totally blind users). Elsewhere, like customizing watch faces, the digital crown works as expected with VoiceOver.

The other problem with VoiceOver is that it doesn't play well with Siri. I think this may be because the microphone and speaker are so close to each other (on the opposite side of the watch from the digital crown) that they don't want VoiceOver to play and mess up your Siri recording. The upshot of this is that you don't get voice feedback of the Send button on the screen where you're dictating a text, for example. Maybe other VoiceOver users have found a workaround for this, but I've found it annoying.

As I said, though, these flaws are minor compared to how wonderfully VoiceOver works through most of the Watch experience. I'd definitely give the watch a 9 out of 10 for accessibility.

So what do I use my watch for? Well, obviously telling the time. It's interesting that our cell phones have trained us to stop wearing watches, and now I'm being retrained. It's sad that I used to be able to read an analog clock face without a problem, but in this digital world I've forgotten how, and I'm having to relearn that (well, I don't HAVE to, there are digital watch faces, and obviously VoiceOver reads the time.) The activity features on the watch are also helpful. Recent studies have shown how harmful it is to sit for long periods, and as a graduate student in English, sitting and reading is pretty much my job, so having the reminder to get up and move is helpful. I'm also OCD and want to have all those movement rings filled in by the end of the day. I've yet to test the workout features, but I'm excited about testing that out. I have paired a set of bluetooth headphones with the watch and synced a music playlist to it, so I can take it to the gym without my phone. All this is pretty straightforward, using the Apple Watch app.

A bit about bands: once you learn the machanism for swapping the bands on the watch, it's super-easy. The buttons for releasing the bands can be a little hard to see, or even feel, for us low-vision users, but once you know where they are, it's just a matter of holding down the button on each side and pulling out the band, then sliding in the replacement band.

I ordered the 42mm stainless steel watch with the Milanese Loop, which is a silky-smooth steel mesh that, as others have pointed out, feels more like fabric. No discomfort with this band, and no pulled arm hairs, contrary to what you might think. Unlike most other bands, the Milanese Loop is one single piece, meaning you kind of have to wriggle your hand through it to put the watch on and take it off, which is no problem for me, just something to consider. The magnetic clasp is strong, almost too strong, but as other reviews have noted the watch tends to loosen a little throughout the day. Others have told me the band is attractive.

Second, I got a blue leather loop band. The blue is a tasteful dark blue, unlike the garish blue of the sport band, and it has a nice textured look and feel. I'm not sure how leather-y it looks though; one person seeing my watch mistook it for rubber. The leather loop comes in two pieces; you feed the large part of the band through a loop in the smaller part, and then it magnetically fastens. The magnet is strong, but again slips some, and when it slips you can feel it, and it feels a little like the watch's haptic feedback, which makes me look at the watch sometimes thinking I've received a notification.

Finally I got the black sport band for working out. This is the one I've used the least, but I'm very impressed from what little I've used it. It's essentially made of rubber, but despite that it feels like a quality product. It comes in two pieces, like the leather loop, the larger end has several holes in it, like a traditional watch band, and it fastens to the smaller part of the band with a pin that's built into that smaller band, and the excess strap slides into a slot on the smaller band and out of sight. The nice thing about the sports band is that they send you two lengths of the longer part of the band, meaning it will fit most wrists. This band is recommended for workouts, because it's sweat-resistent and also stays put better than the others because of the pin.

I haven't tested the watch's water resistence much, nor do I intend to. I've heard you can wear the watch in the shower, but as easy as it is to take off and put on, I just can't see a good reason for tempting fate. I have worn the watch in light rain without worrying, and wash my hands with it on. If I know it's going to rain, though, I won't wear the leather band; I'm not sure how susceptible the leather is to water, but I don't want to find out.

So, my verdict on the Apple Watch is pretty similar to most other reviews I've read. No, I didn't need it, and probably don't need it. But, now that I have it, it does add some tangible benefits to my life, and I think the health and exercise features are especially great, and will become even better over time. Anyone who wants the watch but has accessibility concerns needn't worry, it's another fantastic accessible Apple device.



Submitted by Travis Roth on Friday, June 19, 2015

Club AppleVis Member

Hello, For the Friends screen, if VoiceOver's Crown Navigation is enabled, scrolling the crown acts just like flicking. While I can't test the screen with VoiceOver off, I would think given the overall purpose of the screen this would work similarily to how the screen works without VoiceOver. To enable Crown Navigation, triple tap the touchscreen with two fingers. Repeating this again will disable the Crown Navigation, which you need ot do on some other screens such as customizing watch faces. Overall I dont' use Crown Navigation, but that's just me.
As for Siri, I am not sure I understand? When Siri is not listening VoiceOver works as usual for me. When dictating to Siri, I find the best way to stop dictation is to double tap with two fingers, which is the same stop gesture the iPhone uses.
I hope this helps.

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Friday, June 19, 2015

Again I will wait for the next gen. While I like the comments from people who have one, I know the next gen will be much better and will have more things such as a camera. can you picture it watch with a camera. How cool is that.

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Friday, June 19, 2015

Yeah I think I'll also wait. Face time on the watch? yeah I can't wait. I als hope I'll be able to record with it, for class lectures. Rehearsals not so much, but yeah. this is really a positive move for apple.