Late last year I let one of my friends borrow my Apple Watch and take it for a test drive.
His wife was contemplating buying him one for his birthday, but he wasn’t quite sure he wanted her to drop that kind of cash for what I had already told him was an expensive toy.
The basic issue (beyond cost) was whether the utility of the Apple Watch justified being perpetually monitored.
For him, unless the Apple Watch did something materially better than the iPhone, he wasn’t interested in having Apple (or anyone for that matter) knowing exactly where he was at all times.
And he wasn’t one of those always-on-his-phone types, so I knew that not being tracked (or trackable) was not some conspiracy theorist type objection, but a very real objection he had to this always-on culture of today.
So it was not without a bit of excitement that I handed over my watch, knowing that dude was about to go in on the Apple Watch.
You see, I’m a casual user of my Apple Watch.
I’ve never been so impressed with it that I took a deep dive to uncover the little kernels of goodness that would covert me into a fan.
My initial critiques weren’t positive.
The watch face is small.
Navigation isn’t terribly intuitive.
Doesn’t have a heck of a whole lot of utility beyond glances.
And as a casual user, I felt that my perspective was uninformed.
But now I had someone who was willing to apply a very scientific approach and take the Apple Watch through it’s paces.
Mark Hines aka “Yoda” aka “He Who Sees the Future” aka “The Brain” was going to go completely desconstruct the Apple Watch and share his feedback with me.
A bit of background on his testing is in order.
OmniFocus (which I’ve written about before) is a personal task manager that lets you capture thoughts and ideas into lists which you can then parse and organize.
Remote is the iOS app which allows you to control you iOS devices via your iPhone.
Wink is a smart home app that lets you control connected home appliances from your iPhone.
Combined with apps like Shazam, these apps were the apps that factored significantly in Mark’s daily flow and the ones he wanted to test on the Apple Watch.
One month later, he felt he had arrived at a place where he could report back.
It was not good.
His initial impression was that as another iOS device, it should have been plug-and-play right out of the box.
But it was anything but that.
It was – inelegant.
He went into excruciating detail about the level of effort required to get OmniFocus to work on the Apple Watch (similar to how he had set it up on the iPhone) and the workflow hacks he needed to have Wink work in a more streamlined fashion than was possible out-the-box.
One of his biggest hurdles was having Siri send reminders not to the default To-Do list or calendar, but to OmniFocus instead, which involved working with the cats at Omni (big ups to The Omni Group) who took Mark’s feedback and incorporated them into subsequent builds, which enabled him to hit that ‘sweet spot’.
Besides the limitations of the Watch version os most apps, the one thing that drove Mark absolutely bonkers was the fact that if you were outside the range of your iPhone, the Apple Watch was rendered – essentially – useless.
Mind you, Mark lives in a modestly sized apartment.
So you can imagine his chagrin being in another room, less than 30 feet away from his iPhone, and finding that the watch was no longer connected.
Having to be cognizant of where the phone was, relative to the location of the watch, felt counterintuitive, especially considering the Apple Watch’s promise to free the user from their phones.
The reality is that you’ve still got an invisible tether, requiring you to stay close to your phone or lose functionality.
Sure, some things still work, but none of the basic things you’d probably want like messaging, Mail, the phone, Maps, Camera Remote, Weather, and Stocks.
These features rely on an active data connections or GPS signals, neither of which an Apple Watch can do without an iPhone.
Siri also won’t work as it requires a data connection to process commands.
I could give you a watered down version of his assessment, but I’ll just share his actual written report.
Report to Stephen:
I been keeping a journal. Really hated it the 1st week. Took DUMB troubleshooting and tech support to get OmniFocus working. Then further calibration to make it behave the way I wanted…Yesterday was the 1st full day having it actually do the things I envisioned.
I don’t hate it now, but need to exercise it. OmniFocus, Remote and Wink (home automation) are the sweet spot for me. Without those, I definitely wouldn’t care for this at all. With them, I may be on the brink of something special.
No, dude, I literally hated it.
I hit an ill stride today where I can spit into it and I’m catching OmniFocus gems I have lost many times before ‘cuz I was looking around for my phone and when I found it, I forgot what I was gonna put in.
Getting stuff in my head, out and into Omni, path of least resistance, is pure gold. I’ll know in like a week what’s really hood. I know they average cat ain’t jumping thru all these hoops I am so, the thing out the box is under impressive.
You gave a totally accurate review.
Omni’s support was solid but they didn’t have the solution. I created one and shared it back with them. I couldn’t even install that shit onto the watch till Tuesday.
I don’t think a nigga should have to try so hard to fall in love.
A nigga shouldn’t have to try so hard to fall in love.