The Apple Fitness Tracker
Recently, I was reading the wonderful work of Benjamin Brooks. In a recent post, I learned that he at some point in the past had stopped wearing his Apple Watch full time. Unsurprisingly, I was critical of much of the post that followed.
As the week went on I felt like I just didn’t get the appeal of the Apple Watch over my many other watches — for one it doesn’t look nearly as good, but mostly it wasn’t doing anything for me. And then I went to the conference I mentioned above, and during that conference I remembered just why I love the Apple Watch.
My biggest critique of the post as it stands is the sense that I get that Ben’s lack of enthusiasm for the Apple Watch—aside from his preference in aesthetic toward traditional watch styles—comes from a lack of creativity and essentiality with how he uses the device.1
I am a serial app deletist. I’m always looking for ways to optimize my setup, seeking out efficiency and simplicity. I download, try, and delete apps every single day in the hope that I will find the perfect setup. The best calendar app, weather app, etc. and only have the best apps installed that I want for work (or play). With the Apple Watch, it comes out in the form of a highly curated set of watch faces, complications, workflows, applications, and dock configurations.
I was late to the smartwatch game and preferred Pebble initially due to its price and always-on screen, but in October 2016 (and technically before that), it was clear to me that Pebble was not moving fast enough to catch up to the functionality of the Apple Watch. I promptly sold my Pebble, bought an Apple Watch, and looked on sadly as Pebble was dismantled.
All of that being said, the Pebble is the device that got me interested in smart wearables in general and gave me a good base line as to the best uses for such devices, a list which is often parroted: notifications, fitness tracking, glanceable information, and, to a lesser extent for most, quick actions. I enjoy the Apple Watch strictly because of this short list, but I am interested in the future of the Apple Watch because it has the potential to do much more.
The reason why I started off by discussing my preference for curation on the Watch is because it is essential to my usage: only certain apps get “installed”, only certain notifications are allowed through. I choose lightweight apps that launch quickly with only the information that I need or have information immediately available within the Dock (see any apps by David Smith). As one might guess, my least favorite part of the Watch is the “homescreen”; I would much prefer the ability to map a press on the Digital Crown to something else entirely or choose a different layout for apps that allows even closer curation for quicker access.
Believe it or not, I do not use the Watch that much because, in fact, I use it as a Watch first and a smart device second. Automation apps such as Workflow and IFTTT show the current flexibility and future possibilities of the Watch with single tap actions. Below are just a few of the, again highly curated, actions I use with the Watch.
- Change my thermostat temperature (IFTTT (Set temp) or Workflow (Specify Temp))
- Alert my wife that I am on my way home from work (Workflow)
- Log external health metrics, such as weight and water intake (Workflow)
- Log my current location to Day One (IFTTT)
- Remind me of something when I get home (Workflow)
Most of the above actions can be done with Siri as well or by taking my phone out of my pocket and at times I use those methods instead, but having the ability to accomplish things with a tap on my wrist is ideal. With Workflow, in fact, I have tailored actions that are short and mostly do not require any intervention on my part. These often require the following steps: raise wrist, tap, lower wrist, done since Workflow uses its complication to show you potentially-relevant actions at a given time.