Any Apple product is an exercise in control and this brings with it good and bad experiences for the user.
On an iPhone you can only run iOS approved apps, you cannot use game emulators and you are limited in terms of what you can do with regards to even changing icons for apps. It is all commonly complained about by Android users, and I see the point, but I am also happy to sit back and have a phone that works 24 hours a day, 365 days a year as a trade off. I can live without some customisation if it means I get a more consistent overall experience.
It is less limited on the Mac of course and no one could persuade me that a Windows PC is worth the money compared to a Mac. The initial cost is easily retrieved over extended use and potentially much lower running costs (virus protection, software upgrades etc).
On the Apple Watch, however, I find very specific limitations that make little sense to me. They are choice driven and do nothing to make watchOS more stable. Some examples included-
No steps complication which is crazy. Putting your steps on a watch face is such a simple thing to do because the data is already there and it would make the Apple Watch feel more like a fitness tracker to those using competing products from the likes of Fitbit and Garmin. You can achieve this using an app like Pedometer++, but the complication is slow to update and I remain confused by the mix of data coming from the iPhone motion processor and the Apple Watch. The data goes to the Health app on the iPhone and can also be found by having to scroll (too far) in the Activity app on the watch or iPhone.
The new watch faces are a definite improvement and I particularly like Infograph. The fact that you cannot adjust the colours of any widgets, however, means that you end up with either a bizarre mix of colours that are too busy or a very nice looking watch face that cannot include the widgets you want to see. The clamour for Apple to allow third party watch faces continues, it would be a huge business after all, but at this time the ability to build a consistent theme on the watch faces through colour choices would be an improvement.
The workouts are laid out in a specific order which will apparently change as the watch learns what you like to do. This is useful, but not allowing the user to choice the order in which these appear seems arrogant and verging on mean spirited. It is perhaps the most obvious ‘We are Apple, we know best’ software feature in watchOS 5.
None of the above is a deal breaker for me apart from maybe the steps complication purely on the basis that it would be so incredibly useful to my fitness regime.
On the subject of fitness I am seeing much improved performance when working out with GPS not killing the battery half as fast as it used to. Overall, I am seeing approximately 50-60% battery left by the start of the next day. This is not too bad and is suggestive of 2 days per charge, but it still lacks in comparison to the smartwatch offerings from Garmin and Fitbit.
Batteries are something that Apple seems to think about differently to everything else. My iPhone X struggles to get through a whole day at least twice a week and charging a watch every two days feels like a chore because when you are doing this you are not tracking your heart rate, your activity or seeing the benefits the device is supposed to offer. ‘Just enough’ appears to be the motto for Apple and the watch, and this applies to the iPhone as well. It is the one area that I would like to see Apple concentrate the most on solving for the long term, but I don’t expect it to anytime soon.
I am literally forcing myself to wear the Apple Watch and I do not like doing so. I like to wear a real watch and the Series 4 feels like an imposter, another computer that is attached to me and one that I do not need. The problem, however, is that it is growing on me.
The larger display means a huge amount and makes so many tasks easier than they were before. I used to continually feel as though I was doing things on the watch for no good reason, but now it feels a lot more natural. Visually retrieving information now feels logical and with so many complications on offer at one time it quickly becomes a normal way of working. My iPhone can sit on the shelf for longer periods which is a bonus for its battery and the process of using the watch has stopped me using my iPhone so much for no other reason than to just use it, for browsing, gaming etc.
This is a process for me and one that I am fighting against, but something is building the more I use the Series 4. A sense that it now offers a range of benefits that I had previously missed is growing all of the time. That worries me…