I AM Dick Tracy

Apple Watch 48 hour Impressions

Apple Watch showing a tweet with an image of meThey say that behind every great woman is a great man, and that’s definitely the case with me and Steve. On Friday, also known as first Apple Watch delivery day, he stayed home for seven hours babysitting the doorbell not for delivery of his OWN watch, but for mine. Sadly he ordered the space grey sports version that within 3 minutes was back ordered a few extra weeks, but he still stayed home just for me.

I did have a good excuse. I went to the Downey School district to talk to the middle school kids about how fun it is to be an engineer. My friend Nancy asked three of us to go who all used to work together. I have to say that the kids were REALLY receptive to the STEM topics (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). They’re all part of a program called Project Lead the Way that’s getting kids into the science fields. I kid you not, we saw 6th graders building and programming robots!

Dr. Stauffer with Nance, me, Lupe and JeanOne of the reasons Downey’s schools are so successful is because they have a benefactor, a wonderful 97 year old woman named Dr. Mary Stauffer. She was a medical doctor in her career and later decided the best way to distribute her wealth would be to help fund programs in her local schools, including giant scholarships to kids who go to college from Downey. I threw a picture in the shownotes of Nancy, me, Dr. Stauffer, Lupe and Jean so you can see how awesome Dr. Stauffer is.

This was supposed to be about the Apple Watch and how awesome Steve is though, right? Sadly he didn’t even get the fun of answering the door for the package because of COURSE it came after I got back home from the school.

I’m sure that if you care, you’ve already seen unboxings and how cool the packaging is so I won’t talk about that. I would like to give you my VERY early impressions of the watch. Let’s start with the good stuff:

  • The watch feels like it’s part of me already, I don’t even notice it’s on. It’s light and not as bulky as the running watch I used to wear. I complained after my try on that the fluoroelatomer band sort of bulged out but it really doesn’t bother me at all. I used to take my other watch off all the time when working at my desk or with my laptop in my lap but the Apple Watch doesn’t make we want to take it off.
  • Battery life is foremost on many peoples’ minds. On Saturday I played with it all day long and by 6pm it was giving me a 10% warning. I charged it just while I ate dinner, 30-40 minutes, and it was charged to 65%. I’m sure when I calm down it will last a lot longer! I did have trouble with charging the second night; it only charged up to 60% so I have to keep an eye on that, maybe I bumped it during the night.
  • I walk Tesla for about an hour every afternoon and when I get notifications on my iPhone, I have to unzip my Spi-belt, untangle the wired headphone cable, pull out the phone, unlock it with my thumb, only to realize that notification isn’t necessary to be responded to right now. When I walked with Tesla with the Apple Watch, I got a nice little tap of the taptic feedback on my wrist, and a little ding because I had the sound turned on, and I was able to simply lift my wrist to see the notification. But the BEST part is I can tap reply, and dictate right into the watch, and either send my voice recording OR the translated text. It works BEAUTIFULLY! I have had very few errors and it’s so efficient and fun! I’m guessing that’s why I burned through my battery so quickly the first day – I answered EVERYTHING that came in on my walk!
  • Chris Ashley of the SMR Podcast said on their show that he’d give a kidney punch to the first person he saw talking into their Apple Watch. So you KNOW the first person I called with my Apple Watch was Chris Ashley, right? It killed him to admit it but he said the sound quality was really good! He’s a good sport, and it was really fun having him get to be the first call.
  • I had another good phone experience with the watch. We got in the car, I lifted my wrist, pushed the Friends button, tapped on Dorothy’s icon and then tapped the phone icon. The watch initiated the call without me having to remove my phone from my purse, but then the call automatically transferred to the car’s speakers and microphone because the phone was paired with the car! I realized later that I could have simply said, “Hey you know who, call Dorothy” and that would have worked too. Steve says I’ve gone all “Dick Tracy” on him. I LOVE it.
  • I have another cool dictation anecdote. Dorothy’s husband’s name is Marc, and it’s spelled with a c instead of the more common k. I answered a Message from Dorothy using the watch and dictation and in my response I referred to Marc and it spelled it with a c! I can think of no way the watch would know that other than in my contacts, I her listed as Dorothy and Marc. So the phone/watch/dictation/contacts algorithms working together realized it should spell it with a c. That’s cool.
  • I’m sure you all have figured out that I’m sort of crazy about exercise. I love my Fitbit, especially the social aspects of torturing my friends about my stats, but the Apple Watch tools are pretty awesome. There are two distinct applications – Activity and Workout. Activity measures three things: Exercise (anything it deems at or above a brisk walk), Move (moving around less than a brisk walk) and Stand (standing up once an hour for a minute for at least 12 hours of the day). These three things give you little progress circles and can help you get more active. The stand thing is where I know I’ll have trouble – I do these hard work outs and then sit on my butt on my computer for HOURS at a time (writing shownotes you know). I like how it taps me to tell me to stand up!

    Workout is different. In this mode you tell it what you intend to do – indoor/outdoor running, walking elliptical, rower, stair stepper or other. In Workout you set goals like calories burned, time, or distance. I used it on my run on Sunday morning and it worked to motivate me more than my Timex running watch. I could see at a glance how far I’d gone, how my split times were (not good, you know I’ve been vacationing a LOT, right?) and my full time on the run. I think the distance it’s getting from the iPhone (which I had with me) was somewhat borked though. I think I run 2 miles up the beach strand and back (according to my fitbit and google maps), but when I got to my normal end it said I’d gone 1.9 miles. Ok, I ran till it said 2.0 miles. No big deal, maybe this is more accurate. But when I ran all the way back to where I’d started, it said I had only run 3.9 miles! This is a straight line so no chance of me taking the wrong path back. The good news is that the step count was within 75 steps of what my Fitbit recorded so that’s good!

The only thing I have to complain about is a rather big deal. The watch interface is confusing in some ways. Pat Dengler came over on Saturday and we spent a lot of time comparing notes and trying to figure things out. The confusion comes in where you set things up. You can set some things inside the watch, some things inside the Apple Watch app on the iPhone and also inside the Settings on the iPhone itself. For example, if I turn off notifications for Twitter in settings on my iPhone, that turns them off on the watch. I can turn them ON for the phone and off for the watch using the Apple Watch app on the iPhone. I bet I’ve tangled you up right there, haven’t I? And I’m actually talking about one of the ones I understand! Like I said up front, this is only two days into using the watch so we’ll see but I’m a bit worried about how normal people will figure some of this stuff out!

I put a photo in the shownotes showing a notification that came from Twitter that shows how gorgeous this display is. I tweeted out one of the NAB interviews with a photo in it of me doing the interview, and Steve retweeted it and it came to my Apple Watch. The photo is clear and brilliant, the text is gorgeous and readable and really shows how this “watch” is amazing. Oh, and it tells time, too.

9 thoughts on “I AM Dick Tracy

  1. Henry - April 26, 2015

    Good stuff, Al.
    Were the navigation directions able to tell you to turn left and right using only the taptic engine and without looking at the watch/phone?

  2. Donald Burr - April 27, 2015

    Regarding the Apple Watch’s somewhat-off distance measurements, I bet it’s because, to save power, they aren’t hitting the GPS 100% of the time, but only sampling it periodically, so you would get a little bit of drift/inaccuracy because of that. They probably figured that saving battery (GPS chews through batteries like nobody’s business) is worth a little bit of inaccuracy, which I am perfectly fine with.

  3. Tony Walla - April 27, 2015

    The Apple Watch doesn’t have a GPS component. It is using the accelerometer and gyroscope to determine position and movement. For the maps app on the phone, the Apple Watch communicates with the iPhone to access the data on the iPhone in order to update the display on the Watch.

  4. Allison Sheridan - April 27, 2015

    Henry – I haven’t tested the navigation yet on the watch, will get on that soon!

    And Tony is right, Donald, it’s the phone’s GPS. You could still be right though, that the phone’s GPS doesn’t kick in constantly the way it does when you run a map app.

  5. Donald Burr - April 27, 2015

    Allison – That sounds like it then. As a developer I have a bit of inside knowledge to support that in fact. When calling on Core Location (the framework that handles location updates) you can tell it the type of location accuracy you want. You can specify this value as an absolute value in meters, but Apple defines several default values they recommend you use. The most accurate is kCLLocationAccuracyBestForNavigation, which, as its name implies, is best used when doing GPS navigation. Of course while you’re driving you would want the most accurate position information possible, a couple of feet could mean that you miss the turn that you needed to make! They strongly recommend that this mode be used only when the phone is likely to be plugged in to a power source (e.g. to your car) The next lowest level is kCLLocationAccuracyBest, which basically means that the OS will do its best to balance accuracy vs. power consumption – this mode will still consume a fair amount of power, but not as much as BestForNavigation.

    Also, when the phone is in sleep mode (i.e. screen off) the M7/M8 motion co-processor (which is actually a tiny, very low-power ARM CPU) is handling all of the location updates, but it does so in a power-efficient manner, meaning you get less granularity.

  6. podfeet - April 28, 2015

    Thanks Donald. I will make a note of this on the show, and I gave you a shoutout about this on the MacCast tonight.

  7. Patrick - May 1, 2015

    Allison – Just listed to MacCast and appreciated the insight on how GPS works. I’ve been transitioning from a Garmin running watch to the Apple Watch for my runs this week, so I’ve been paying particular attention to the running metrics. Distance has been pretty close between the two.

    Also, curious to hear how your workouts are impacting battery life. Like you, workout quite a bit – at least an hour+ running, and long dogs walks most days. Yesterday, after a full day the battery dropped down to 7%. Hoping that was just a fluke with more application use than I would normally do this first week.

  8. podfeet - May 1, 2015

    I’m not yet making it through a full day Patrick, but I didn’t with each iPhone when I first got it either. I’m playing with the watch a LOT. I know that if you’re using the Workout app (which I really like) it’s always running the heart rate sensor. I like having that but I’m wondering what I’m gaining over time from that specific app. I haven’t figured out a way to see the history of my workouts, other than the Exercise section on the Activity app. If I can’t see history and I pretty much do the same kinds of workouts over and over again, is there value in tracking it?

    I’d also REALLY like a social aspect here. For example, what’s a “good” metric for the total activity number? I chose the high end and it’s asking for 760 calories a day which seems to require a LOT of exercise. I’m hitting I but I’m dying by 8pm!

  9. Patrick - May 1, 2015

    Thanks for the response. None of my (very few) runner friends are interested in the Watch…yet. And few of the reviews seems to be covering the Workout app in depth.

    I was able to knock out a 7 mile run with the Workout app (and HRM on) and a 45 minute dog walk (not tracked with the Workout app) today and still have 29% battery at 5:45pm. I think most days I’ll probably get by one one charge.

    An interesting tip I experimented with today was setting the font to “Bold” under the accessibility setting for the run. I’ve been fining the screen a bit hard to see while running in full sun, given the thin fonts used in the Workout app. Some of the colors – blue, yellow – are hard to see as well. Bumping the font up to “Bold” made a nice difference today.

    Despite its limitations, I’m planning to force myself to use the Workout app until I start training for next next marathon this fall. None of the third party apps appear to be able to tap into the HRM, and I like having the more accurate calorie burn info that the HRM allows. I need to know how much Talenti gelato I can indulge in every night 😉

    Until Apple adds some sort of social integration, you could have your Fitbit friends (and other with different activity trackers) use Matchup. It’s free and each user is able to select whatever tracker they use. It’s web-based, but they have a beta iOS app that I’ve been testing. They’re also working on Heath app/Watch support now. I’ve been using it since last fall and have been happy with it.

    Oh, as as to the metric for total activity, I’ve set it at 700 for now, which I think I’ll be able to hit so long as it’s a run day. Not sure how I’ll feel about not closing the circle during my weekly rest day, though :-/

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