Review of the Apple Watch Sport after one year of use

Last updated on Apr 27, 2017

Is the Apple Watch Sport worth it? After having worn the Apple Watch Sport for almost a year, I have reached my final verdict about Apple’s first wearable device and will answer this very question!

I ordered my Apple Watch Sport on April 10th and was super excited when I finally had it in my hands. Time has passed since then, and my first impression of the device has changed a bit. One thing upfront, I have worn the Apple Watch Sport every single day since I got it and I will continue doing so for the foreseeable future. I still believe the Apple Watch Sport provides value and I would buy it again but maybe for different reasons.

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Apple Watch Sport

Telling time

The Apple Watch is, first and foremost, an excellent and accurate watch. I love that it adjusts itself automatically when I cross time zones or when daylight savings time begins and ends.

Important information at a glance

Being able to see relevant information, such as time, temperature, upcoming events, the day of week, date and activity progress, at a glance and without having to pull out my iPhone is incredibly convenient. That alone makes the Apple Watch a device worth wearing all day.

Notifications

Closely related to the previous benefit, notifications are very well implemented on the Apple Watch. They too allow me to quickly glance at relevant information without having to pull out my iPhone. Taking action on certain notifications, such as marking a reminder as completed or replying to an iMessage are a welcome benefit.

Apple Pay

Paying with the Apple Watch at stores that support contactless payment is a breeze. I use that feature exclusively at Whole Foods, and it never failed. Not having to rely on my wallet is especially helpful last week, when I had forgotten it at home and didn’t notice until I was standing at the cashier.

Apple Watch Sport – the good

Fitness

I have been more active since I started wearing the Apple Watch, it’s as simple as that. I don’t always succeed at “closing those rings, ” but I do make an effort. The fitness features Apple put into the Apple Watch and watchOS are by no means complete, but what’s there has value.

Battery life

I usually get up between 5–6am and go to bed between 9–10pm. By that time, I usually have ~30% battery left. Only twice has it happened that my Apple Watch switched to Low Power Mode before I went to bed. I don’t wear the Apple Watch over night, so having to charge it doesn’t bother me. That being said, I wish I could use the Apple Watch instead of my Jawbone UP for sleep tracking without having to jump through hoops.

Siri

Siri and especially “Hey Siri” had some issues in watchOS 1.0 but lately I have it found to be working very reliably. I use Siri a lot to create reminders or set a timer while cooking.

Exchangeable watch bands

I love the Sports Band because it is very comfortable to wear and I don’t have to worry when it gets wet or dirty. I also have the Leather Loop that I use for meetings and special occasions and I think I’ll get the new Woven Nylon Band. Being able to change the look and feel of the watch by exchange the band is a nice benefit.

Apple Watch Sport – the bad

Display sleep

In the beginning I thought it was cool how the Apple Watch turned its display on and off automatically, depending on your hand gestures. Turning the display off when you’re not looking at the watch is meant to conserve battery life. Most of the time the Apple Watch turns on the display correctly when you flick up your wrist. But “most of the time” isn’t good enough. In certain awkward positions, for instance while lying in bed, sitting or holding a baby (something I found myself doing a lot lately), flicking up the wrist doesn’t turn on the display. As a result, I have to push the digital crown to turn on the display. That is inconvenient and annoying.

Performance of native apps

Native apps perform much better than 3rd party apps but they still make the Apple Watch feel underpowered. The Workout app for example takes up to 5 seconds to load. That’s at least three seconds too long for my taste.

Also the Mail is, after having loaded, is slow refreshing my inbox and sometimes shows old and already deleted or archived emails as unread, while not showing new ones at all. Even simple apps like Stop Watch take way too long to load, so I avoid using most apps on Apple Watch.

Heart rate monitor

The heart rate monitor works well most of the time, but I have noticed issues during workouts where I move my hand and wrist a lot. A few weeks ago, during a Crossfit-inspired workout, my heart was racing when I glanced at my Apple Watch and saw that it reported a heart rate of 79 beats per minute. I paused my workout for a moment and pressed the watch firmly against my wrist to see if the sensor would pick up the correct heart rate. It did not and that made me wonder how often the Apple Watch reported a too low heart rate and as a result a far too low burned calorie count.

Missing fitness features

The Apple Watch offers a good fitness foundation but there are features I’d like to see in a future model of the watch and version of watchOS, such as:

  • Built-in GPS: Untethering the Apple Watch from the iPhone to accurately track position and distance.
  • More detailed run analysis: I want to see my runs on a map, including elevation information etc. Most other running apps offer such capabilities already.
  • Workout app for iOS: I’d like to be able to start and stop workouts on my iPhone.
  • Adjust distance: When running without my iPhone, the Apple Watch may record a slightly incorrect distance. Especially when I run pushing a stroller, which alters my stride and thus Apple Watch’s ability to correctly determine distance. I’d like to be able to adjust the distance after the fact.
  • Spoken updates: I’d like to Apple Watch or iPhone to give me spoken updates during the run, so I don’t have to look at the watch.

Apple Watch Sport – the ugly

Performance of 3rd party apps

Despite WatchKit 2, native apps feel sluggish and are thus pretty much unusable. The only 3rd party apps I put up with are Fly Delta and Workflow. Those load reasonably fast most of the time but not fast enough for me to consider them a pleasure to use.

Apple Watch Sport after one year of use

Is the Apple Watch Sport worth it? In my opinion, the Apple Watch is worth it, despite its flaws and shortcomings. I would however recommend against buying an expensive model, because you won’t get better technology compared to the most inexpensive one, the Apple Watch Sport. I’d rather get a new Apple Watch Sport every year (or whatever Apple determines the release cycle to be) than a more expensive model every two years.

If you own an Apple Watch, what is your opinion? Is the Apple Watch worth it for you? Let me know by leaving a comment below!

Michael Kummer

Atlanta | Austrian | Blogger | Father of a preemie | Paleo fan | Traveler | Amateur photographer | CrossFit
6 Responses to "Review of the Apple Watch Sport after one year of use"
  1. I see the Apple Watch as a symptom of the problem rather than a solution to anything that matters. The problem is the smartphone engendered obsession with keeping up, second by second, with events however trivial. Nothing can wait until later. It’s the constantly distracted mindset of a two-year-old. By offering a auxiliary UI to an iPhone, the Apple Watch only feeds that obsession. It’s like someone addicted to a drug given by a needle having a central line place in so they can get a continuous infusion of that drug. It feeds an addiction that should be countered.

    I do, however, hope developers do take advantage of the interface to do other, more worthy projects. Vibration signaling on the Apple Watch is quite clever. It’s be great to have a hidden, ankle-worn equivalent of that watch (for say $20) to signal when a critical call comes in from one particular person. Attending a meeting, users wouldn’t be one of the creeps who keeps looking at their smartphone or smartwatch. They’d sit there, intend on all that is happening around them. Then when the critical message signals by vibrating out of sight, they could quietly get up and leave without sending that dreadful message, “This call is more important than you.” People wouldn’t even know there was a call.

    Those in the technological, always-wired world might want to read what Sherry Turkle has written about its downside in Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. Here’s a review:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/10/reclaiming-conversation-sherry-turkle/409273/

    The impact this non-face-to-face communication seems to have on empathy is particularly disturbing. That and that it is seems to leave those who use it heavily with an inability to read facial and body language. All they have is the narrow bandwidth of texting and silly emoticons. That’s particularly fraught with harm for professions such as medicine and nursing where understanding how people feel is critical.

    –Michael W. Perry, author of Senior Nurse Mentor: Curing What Ails Hospital Nursing Morale

    • Hi Michael,

      I don’t necessarily agree with your assessment. The way we communicate is subject to constant change and even language groups, languages and dialects change. Years ago I discussed the phenomenon of latin youth in the US mixing Spanish and English (leading to the term Spanglish) and some people criticized that. I think you ought to communicate in whatever way works between you and your communication partner. The same holds true for technology.

      I pick very carefully what notifications to receive on my Apple Watch and those are the ones I actually want to see. That doesn’t mean I have to glance at my watch every time I feel it vibrate. I have been in countless meetings feeling my watch vibrate because someone tried to get a hold of me, including my wife. She knows that when I’m in a meeting I may not see the message she sends me.

      So it’s up to your own discipline to make use of the tools available in a way that fits your lifestyle. That being said, technology is overused and it takes effort to counter that where and when necessary. Nevertheless, I would not want to trade my Apple Watch for a vibrating ankle bracelet. Since it won’t be able to tell the time (among other things) it would yet be another device to carry around, charge, forget…

      Cheers
      Michael

  2. Don’t take my remarks as a criticism of how you use an iPhone and Apple Watch. My criticism was directed at our culture in general including young adults and then mostly that a smartwatch makes the abuses of smartphones even worse.

    I’ve been at business meetings where people place their phones, screen up, in front of them to follow everything that comes in. Come on, I think, you’re not a heart surgeon. Nothing you’re doing is important enough to require you constant attention. Focus on this meeting. Deal with that other stuff later. And keep in mind that in any context other than smartphone messaging, focusing on those messages would be impolite. How would you feel if you went out to dinner with friends and one brought along a book that he read whenever conversation lagged. You’d consider that grossly impolite. Smartphones aren’t any different.

    On a nearby campus, I see another problem. Students might be on a bench together or swinging from the same hammock. Are they talking to on another? Much of the time, they’re not. They’re texting someone else or even, strange as it sounds, texting the person next to them. As Turkle notes in her book, for some college students that’s becoming the dominate behavior. She describes parties where many of those attending on not talking, they’re texting around trying to discover where the best party is. But how can any party be good when half those attending are ignoring everyone else to text?

    She also describes the great pains these young adults take in order, so they think, to get that short terse text message just right so there’s no misunderstanding. Every punctuation mark matters, and emoticons are heavily used. They actually express fear that talking face-to-face they will say something wrong. That’s sad. It’s only face-to-face that gives you enough feedback—should you understand it—to avoid misunderstandings.

    Constant reinforcement is another issue. Say a student does badly on a test. In “the old days” it might be hours before they get together with a friend who can cheer them up. They learned to cope on their own. Now, an crisis, however small, triggers a text to some supporter or a posting to some social website. Every bump in the road, however small, much meet with near instant support in some slice of text. And yet that become a terrible trap. To get instant support themselves, they must give that same instant support to others. That means constantly checking messages.

    The last, incidentally, is one reason for those safe spaces and trigger warnings on a college campus. They literally have not learned to cope with contrary points of view. Even their relationships with friends is mediated by those carefully crafted text messages.

    Again, what I said no doubt doesn’t apply to you. Indeed, little of it, other than the boorishness of smartphones out at meetings and dinners, applies to anyone who was grown up or almost grown up when the iPhone came out. Nor does it apply to those whose lives puts them in situations where smartphones are permitted. It is the often limited world of the young and of students where this monoculture is having its main impact.

    You might want to read Turkle’s book to explore this further. I’m still wrestling with what she means by the harm these devices do by abolishing solitude. She says that they make it difficult for today’s young, never apart from their smartphones, to establish the sense of self that’s only established by being alone and conversing only with yourself. One result is that, not having anything to do, all they can imagine themselves doing is pulling out that smartphone to entertain them.

    For an analogy, recall that the industrial revolution also created great harm, whatever good it might have done with increased productivity. The same it true with this revolution. That’s why I think we can learn from the Amish. Whenever any new technology comes out, they study it carefully, adopting only the good and rejecting the bad. Telephones in a home, they concluded, interfere with too much with family conversations, but are useful in emergencies. The result was a telephone in a little shack apart from the house. In an emergency, they could use it, and for incoming calls, an answering machine sufficed. That’s maybe not what you and I would do, but perhaps we do need to learn that there is a downside to always being connected.

    In short, we should control technology rather than let it control us. You no doubt do that, but not everyone does. The young are particularly vulnerable, not having any “before” stage in their lives. And many of the young are likely to correct themselves, but that takes time.

    –Mike Perry, author of My Nights with Leukemia

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