I had a lot of fun with the Apple Watch series 3 over the last 2 months but something just wasn’t right; I admired what it could do and disliked it for what it couldn’t. My love-hate relationship became apparent when I started spending copious amount of time on Ebay and Amazon combing through Black Friday, Cyber Monday and even pre-Christmas deals hoping to snag something more…suitable.
Needless to say, my heart wasn’t with the Apple Watch despite the company selling millions of their wearable. Two questions come to mind when I had to decide if the Apple Watch Series 3 was worth a place on my wrist estate:
Am I willing to forgo the fitness tracking aspect of the Apple Watch Series 3 and keep the smart watch features?
Or am I willing to forgo the smart watch functions of the Series 3 and keep the fitness tracking features?
Why not keep both you might ask? Frankly there aren’t any devices at present that rock at both fitness recording and being a full-fledged smart watch.
I’d usually do a full user review but it’s difficult with the Apple Watch, or any smart watch for the matter, because an OS update can change how the entire watch works.
And there must be a multitude of websites out there that have done an Apple Watch review. I thought I’d simply list the reasons why I’m no longer using the Apple Watch Series 3.
Or any Apple Watch at present for the matter.
Sales of Apple Watch really took off after the company turned their focus towards the fitness recording and health tracking key features. Features such as resting heart rate, heart rate variability and even VO2 max estimation right on the watch are some of the metrics a user can access for reference from the Apple Health app as recorded by the Apple watch Series 3.
Combined with a state of the art exercise lab that has “…collected more data on activity and exercise than any other human performance study in history,” there’s genuinely very little Apple’s competitors can do to thwart its growth.
For anyone who’s never used any other brands of fitness GPS watches, the Apple Watch Series 3 is literally a godsend. It does most aspects of fitness and health recording well and will likely appear superior compared to the competition.
Unfortunately I’ve had some experience with fitness trackers and GPS watches so I’m examining the Apple Watch through a different lens.
I genuinely disliked using the Apple Watch for running. The display fields orientation is standard and offered little room for customisation, like how an iPhone would work. It’s here I’m reminded of the magnitude of customisation I had on my Google Nexus 5 years ago.
And I genuinely wished Apple would allow the display to be split 4 ways during workout mode rather than the current line after line format. To add insult to injury, the silly workout icon takes up a huge chunk of the display estate which is thoroughly unnecessary – I started an outdoor run, there’s no need for an icon to remind me I’m doing so. A clear case of emphasising design over practical use.
Lap function is activated via a double tap on the display ONLY if the display is on. I’m unsure how many people out there run interval laps but when you’re gasping for breath after a grueling lap, you just want to press a button and go about your recovery. Not tilt watch or press button to get display to turn on, then double tap to make sure it’s captured.
GymKit is touted as the feature that’s going to transmit tracked metrics on exercise machines directly to the Apple Watch with a simple tap. It sounds awesome save for the fact that only GymKit-enabled machines (probably newer machines or upgrades) are capable of such a function.
Put bluntly, I’ve yet to see any GymKit enabled machines in Singapore so by the time I do see one, series 4 might have already arrived in September 2018 which is just 9 months away!
There’s also an obvious lack of effort on Apple’s part to product a truly amazing app for fitness recording. Instead Apple’s focus is on general well-bring overview on the Apple Health app which made perusing fitness metrics a pain.
Take for example VO2 max. In order to access this number, you’ll have to go into Apple Health, tap on sources, choose the Apple Watch and then tap VO2 max. But in order to look at your workout in detail (not much anyway), you’ll have to use the Apple Activity app. I’m perplexed.
A lot of good stuff are coming out for Apple Watch but most of the goodies seem geographically locked. The new Apple Heart Study is only available in US. The new Kardiaband is only available in US and select countries of which Singapore is not one of them. Plenty of novel badge challenges which are again not available in Singapore.
Maybe things will improve with the arrival of the series 4 in 2018.
SMART WATCH FUNCTIONS
Quick replies on the go. Customisable notifications at a glance. Apple has got the smart notifications department pretty much sorted out and are clearly the ones to beat.
I could also set multiple alarms, make phone calls (when tethered to the mobile device), check messages and emails, voice search through Siri etc. Who would have thought the iconic Dick Tracy watch concept is now stamped with a half-eaten Apple logo?
For a quick glance at notifications, the Apple Watch Series 3 is great. For everything else, you’ll still need to refer to the iPhone. Case in point, pictures in messages appear as tiny thumbnails that are hardly visible and cannot be expanded.
Personally, I mute all incoming notifications with the exception of incoming calls which pretty much neutered the full smart notification aspect of Apple’s ingenious watch; I favor periods of peace where I can focus over the need to remain updated.
In these times of being ever connected, it pays to remain sane and focused by being unplugged.
I have to declare that I haven’t much use for the watch apps. I’ve been through series 1, 2 and now 3 and frankly saw little or no need to have apps installed as my mobile phone is usually readily next to me.
The single app that I use is the stopwatch complication. I’d use it to time my core workouts while leaving the workout app running in the background. An immensely useful feature.
The rest of the apps just works better on the iPhone.
Music is a nice to have feature for me but not a deal-breaker.
Sure, I can store music on the watch but a big issue I have is that I can’t fast forward a track – I can only skip tracks or play from the beginning on the Apple Watch Series 3.
If I’m running outdoors, I want to detox from all my electronics and be able to hear my footsteps pounding, my breathing, the cars driving by and just listen to the surrounding.
And if I’m on the treadmill, I’ll just have my mobile device next to me and stream off workout playlists from Spotify from the iPhone or watch something downloaded off Netflix. Even if I engage in strength training, my mobile device is usually right next to me which I can stream music off.
I’m unsure if it’s just me but 3 series of Apple Watches later, I’ve yet to personally chance upon anyone using the Apple Watch for contact-less payment in Singapore, ever.
I do see the Apple Pay sticker at most places I patronise but the main form of payment is usually Paywave (which works on the Apple Watch), NETS (Singapore based cashless payment that doesn’t work on the Apple Watch) or the all-encompassing cash.
I like to think trust has a big factor to play in contactless payment on wearables. Put simply, credit cards doesn’t run out of battery. Also, there’s no need to go through a proxy device if I’m using my card or cash. I guess I’m just old school.
And contrary to what most wearables companies will have you believe, it’s more of a hassle to run with your house keys than to carry a credit card or cash. And if I can run with a bunch of keys, I can definitely bring some money bills. It isn’t as difficult as it seems.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS ABOUT THE APPLE WATCH SERIES 3
The Apple Watch is very powerful and does a great job with reminders encouraging the user to stay active throughout the day. It’s also heavily customisable with the multitude of watch straps. So much so I gave up my dedicated GPS multi-sport watches for this wearable only to realise its shortcomings a few months down the road. Perhaps Series 4 or 5 will be much better.
I relished the fitness focused GPS watch experience and found those features sorely lacking in the Apple Watch. And it wasn’t a matter of Apple not being able to implement these features. With a cash laden war chest, I think there’s very little Apple isn’t capable of.
There were a few more reasons why I threw in the towel on the Apple Watch.
The movement rings became a killjoy after a full 2 months. Put simply, I got tired of closing the rings. It didn’t remotely resemble the Apple advertisements of rolling waves and dancing at train stations. It was simply me checking if my rings have closed and whether I’ve managed to clinch that new badge. Then repeat that day after day for fear of losing that continuous streak. It just wasn’t enjoyable anymore.
I also didn’t like the mobile app synergy. To customise the Apple Watch, I had to use the Apple Watch app but to view my health metrics, such as steps, VO2 max or HRV, I had to refer to the Apple Health app. And in order to check my workouts I had to do it on the Apple Activity app. Come on Apple!
Lastly, it’s the worrying battery life. To be honest I can go about 1.5 days or 36 hours’ worth of use if I don’t clock any workout. But if I do decide to go for a run after work on the second day, the Apple Watch Series 3 likely won’t make it through. Furthermore at 10% battery, the watch goes into battery reserve.
I’ve since gotten a spare charger though I’d very much prefer a watch that can go 7 days straight with workouts thrown in.
Eventually I arrived at the conclusion that I was simply not an intended target consumer for the Apple Watch. I had little use for notifications and replying on the fly, music isn’t a deal breaker for me. Plus, a lot of cool features have yet to reach the shores of Singapore. (Think GymKit, Apple Health Study, Kardiaband, and numerous cool activity badges for US only)
I still have a Series 2 from 2016 which I’ll keep for firmware or feature updates but I’m letting go of the Series 3, without much sadness really. I needed a stellar workout recording experience which the Apple Watch wasn’t able to provide.
The Apple Watch Series 3 is great in many aspects, just lacking in that particular department I needed the most.
If you’ll excuse me, I’ll continue looking for a replacement GPS multi-sport watch.