Once I started to focus on fitness and my health, I started buying new technology, downloading apps, writing things down on paper (what’s that?)…all of it. I was trying to find the perfect blend of wearable tech and apps for my phone that satisfied my needs.
I had always said that I wanted a piece of technology that:
- Told me my calorie burn throughout the day, beyond just steps (meaning, it had a heart rate monitor)
- Allowed me to track my calorie intake
- Told me my time, pace, and distance on a run
For a while, I was rocking a strange combination of a FitBit Flex (read my review), and a Garmin Forerunner 10 watch. It did everything above, but not perfectly. My watch was great for runs, but nothing else. It also didn’t have a heart rate monitor, and neither did my Flex. So, I was counting calories in/out, but my calories out was skewed.
When I first learned about the specifics of the Apple Watch, I teetered on whether or not I was going to preorder one, or “wait it out” like many tech-folk do. I decided to just go for it, with fitness being an increasing priority in my life. Financially, I felt satisfied with my decision, considering my FitBit Flex and Garmin Forerunner 10 was equivalent to over $200 total, and the Apple Watch has a much longer list of functionality than the two combined.
I opted for (yep, the cheapest) sport model. If I could afford the rose gold model, I would have purchased it in a second. I love rose gold. I was nervous about the band color, to fall into the stereotype. I mostly wear watches (read: always) as a fashion accessory, not as an actual device to tell time. Fun fact about me: all of my watch batteries are dead. I’m too lazy to get them changed, and I never actually look at it to check the time. So, with this purchase, I wanted to be sure it was going to match what I was wearing….well, always! Of course, there are other band options, some which cost about the same as what I paid for my watch, and I am anxiously awaiting the day a 3rd party comes out with a realistically priced set of bands to better match my outfit. I will say, the one thing I’m a little sad about is that I no longer wear my other watches as often. Maybe Apple will someday produce a poketwatch chain that I can attach to the face. You never know. The band is comfortable, and the 38mm watch face doesn’t look too large on my very-tiny wrist.
So, what do I use the Apple Watch for, exactly?
This is the question I get most often about my Apple Watch. And the answer is really, “not much.” But that’s not a bad thing, and that’s essentially what it’s built to do. Before the Apple Watch was released, many bloggers and tech reviewers were given access to a Watch to write their own reviews. Every review I read complained about battery life. I was terrified. Did I really just dump all this money into something that wasn’t going to get through my day? The reviewers were reading their Twitter feed on the toilet, checking emails while at dinner, and texting on the Watch, exclusively. The Apple Watch was built for short glances at notifications, not to substitute a phone.
I’ll say that the only time I recharged my Apple Watch during the day (and, I don’t think I needed to, but I was nervous) was the first full day I had it – I was playing around with it a lot, and also ran a half marathon with it.
At first, I had notifications turned on for just about everything that the Apple Watch would let me get notifications for. Texts, email, my calendar, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram…plus all my other apps. I quickly discovered that was a bad idea. My wrist never stopped getting tapped. It took me a while to get the right balance of notifications to my Watch v. my phone. Do I really need to get Instagram notifications immediately? No, not really. Plus, many of the notifications don’t allow me to interact with them.
Facebook and Instagram, for example, only show a notification. Instagram will let me know that someone liked or commented on my photo, but my only option is to “dismiss” the notification – not see what photo was liked, or even read the comment. I quickly turned off any notifications that don’t allow me to interact with it directly, and are not important enough to get sent to my wrist.
I ultimately ended up turning off all email notifications, but you can manipulate what types of emails get sent to your wrist, which is pretty cool.
I didn’t think I would like getting text notifications to my Apple Watch as much as I do. My watch will tap me before my phone makes a noise (or even if it’s on silent), and I can quickly glance to see who the text is from. Is this essential to my function as a human? No, but it sure is convenient.
Many ask me about texting on the Watch, and the answer is “no way, and I don’t want to.” No part of me yearns for a tiny keyboard that spans across a 38mm screen. That’s what my phone is for. But, you can read a text in full, and respond to it (emojis and all) right on the watch using the pre-packaged responses or dictation. I was surprised to find that Siri works much better on my watch than on my phone, too.
As I said, I purchased the Apple Watch, ultimately because I wanted something that could answer my fitness needs. The Apple Watch comes with an Activities app, which plays nicely with the Health app that we all got from a not-so-recent software update to the iPhone. The Activities app uses your steps and heart rate to measure “moving,” “standing,” and “exercise.” These three things are shown on the Watch and on a separate app for your phone, and the gamification isn’t a bad way to stay motivated. You set your own goals for calorie burn (move) and minutes of activity (exercise) and can adjust as you see fit.
I also needed my Apple Watch to give me stats when I was running. The Watch provides a way to track yourself running, walking, biking, using an elliptical, a stair stepper, or even a rowing machine. Pretty cool. I did try this app on a run, and didn’t love the interface. It gave me everything I needed, but I had to swipe between modes as I was running to check time, pace, and distance. I wanted it all in one glance.
So, then, I started to check out some apps. When the Apple Watch first came out, it was clear that 3rd parties weren’t ready for it. Most interfaces were buggy, some were clumsy, and others lacked basic statistics I wanted. I settled on the Endomondo app, one of the apps in the Underarmour series (in this series is My Fitness Pal and Map My Run). This was ultimately because I could link everything together.
Now that the bugs have been sorted out, I have found my own groove for my Apple Watch in regards to my fitness and health. My Fitness Pal has the capability to capture calorie burn from the Health app (essentially, the activities app), meaning any time I take a step, or turn on my watch during a workout (even if it’s weight lifting), I’m going to be able to share that number and compare it to my calorie intake, as I log food during the day on My Fitness Pal. Because Endomondo and My Fitness Pal are both Underarmour apps, that data is translated as well. Viola! Much more accurate calorie counting than I did before.
There are other features of the Apple Watch that I have yet to take advantage of, such as Apple Pay or the Apple TV Remote app (yeah, I can control my Apple TV from my watch…awesome!), but for me, it does its job.
Could I have lived without the Apple Watch? Sure. I would text and answer calls on my phone just the same (did I mention you can talk into your watch like a super spy?), and manipulate notifications all from my phone. But, for me, when I look at it from a health and fitness perspective, I’m a big fan. It’s also a bonus for me that it plays nicely with my other electronics; something my Garmin Forerunner 10 and FitBit couldn’t provide.
If you have an Apple Watch, I want to hear your thoughts, too! And, if you’re interested in hearing a more tech-related review that highlights more of the basic features of the Apple Watch, listen to my review on the Higher Ed Social Podcast.