Culture

Looking Back on a Year of Apple Watch Ownership

07_15_AppleWatch_01
07/15/16
In the Magazine
A customer waits in front of an Apple Store to have a look at the Apple Watch in Berlin on April 10, 2015. A year after the Apple Watch's release, sales are flagging—perhaps because it's just not worth the hype. Stefanie Loos/Reuters

Long before there was an Apple Watch, I knew I had to have one. I liked Apple stuff. I liked watches. I was tired of replacing dumb-watch batteries.

So when I heard rumors that Apple was close to releasing a potentially game-changing new product that would turn me into David Hasselhoff from Knight Rider , I was pretty excited. I bought one of the very first Apple Watches ever sold to the public. Then I lost it, falsely accused a college student of stealing it and trying to sell it on Craigslist, realized I was wrong about that, and bought another one. Then I found the first one in my garden shed, and gave that one to my girlfriend so we could send heartbeats and doodles to each other. Then we broke up, and I don’t know anyone else with an Apple Watch so I don’t send heartbeats and doodles to anyone anymore.

Every time Apple releases some kind of new product, from the iPod to the iPhone, it changes people’s lives. The iPod freed me from the ridiculous habit I’d acquired of toting around heavy binders full of compact discs fashioned into mixed tapes, because I liked listening to music randomly, not one whole album at a time. The iPhone freed me from the ridiculous habit of using T9Word to send text messages. Naturally, I was certain the Apple Watch would change my life, too.

And in some ways it did! But mostly it didn’t. I’ve had the thing for a year now, and it’s time to take stock of what’s different.

I pull out my phone less.

OK look, I know that’s an obvious one and it might seem like a silly reason to buy an Apple Watch. But it’s really pretty nice. I still pull out my phone at least 146 times a day, but there are a few choice moments where it’s blissfully convenient to not have to do that. When I’m stuck on a boring date, and want to surreptitiously glance at my phone instead of pretending I need to go to the bathroom. When I’m on a motorcycle at a stoplight and I want to see if anyone’s texted or messaged or Snapchatted or Facebooked or emailed me since I left the house (you can’t pull out your phone while driving a motorcycle). When I’m in a scary neighborhood and I want to check my Instagram likes without worrying about my phone getting snatched. Those are all times it’s really great to have an Apple Watch.

Every few weeks I remember I can skip to the next song playing on my phone using my watch.

Sometimes that’s pretty helpful. Sometimes my phone is plugged into my stereo system or it’s plugged into the wall, charging, and in both cases it’s way across the room, and I want to change the song without trudging all the way across the room to change it. Pretty helpful.

But that’s it, really.

Those are the only two ways the Apple Watch changed my life. For the remainder of this piece, I’m going to tell you why the device is a complete waste of money, which might explain why sales are flagging and the price of the damn thing keeps dropping.

Maps and Siri are worthless.

I ask Siri for directions to my house, and watch the spinning wheel for 10 or 15 seconds — in which time I could have just pulled out my phone, opened Google Maps and answered the question myself — before Siri lets me know that she thinks I need directions, but does not yet understand that I need directions home, which means I have to answer another prompt and watch the wheel spin some more before I get what’s as likely to be directions to Home Depot as it is to my actual house.

A good part of the reason I bought the Apple Watch is because I was living abroad at the time, and often found myself stumbling around some neighborhood in Barcelona matching the display of a map with my surroundings, my phone precariously out and at risk of being snatched by hurtadoras (pickpockets). Surely having the map on my wrist would mean I didn’t have to take my phone out, but the way Maps works on the phone is pretty similar to what it was once like to print out turn-by-turn directions from Mapquest (before we toted around GPS-enabled phones) or what it’s now like to try navigating a foreign city using only voice-guided directions.

Without seeing your exact position on the map, it’s a guessing game to figure out whether your turn is right here or right there, whether you’re taking the sharp right or veering right. The Apple Watch’s display is simply too small to work effectively. In a pinch, it’s fine. I’ve used the Maps function about twice in the past year.

Most of the other apps are worthless.

Sometimes I find myself standing in line and not wanting to mess around with my phone to get through the torture that is standing in line, so I start messing around with the watch instead. That’s entertaining for a total of about three minutes. I could check the weather, but the forecast only goes for the next 12 hours. I could see what time it is in different parts of the world. I can look at calendar appointments, of which I tend to have about two a week and already have them stored in my head. I can read the New York Times, if by “read the New York Times” you mean check out a few headlines and maybe an accompanying picture. I can look at what temperature it is in my house via a smart thermostat, but I can’t change the temperature. I can set little timers. (I never set little timers.) I can measure how active or lazy I have been so far that day. I can look at Tweets, which is cool for about 20 seconds. The only apps I have used more than once are the Starbucks app to pay for coffee with a Starbucks card, which I stopped doing because a) I only go to Starbucks when I’m stuck in some decent coffee-deprived hellhole and b) if the app glitches I’m standing there with 10 caffeine-deprived people behind me holding out my wrist and looking like a goober. Same problem using the thing as a boarding pass at the airport. Great idea, but if the app glitches I’m standing there with 100 angry travelers behind me holding out my wrist like a goober. Which brings me to the final way in which the Apple Watch changed my life:

I’m constantly embarrassed to be wearing an Apple Watch.

It’s not quite as embarrassing as Google Glass, because it’s not a big ugly piece of technology that sits on your face and announces to the world what a douchenozzle you are, but it’s still embarrassing. When I’m around someone who doesn’t already understand and love me for being a douchenozzle, I recoil and hide my arm under the table whenever my watch buzzes and lights up at me. Sometimes people are like “Oh cool! You have an Apple Watch!” But still, it’s embarrassing. I purchased a thing nobody else purchased whose only real function (besides telling the time) is that it prevents me from having to pull out my phone a few extra times per day. For what I paid for this watch, I could have bought a nice piece of street art, or a hundred bags of Chicago-style popcorn (on sale).

Why don’t I just sell it, you ask? Because I’m addicted to having the thing on my wrist, to being one step closer to knowing the exact moment someone texts or emails or Facebooks or Snapchats me. I can’t let it go. What I can do is warn the rest of the world. Don’t buy one of these things. It will ruin your perfectly good life.