Computer Science, Design Thinking, Innovation, STEM

The Weekend After: More Surprises from my Apple Watch

It’s been a whole weekend since I received my Apple Watch on Launch Day and I’ve discovered some new surprises.  I’ve heard at least one reviewer give it some very negative reviews but I can clearly see he didn’t understand the technology yet.  Here are some new surprises and tips I’ve learned since using it over the weekend.

  1. I was able to use my Apple Watch outside of my house even though my iPhone was still in the house (read on to find out how).
  2. There’s a red light indicator (i.e a small red iPhone with a line through it) when my iPhone is either turned off or out of range (this “saved” me once).
  3. I was still able to use my Apple Watch Siri and IMessage apps even without my iPhone when I was in wifi range in my home (will explain the caveat).
  4. You don’t have to tap on the app icon (i.e. Twitter) but you can use the Digital Crown.
  5. You will do yourself a favor to read the very brief instructions that come with the Apple Watch to learn how to use the three external input devices (digital crown/home button and side pushbutton) plus the additional Watch face touch input and force touch.  The Siri speech interface puts the total input methods to six.
  6. The Activity Tracker and Workout app is what is going to keep me engaged with the Apple Watch and will make me healthier.
  7. The Apple iMessage App is customizable, gives a range of animated emoji, and can use Siri to compose flawless messages and replies.
  8. When I made phone calls on Apple Watch in the car, the people I speak to can’t believe how clear the sound is (with window close of course).
  9. Did I mention that the Apple Watch charges in about an hour?
  10. The Heart Rate monitor matched the heart rate readings from my fitness centers treadmill.
  11. I didn’t learn this on my own but I watched a video of two guys submerging their Apple Watch for 5-15 minutes underwater without a problem. (Disclaimer: Neither Apple or I say the Apple Watch is water proof).
  12. It’s very easy to launch any app using Siri.
  13. Siri can be activated by holding the Apple Watch up and saying “Hey Siri” or by pressing and holding the Digital Crown.
  14. The Apple Watch is so much more than an watch. It’s a/an ________________).

WiFi and the Apple Watch

My first surprise was that my Apple Watch seemed to learn the connection settings to my iPhone in my house and was able to use the wifi network after I turned my iPhone off.  I had to make sure that I had my wifi turned on for my iPhone for this to work.  Apparently the Apple Watch uses a combination of blue tooth to connect with the iPhone as well as the wifi.  I walked out of my house and got into the car and was able to make a phone call using my Apple Watch because my home network wifi signal was strong enough.

When the Apple Watch’s connection to the iPhone is lost because it’s outside the wifi and blue tooth range, a red iPhone icon will appear in the watch face.  I was driving to church on Sunday and noticed the red icon and it alerted me that I had forgotten my iPhone at home so I was able to turn around and get it.

I was able to use limited wireless functions using my home wifi network when my iPhone was off.  I was able to query Siri and use messages.  This worked because my Apple Watch had been previously connected to the network through my iPhone.

It’s easy to overlook the instructions when you are opening the meticulously and pleasant packaging of the Apple Watch but there is some very basic and helpful descriptions on the input controls:

Digital Crown / Home Button

  • You can press it once to get to the Home Screen or the watch face.  It’s also used as a Back button when you are in an App.
  • You can double click it to get the last app that was loaded (besides the time keeping app)
  • If you press and hold it, you can launch Siri
  • You can turn it to scroll through the application, zoom and make it larger or adjust other input (e.g. set the timer)

Side Button

  • Press the side button once and your Friend menu will display and you can then communicate to them through a phone call or iMessage
  • Double click the side button and Apple Pay is launched.
  • Press and hold the side button to have the option to Power Off, put into Power Reserve mode, or Lock the Device

Activity and Workout Apps

So far the “killer” app to me is the combination of the Activity and Workout.  I find that I keep engaged with these Apps because I want to make progress or because the Activity app will remind me to stand up to meet some of my goals for Moving, Standing, and Exercising.  The icon for the Activity app gives a visual synopsis of how much progress I’m making for the day.  I’ve used the Nike Fuel Band and the Withings activity monitor before and so far the Apple Watch is my favorite.

Communicating with the Apple Watch

It’s fun and easy to make phone calls from your Apple Watch or to send iMessages.  I was able to use Siri to call a family member and they were surprised that I was still driving with my hands on the steering wheel because the microphone works so well.  When a text message comes in, a combination of a sound and taptic notification will alert you depending on your settings.  Unlike my Pebble Watch (when I was using it) I had a difficult time adjusting the number of notifications I was receiving and they all were the same.  Apple Watch does a good job of balancing the number of notifications and giving you a diverse set of tactile and audio signals to let you know in advance what kind of message is coming in.  Message tries to guess your possible replies with pretty good accuracy but also allows you to reply with a default message or use Emojii or a Siri-dictated message that you create on the fly.  Siri’s dictation of your message can be sent as an audio or text file and does a great job of translating your voice to text.

More than a Watch

Just like the iPhone was way more than just a phone, the Apple Watch is way more than a watch.  However, it is a very good watch that can be customized to different watch faces (e.g. the Mickey Mouse watch).  What’s even nicer is that you have the ability to customize each watch face and specific where and what information you want displayed.  For example, I can tailor a watch face to match the color of my watch band, then have it display the weather, my activity levels, and the date.  But the Apple Watch is also a communication device (Phone, iMessage, Mail, etc.), a search engine (I can ask Siri to look up who’s playing and the scores in the NBA playoffs), and a health and fitness trainer to name just a few.  The 3000 plus (and growing) third party apps will give the owner of the Apple Watch a limitless supply of “helper” applications to be more productive, healthier, informed and connected.

Last thoughts on the Apple Watch

I predict that soon we will go to an airport and instead of seeing people solely staring at their smartphones, we will see people talking into their smart watches and fiddling with their Apple Watches on their wrist.  For me, it’s hard not to hold up my wrist in the fitness center, speak loudly into Siri, and smile happily as it follows my every command (well, mostly).  As people have noticed my Apple Watch they automatically assume that it costs $1,000 or $10,000.  I’m happy to say that my Apple Watch does not cost that much but does every thing that a $17,000 Apple Watch does and feels and looks great on my wrist.  I hope that others will know how affordable the Apple Watch is and that potential thieves will not mistake mine for the most expensive one available.  Even if my Apple Watch does leave my wrist, at least no one can use it without knowing my password.

Andrew B. Williams, Ph.D., is a researcher, educator, and motivational speaker. His recent TEDx talk, Belonging in Technology, What I learned from Steve Jobs, addresses creativity and its relationship to talent development, innovation, diversity and inclusion in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and workforce development.  Dr. Williams is the author of, “Out of the Box: Building Robots, Transforming Lives”.  You can reply to Dr. Williams at @outofthebox1


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