Matt Birchler’s watchOS 3 Pitch

Matt Birchler wrote a spot-on and comprehensive pieces about how Apple can take the Apple Watch further. While the whole article is accurate, I’m especially partial to his analysis of the Workout app, which seems very limited, and I’m sure leaves everyone wanting more:

Workouts has very basic functionality, but the functionality that is there works well. This is one part of the Watch where it seems like Apple was suitably conservative with what they were trying to do. It left us with an app that has us begging for more, not questioning its very existence.

[…]

One: Give me media playback controls in the app. People tend to work out with music or podcasts playing in their headphones, and they’re almost certainly going to want to skip forward or pause at some point. Right now you have to press the crown once to go to the app selector, again to bring up the watch face, and then swipe up to get the controls. Then you have to double press the crown to go back to the Workout app.

The fix seems simple, and would be to enable a swipe up from within the Workout app to bring up media controls. Swiping up does nothing right now, so it could be added without impacting anything in the existing app. Boom, done.

Birchler also suggests giving third-party apps more power, but I’d take that a step further: the Workout app is composed of different components: ‘Outdoor Run’, ‘Rower’, ‘Indoor Cycle’, but I don’t think it would be too hard to allow apps to build extensions for the Workout app itself. It doesn’t sound too crazy, given that the fitness features are some of the Apple Watch’s main selling points, and why wouldn’t Apple want to expand its non-exhaustive array of workout types? I’m sick of having to choose ‘Other’ every time I play a game of basketball, and if a third-party option gives me a wider breadth of workout styles, that’s win for everyone.

Using Apple Watch at Night

Stephen Hackett has a great writeup on how he uses his Apple Watch at night, as a sleep tracker using Sleep++ by David Smith.

The Watch’s screen will still light up when moved, even at night, and I found that to be a problem, so right before bed, I’ve been knocking the screen brightness all the way down and selecting this variant of the Modular face I’ve setup to show just the time in red. Now, if I do turn over, the Watch’s display shouldn’t be bright enough to be an annoyance.

Sleep++

Sleep++
David Smith is a fantastic developer who creates some of the apps I use everyday. I use Pedometer++, the fantastic step tracker available on iPhone since iOS 8 and iPhone 5S. It leveraged iOS 8’s HealthKit, and the various motion tracking capabilities of the iPhone 5S, and Smith managed to make a great product over the course of one summer.

And that’s not all. In the same period of time, he also made a third-party keyboard for emojis, one that had a much better interface than Apple’s, and was faster and slicker to use. So it’s not a surprise that Apple sherlocked him with the release of iOS 8.3.

This time, it’s with watchOS 2’s native apps (with access to the various hardware features of Apple Watch) and third-party complications that Smith has mastered to create a great app. It’s called Sleep++, and it’s a great sleep-tracking app for Apple Watch.

This (understandably) might turn a few heads at first. Tim Cook said a while back that you’ll need to charge it every night. But David Smith has come up with a way to, yes, wear Apple Watch 24/7. Here’s how David does it:

The TL/DR is to charge your Apple Watch in the morning while you get ready for your day (take a shower, get dressed, etc) and then again in the evening while you get ready for bed (brush teeth, put on pajamas, etc). Then put your Apple Watch in Airplane Mode while you sleep.

You should read the whole piece, but that’s the gist of it. I’ve been trying out Sleep++ and this method since I got my Apple Watch on Tuesday, and I can say it’s quite solid. Smith says in his piece that he only uses only about 50% of the full charge in a day. Since I first got my Watch, I’ve been using the hell out of it, even installing apps while out and about. Because of this, I usually end the day with about 15-25%. Obviously, this means I have to charge it for longer before I go to sleep, but that’s not really an issue for me, yet.

The Sleep++ Apple Watch app.
The Sleep++ Apple Watch app.

I put my Watch in Airplane Mode, and in the usually six or so hours I sleep, I get pretty good (simple) feedback. Dark blue periods in Sleep++ are times when you’re sleeping well, and the light blue breaks in between are ‘restless’ periods in sleep.

The data is simple and easy to glance, but it can be expanded to give more information. The design is simple, and not what you’d call ‘beautiful’, but it’s like any Underscore v1 product: fast and functional, and I expect David Smith is already working on a new update with more to come.

Sleep++ is free on the App Store, but you should support its development by removing ads for just $2.

A Humble Suggestion for Activity Rings

Wonderful suggestions by _DavidSmith.

The trouble I have is the visual difference between the last three’s exercise ring. I find it very difficult to tell the difference between an almost filled exercise ring and an actually filled exercise ring. This has caused me to miss a few days unintentionally when I thought I had reached my goal, only to discover later that I’d slightly missed it. I hit this on the 42mm watch, looking at my wife’s 38mm the problem is even more significant.

I want the UI to congratulate me for getting there and in some ways celebrate the accomplishment. In Pedometer++ I go so far as to have confetti virtually rain down on you when you hit your goal…and while confetti on your watch face is probably not a good idea, I’d love some kind of high-five from the watch.

I think there is a reasonably simple solution to this. I’d like to suggest that when you close an activity ring it changes color slightly. Nothing dramatic (as I’m sure the intention is to make sure that the complications on the Apple Watch stay subtle and undistracting), but enough to clearly visually show the accomplishment. Something like this:

(Via Marco.org.)

Viticci on the Todoist Apple Watch App

Todoist for Apple Watch is an evolution of the concept shared by the company earlier this year. The main screen displays your profile picture and karma level; below that, the app has a button to view tasks due today, which opens a list of tasks you can complete or edit directly from your Watch. The choice of making the Today button bigger than others and the only one to have a badge is a thoughtful one: with the limited and brief interactions of the Watch, it’s far more important to prioritize what matters today and right now.

Great ideology. it’s what Apple Watch is about.

Apple Watch First Impressions

No, I did not receive an Apple Watch.

What did end up happening was me finally taking a break from exam preparations and going for an Apple Watch try-on. I’ve not yet ordered one.

I arrived at the Apple Store ten minutes early. As soon as I entered, a retail guy directed me to the try-on waiting line when I told him I had an appointment at 6 PM. The line was short, and there were demo watches along the side of the line you could try out. I ended up spending the ten minutes before my try-on appointment fiddling with the demo Watch. Although I was told what to expect (thanks in part to Twitter and a couple of day one reviews), I was not prepared for the size of the thing. I double-checked the size of the Watch with the guy at the line, and he assured me that, yes, it was the 42mm. That instant, the notion of me saving fifty bucks and getting the 38mm1 flew out the window. Other than the size, I was also surprised by how much I liked just the watch face. I loved using Force Touch to navigate through the other nine faces, and being able to customize it. I settled one one I liked: the ‘Utility’ analog face, with just the sunrise/sunset and calendar complications and no ‘numbers’2 around the face. Who knows, I might as well throw in the Activity ring in there, too.
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And yes, I did end up Force Touch-ing everything. After I was done customizing the watch face to my fancy, I swiped down to find the Notification Center (if it’s even called that). I started dismissing notifications one-by-one by swiping them away, then remembered I can clear them all by Force Touch-ing the display. A feature I’ll sorely miss on the iPhone. A swipe up from the bottom unveils the Glances view. I don’t have much of an opinion of this, particularly because I didn’t think about it much in the five minutes that I had with it. It felt to me rather like the equivalent of Today view extensions of the Apple Watch, and I could see myself using it in the future.

Pressing the Digital Crown once takes you to the apps view. I stubbornly refuse to call it the home screen. It’s not a home screen. It’s a view used only for access to apps you have on your Watch. It’s a similar ideology to the Android experience. The watch face on Apple Watch is like Android’s home screen, with the widgets, shortcuts, etc., with the apps screen being a place to launch apps. In my opinion, this ideology is more appropriate for a wrist wearable than for a smartphone. Unlike others, I didn’t have much of a problem touching icons to open apps, but it’s not like I took long on the app screen anyway. Unfortunately, the demo watch didn’t have third-party apps on display, so I was unable to experience how long and how complete third-party developers’ applications are.

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I didn’t get much time to use the actual software of the Apple Watch, but what’s significant about it isn’t really the software, but the hardware mostly. Consider this where the ‘software’ section of this mini-review ends. I didn’t have any more time to mess with the UX, since the watches you get to try on only run an interactive demo video, and not the actual software. I felt a tap on my back and the line guy told me it was time for my appointment. I followed a nice lady down into the ‘fenced-off’ area — pretty much an area taped off just for those with appointments. The try-on area was pretty standard for Apple. Normal high-quality wood tables, this time with some sort of blue mat. Another one of the demo units — the ones which you could actually interact with — were placed next to the mats, attached to some sort of display stand.

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She started off by asking me how to pronounce my name (it rhymes with “fade”, by the way), introducing herself, then by asking me if I had any idea which two watches I’d like to try. I came prepared, of course, and picked out the 42mm Space Gray Apple Watch Sport with the Black Sport Band, and the 42mm Stainless Steel Case with the Link Bracelet — now being made aware that the 38mm didn’t cut it for me. She made a show of unlocking a drawer under the table with her phone — no sensors visible — and opening a drawer, containing the entire Apple Watch and Apple Watch Sport collection. She took out the two I’d picked, and started fitting the Sport on me. Even though I expected it, the black sport band was much more comfortable than I’d thought. It was really light, and within a few seconds as my ‘guide’ tried to pitch the watch to me3, I was able to completely forget it was on my wrist — a relief, considering one of my main concerns with getting the watch was that I’d have a hard time wanting it on my wrist all the time. I already had my mind set on this watch, or as we know it, the ‘geek’ Apple Watch.

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Once I was done, she put on the stainless steel. It felt much colder, and also heavier. I was also surprised to find that she did not adjust the band to my size, even on request, so I didn’t really get the ‘full experience’. The stainless steel looked really great, but it didn’t feel right. It was too heavy, and I was not interested in it that much anymore, especially after trying on the much cheaper, much lighter and much more comfortable Black Sport band. Unfortunately, the demo for this watch wasn’t working, so I couldn’t try out the taptic feedback on this one.

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To my surprise, she asked me if I’d wanted to try on another one, to which I promptly said yes. Turns out, you’re only allowed two at the same time. I chose the Stainless Steel Case with the Milanese Loop. Since the Milanese Loop was the one featured probably the most prominently in Apple’s marketing, I had high hopes for it. It looked much smaller than on the marketing material — the little mesh was much smaller, but also felt more uniform. I don’t have a lot of arm-hair at all (I’m 15), but putting it on did pinch a few. I expected a cold, steel kiss, but it was comfortable and wasn’t cold at all like the link bracelet. Remember that report from 9to5Mac stating that employees would give fashion advice? Well, my guide told me that the Milanese loop was ‘too elegant’ for me, too which I completely agreed. In my polo shirt and ankle-length three-quarter khakis, I’m pretty sure I’d look stupid with a stainless steel watch with a Milanese loop band.

At the end of the appointment, I had a pretty good idea what I was gonna get. Firstly, the 38mm was way too small for me, and not that intuitive to use. The Apple Watch collection (stainless steel) would look too ‘mature’ for me, in the words of my guide, and I already have my heart set on the Sport with Black Sport Band. Of course, the stainless steel looks better, but the extra $200 isn’t worth it.


  1. I hoped that being a 15-year-old would mean I was a real man yet, and wouldn’t need the full-size 42mm, but, boy, was I wrong. 
  2. Sorry, horologists, I don’t know the term for the number indicators around the watch. Sorry. 
  3. In vain — I already knew I wanted one. 

John Gruber On the Apple Watch Interaction Model and the Digital Crown

John Gruber in response to Steven Berlin Johnson’s excellent piece on the role of the Digital Crown to the Apple Watch:

I would keep the functionality of the crown button as-is:

  • If the watch display is off, pressing the crown wakes it up.
  • If the watch is showing your glances or notifications, pressing the crown takes you back to the watch face.
  • If the watch is displaying your watch face, pressing the crown switches you to the home screen showing all your apps.
  • If you’re using any app, pressing the crown takes you back to the home screen, with the view centered on the app you just left.
  • If the watch is on your home screen and the clock app is not centered, pressing it will re-center.
  • If the watch is on the home screen, centered on the clock, pressing it will switch you to the watch face.
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