A Little More of the Juice: My Acquisition of the Apple Watch Series 4

I must admit when first I heard of Apple developing a watch, I wondered what good it could do me. Attached to the iPhone? Most of what one would do with it run basically by the larger device? And running one a few hundred dollars? Probably little more than a fashion item.

And from what I hear of the first two series of these items at least, they were basically that. Someone let me try his watch once, and I found I could barely hear VoiceOver (the talking software included on nearly all modern Apple devices) and what I perceived sounded scratchy at best. So I had no pressing desire to invest in this product.

But times change. Get it? Time? A watch? I know I know, that’s bad. And given that my cell phone company allows me to get one and attach payments to my bill, paying it off over time, I finally decided that the time was right. What! I can do that if I want.

So shortly after the new year began, I put in my order. On taking it out of the box and attaching its sport band, I was immediately underwhelmed by this accessory until, at least I think, I finally figured out how one is to wear it. Now it’s a lot more comfortable and no longer gets in my way as I conduct daily tasks and move around at work.

With the watch itself, I was pretty tempted to send it back after that bumpy first day. I couldn’t figure out how to get it to stop telling me time at wrong intervals (had to turn off the annoying raise-to-wake feature), and I initially struggled with the concept of setting everything via the iPhone.

I also had a hard time, and kind of still do really, getting it to reliably vibrate to tell me time instead of talking. One of the primary reasons I opted for this thing is so that I might check time during the night without having to put in my aids, tap the iPhone’s home button, and hope that it doesn’t speak so loudly that it wakes my wife up. Not being able to easily check the time actually makes the night feel a lot longer, and having to go through too many exercises to do so wakes me up to the point that sleep can not be easily re-obtained. Anyway on making the watch vibrate, I’ve discovered that I can get it to more consistently do so if I double tap it with some aggression, rather than sort of soft tapping. I wish they hadn’t used the double tap gesture as one’s means of activating this feature, since it is also commonly used to work with VoiceOver.

That minor flaw aside, I have come to like the watch in the end. This is because of its many health-related features. For example, it gives me percentages on my move, stand, and exercise goals throughout the day, easily allowing me to see when I need to be more active. It also tells me to “stand” at 10 minutes to every hour. My wife and I joke that this would be more effective if paired with a mild electric shock. Oh yeah! I’m standing up now.

The watch also has a pretty cool app called, boringly perhaps, “Breathe” that prompts you to breathe in and out in tune with taps on your wrist and measure the effect it has on your heart rate, as a proxy for relaxation. I’ve found this to be particularly useful to deploy at work, as I can do so relatively silently when between assignments, and it helps me feel a lot less stressed. I’m hoping that will prove good for my blood pressure in the long run as well.

Those are just some of the practical ways I have found the watch to be beneficial to me. It also helps me when reserving Uber/Lyft rides, as I no longer have to hold the phone or extract it to see notifications on the status of my ride, making it possible to schedule them as I sprint out of my workplace and get into position. I also like the easy weather-check feature on the Nike Watch face, as well as the fact that I can actually check email and other incoming notifications considerably faster with it than I can on the phone. Finally, it’s just easier to check the time either with the “aggressive” double tap method already mentioned, or a single tap to the face to have the hours and minutes (with seconds in the Classic watch face which can really be pretty cool) spoken.

No this thing isn’t perfect, but from what I have seen the Series 4 is a lot better than any other version thus far. And I got the one with the 44MM screen; I don’t know if that really makes a difference but the VoiceOver sound, while not very loud, is a lot clearer and generally discernible for me in quieter settings. I know about and definitely considered some of the blindness-specific smart watch solutions, but am finding that the Apple Watch actually works fairly well for me. Especially if you can get it via your phone company, I would recommend it.

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