The Apple Watch at Work and Play

I've been wearing an Apple Watch Sport (black, 42mm) since I received it about two weeks after the first models shipped. I haven't written about it here because it's something that I think requires time to approach an understanding of how it fits into daily life and use.

In the time since I got the watch I've been at work, travelled away from home during the summer holidays and am now back to work again for the new term. I was reminded that I wanted to write this when I noticed how dirty my watch had become from my constantly interacting with it during the day.

One of the things about the life and work of a teacher is that, firstly, your day is highly scheduled. There are rarely more than a couple of hours in a working day where your use of time is not dictated to you. The second thing is that you live and die by your management of a hundred small things to do, tell people, collect, hand out, look for or send for.

Before I get into my thoughts about what the Watch is good for, I think we should acknowledge something: it is a complete nonsense that Apple ever shipped an operating system where in about 3 in 5 tries, an app simply will not launch. To me, this is the glaring flaw in Apple Watch: apps need to be instantly available at all times and respond quickly. Otherwise, what's the point? If it's not quicker than reaching for the phone, why bother?

I'm putting a lot of faith in watchOS 2.0 to fix this problem. I hope it's not misplaced.

The Apple Watch is many different things to many different people. For some, it's a fitness tracker or a media remote control. For me, the Apple Watch has been two very distinct devices depending on whether I'm at work or on holiday.

Apple Watch at Play

I found a few use cases for Apple Watch that were surprisingly useful when on holidays. Travel apps such as Citymapper, Passbook and British Airways were all excellent to have on the watch. Tripadvisor and Foursquare are both useful and functional apps that make sense to have on the watch.

I drive an electric car and there are apps that let you quickly find nearby car chargers. Very useful when away from home.

It seems to me that many of these handy apps are those that require zero input. They use your location and show you things close by. Other apps that I tried on my travels were not so useful and many of them were apps that wanted input on the watch. Currency converters, for example, were finicky to use when trying to tap in amounts on the watch itself. Many apps suffered from slow control response, so typing was nothing like as fast or accurate as on, say, an iPhone or iPad.

I find myself using different watch faces for work and leisure - even going so far as to switch watch faces when I'm done with work for the day. At home or travelling, I like Color or Utility. When I'm really, really, relaxing I might even be so chill as to use the Solar or Motion faces. That's when you know I'm really checking out.

As for leisure complications, I like to have the Weather, World Clock showing US Eastern time (my podcast partner Bradley's time zone) and the Timer. I use the timer constantly. Whether it's timing my kids doing something or making sure I don't forget to "put the dinner on in 30 minutes", the timer complication is on every face I use.

I've also found the voice recognition to be really poor. I slightly suspect that I may have minor water damage in my watch because the speaker doesn't sound as clear as it used to either. Perhaps that's also affected the microphone, which is affecting the quality of recognition. That said, when you're surrounded by children making constant noise, it's not a great environment for dictation of any kind.

Apple Watch at Work

While the Apple Watch is a nice-to-have in leisure times, I have found it to be indispensable at work. The range of things I use it for is narrower, but the extent to which I depend on it is far more significant.

There are three main things that I need from the Watch at work.

Firstly, my calendar. I have that front and centre on my Modular watch face. It does a great job of telling me which class is coming next and having the entire day just a single tap away on the face is a revelation.

Secondly, email notifications. At our school, a lot of "general awareness" emails go out during the day. A pupil will be late; a pupil has gone home; something has happened. These all show up by email. We're a small school, so it's generally the case that we want all teachers to know about this stuff. The fact that I can read that tiny snippet of information on my watch and then delete it from my inbox is my killer app for the watch.

The last thing that I depend on in school is other reminders. I use both Due and OmniFocus for this. OmniFocus is my medium- and long-range GTD tool of choice. Due is there for other frequent timed reminders. For example, I have a reminder daily at 8.30am that tells me to post all my iTunes U posts for the day and another at 4.10pm that reminds me to update my planner with the events of the day.

My Apple Watch is an awareness amulet. It's a small-scale organisational superpower and I would not want to teach a day without it again.