Getting it right second time
In the technology industry, it’s rare to get anything right first time. In fact, we once worked with a software company that started from the get-go with version 3.0 of their software “because nobody ever buys version 1”.
This underlines why a last-minute bug meant a few days’ delay in the release of Apple’s Watch OS version 2 – the first major update to the Watch software since it went on sale this spring.
For the Watch, the user experience is critical. It’s therefore better to keep users on an older version of an operating system until you’re really confident in your new version, rather than risk disillusioning or alienating users with a new release that is supposed to deliver improvements but instead just frustrates.
Although we were keen to get “watchOS 2.0” up and running, we were prepared to wait and avoid glitches.
Was it all worth it?
However, was it worth all the wait? So far, we’re not at all convinced. There are hardly any real differences. Yes, there are a few fancy backgrounds for a new clock face but apart from the distraction of shiny things … you need to look long and hard to see what’s new.
The differences are there – and partly noticeable via iPhone iOS9, where swiping down on the home screen now shows the battery levels for both phone and watch. Watch “complications” can now also come from a third party – so if you use the modular display face, for example, you can add information from your favorite third-party app to the “at a glance” watch face.
Scrolling the (still under-used, in our opinion) digital crown on the watch face allows “time travel”, in other words, you can fast-forward (or rewind) through your day and see various things change, like your appointments, outside temperature. It’s a neat gimmick, but unfortunately doesn’t predict how much battery you’re likely to have left a few hours from now…
In watchOS2, it’s easier to navigate back from an app to the “home” screen, simply by clicking the digital crown: Do this again and you zoom out to show all your installed apps. Press a third time and you’re back on your watch face.
Playing Twister at the airport gate
Some apps are a little fiddly, for example we used the Wallet app to display a flight boarding pass. Once you center the QR code on the watch face, the screen stays on. This is convenient.
What’s less than convenient and in fact downright awkward is that for anyone wearing a Watch on their left arm, they will need to perform an awkward cross-body twist (while trying not to drop their hand luggage) to get the watch face on top of the boarding card scanner at the gate, which is usually on the right.
At one airport, there was no way anyone’s arm with Watch was going to fit under the desk-mounted scanner, so out came the phone anyway.
Other apps – even native Apple ones – tend to get bogged down especially when the phone is on a slow network connection, as this seems to be exaggerated on the Watch.
We’ve noticed repeated occasions where the little circulating dots are still pulsating when the screen times out, and/or our arms start to ache. And that’s when the Watch shows its forthcomings. This is particular the case if the native app isn’t already running on your phone. In one case, Twitter took more than a minute to load.
There are also glitches, for example HotelTonight, one of our favorite phone apps, consistently came up with “something went wrong” message even when used in the middle of London.
These are early teething troubles perhaps but underlining that the Watch is not yet the massive boost to productivity that we’d hoped.
We live in hope – and in search of the killer app for the Watch.