Wednesday, June 20, 2018

This Old (Apple) Watch

The hype - and my curiosity - got me to buy an Apple Watch in June 2015, and it became my next bright shiny thing.

Three years ago this month I bought the newly-released Apple Watch. With that purchase, I was proud and excited to continue my early adopter streak in the computer wearables category. Now with a mostly happy record of wearing and using that original Series 1 watch every day for three years, I have "moved on up" to a new (for me) model, the Apple Watch Series 2 Nike edition, which I have been wearing for a week now. This transition has given me an opportunity for a few reflections, which I will share here, with a future post scheduled to comment on my new Series 2 and the future.

My new Apple Watch arrived in June 2015 and I have been wearing it ever since.

The original Apple Watch purchase in June 2015 coincided nicely with my withdrawal from active (i.e. traveling) work as a blogger/analyst for the printing and imaging industry. It led me to lightheartedly view it as my "retirement watch" in the fine tradition of such things, even though it wasn't gold and it was a self-funded award. (I have found, by the way, that going from "working full-time and not retired", to "semi-semi-retired", to "semi-retired", to "still working a bit", leads to many transitions. These changes are quite the contrary of the "knife-edge rolls", aka product-development checkpoints, that I learned to live by during my early days in the tech industry.)

As already mentioned, the Apple Watch I chose was not made of gold, but it was expensive, at least in my book. Apple's line of watches introduced by CEO Tim Cook during the iPhone 6 launch event in Fall 2014, went from the least expensive Sport models, up to a yellow 18k gold luxury edition. (see Business Insider's "A Timeline of how the Apple Watch was created".) I opted for the 38mm Sport model, one of the least expensive available, at $349 plus tax. It featured a metallic case and a bright blue rubber watchband.

The box reminded me of one that would hold a set of baseball cards
About a week after placing my order (direct through Apple) a box arrived at my front door that looked like it should hold a complete set of Topp's baseball cards, but instead held the watch, nested in packaging several levels deep. There had been lots of Wall Street anticipation that the watch would be Apple's "next big thing", revenues- and profits-wise, had me thinking that delivery times should be longer than a week if sales were robust, just a month and change following the very first sales. The quick shipping gave me a first-hand clue that order rates weren't exactly shooting through the roof, but I was very happy to get my new watch as soon as possible.

At that time, Apple offered personal training, via Facetime-like software, where new owners signed up for a one-on-one appointment with a specialist. I did mine right away, but admittedly remained a bit confused about the meaning of watch-specific software things like "complications", but I moved on as an active user and even sometimes something of an evangelist. (See "Watch complications: What is Apple talking about?" )

At the time Smartwatches were not a totally new category for me, as I had been wearing a Pebble for a while. Its much lower price and simpler feature set were quite satisfactory for me, and I joked that it was my money-saving "placebo" keeping me from buying an Apple. But all the media attention paid to the Apple Watch at the time of its announcement and launch were too much for me, and I caved. The short gap between first shipments and getting mine certainly still qualified me as an Apple Watch early adopter, and I joined in some of the extra-curricular activities like participating in the Wristly weekly satisfaction surveys with my fellow innovators*. The high-water mark for that organization (which let their once-weekly surveys peter out about a year after launch) was when Tim Cook quoted their "user satisfaction level" (See screen shot below and "Have You Given Up on Your Apple Watch?", from a few months later when the natives were restless as to the new product's success, or lack of. )

With the pressure on Apple to hit a home run with Apple Watch, Wristly and its survey data were there to help.

The Pebble had me accustomed to watch-based notifications of activity on my iPhone, like texts, calls, and others messages, so the Apple watch offered little new there. The "Apple Pay" function was something I was eager to try, though, especially at the local McDonald's where years before I had an experimental "wand" that allowed wireless payments. I got the watch to work for that a few times, thanks to patient and helpful McDonalds employees, but I stopped trying as the actual utility very little if any benefit compared to swiping a credit card. It was the same with software like the Fidelity app. I got it to work, but reviewing and trading in my IRA account did not seem like a natural fit for a watch!

What I did like was its Activity Tracker and a few other things, and when the one-year anniversary of the Apple Watch got some media attention and some responses in the press including that of Ed Baig of USAToday. I responded to Baig's column (see "Would I still buy an Apple Watch? On balance, yes - USA Today") with an answer of my own to the question. Looking back on that two-year old post (See "State of the Apple Watch - Inspired by USAToday's Ed Baig - I would buy one again too!"), things haven't changed much after two additional years.

The biggest watch-related event of the past two years was shortly after that one-year anniversary, when my watch stopped taking a full charge (often an early warning sign of big problems in many a gadget), and then went completely bonkers and stopped working altogether. I was out of warranty by only a month or two, and an appeal to Apple to make an exception to the one-year window was successful, based on a phone call with one of their support managers, who reviewed my activity with Apple including lots of purchases of iPhones and iPads, and made that exception, leading to a swap to a perfectly-working watch that has continued on to this day. (Also noted - when I wrote at the beginning of this post that I have been wearing that original Apple Watch I bought in June 2015 on a daily basis since then
, that's not quite accurate. I have been wearing it, and its warranty replacement, ever since.)

My suspicion of what may have caused the problem was exposure to water as I have always kept the watch on in many wet situations including the shower. The final failure was also in late-summer, highly humid Philadelphia, which I suspected played a part. Regardless, Apple's willingness to give me a break on the warranty greatly strengthened my loyalty towards the company, just like the marketing book predict will happen!

But when reading recently that the next big operating system roll would work only with the Apple Watch Series 2 and later (see "Here's Why watchOS5 Is a Game-Changer for Apple Watch"), I figured it was time to upgrade. And while my new watch is not the newest, latest and greatest model, I am pretty happy with it so far. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on some of my experiences.

* - The original customer adoption model popularized by Jeff Moore's "Crossing the Chasm" in the 1980s distinguishes between innovators and early adopters. I don't, for the most part.