Thoughts After 80 Days With watchOS 1.0

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I already wrote about how the Apple Watch changed my daily habits and had a profound impact on my life, but I felt the need to write about watchOS separately. After spending 80 days with watchOS 1.0 (and with watchOS 2.0 around the corner) I’m still not completely comfortable with its duality.

Two UIs

watchOS has two different user interfaces, depending on what we want to do and where we are in the operating system. There’s the Watch Face UI, which gives us access to Complications and Glances, and the something-more-akin-to-the—iOS-homescreen UI with all the tiny icons, which provides us access to all of our installed apps. Not many in my case…

Watch Face UI

This part of watchOS seems very intuitive and natural to me. Tapping a Complication will take me to the corresponding app, eg. show me the weather. Sliding up will show me my Glances and sliding down displays my notifications. This is all very intuitive and simple to comprehend, and should I want to return to my watch face from an app launched via Complication, all I have to do is press the Digital Crown.

App Homescreen

The app homescreen is a different beast altogether. This is a place with icons representing all of my installed apps, which I can set up as I wish. Most of the time. Fiddling with the icons in the Watch.app on iOS is an exercise in patience unfortunately. One of the most frustrating things is when an app on my iPhone is updated with an included Apple Watch app, it’s automatically installed. This messes up my careful curation of how my icons are placed on the homescreen. Today, I just can’t be bothered to waste time with this any more. Getting back on topic however … Tapping an app will launch it. Pressing the Digital Crown will then return me back to the app homescreen. But if I want to return to the Watch Face, I need to press it two more times—once to centre the Watch.app, and once to launch it. Despite knowing exactly how this works it can be frustrating at times.

Workout.app and How It Changes the UI

Since the Apple Watch has influenced my exercise habits, I spent a lot of time with this app launched. Having it running in the background changes how watchOS works—pressing the Digital Crown will take us back to the Workout.app instead of the Watch Face, but only in certain circumstances. This works correctly from within any first or third-party app, but when I try the same thing on the app homescreen, the Digital Crown takes me back to the Watch Face1.

The Workout UI?

While I can understand most of the above, I believe that the Digital Crown should actually take me back to the Workout.app when it’s running in the background. I realise that changing the result of a press of a physical button is not generally a good thing, but in this case I always want to return to the Workout.app, which has a clock itself. I would argue that it could even replace the Watch Face UI when active, even retaining the top and bottom swipes from there, to access notifications and Glances.

Final Thoughts

While I’m not a fan of the tiny icons on the app homescreen, I rarely actually go there. They are frustratingly small and therefore keep my away. I actually wish there was a Workout Glance, just so that I could use it as a shortcut to launch the app without needing to leave the Watch Face UI. watchOS 2.0 is just around the corner—it will most probably début together with iOS 9 in Autumn—and will not change much in terms of its user interface, but hopefully it will get revamped in the future to make it easier to use for people with fat fingers and bad eyesight2.

Despite all of this, less than three months with the Apple Watch have convinced me of the positive influence that this device had on my life—I listed the details in my Apple Watch review. Since publishing that piece, I added another habit to my daily routine—every time the Watch reminds me to stand up, I additionally make 10 push-ups and 15 sit-ups. This unfortunately has a side effect—I feel bad when I don’t do any. Which is good, right?

  1. In this scenario it behaves exactly as it would in any other: one press centres the Watch.app and one more launches it.
  2. Mine isn’t exactly bad, but since I wear contact lenses …

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