Don’t Forget About the watchOS Update

Today, Apple publicly released iOS 17 and iPadOS 17. I’ve got plenty of content coming about the new releases, but if there is one thing you should check out that you may have missed, it’s watchOS 10.

This year, Apple made some significant changes to the way watchOS works, and it may end up being divisive. You no longer swipe up for Control Center but instead, you press on the Side Button. When you turn the Digital Crown up from the main screen (or swipe up from the bottom edge of the display), you get you a dynamic scrolling list of Widgets (Apple calls it Smart Stack) with information like upcoming events, running timers, and whatnot. Long pressing on an app’s card in this view allows you to pin it at the top this list.

A bonus is that because good, contextual information is now a dial spin away, you don’t have to rely on information-dense watch faces anymore.

All the Gory Details of The Apple Watch Survey

A few weeks ago, I did a survey on Apple Watch usage. I summarized the results in today’s newsletter (Sign up) along with some thoughts about how it relates to the future of the Apple Watch, but I wanted to share the entire survey results somewhere, so here you go.

There were just under 1,100 responses. I think you can assume the responses skew a bit on the nerdy side because, well, me. But overall, the data reflects that the vast majority of folks are very happy with their Apple Watches. 

The data below speaks for itself, but there were a few items that stood out to me:

  • The Apple Watch users are overwhelmingly satisfied with their watches. Those of us on the edges forget that most people just love their Apple products.
  • Many People (~40%) are wearing older Apple Watches (3+ years). At the same time, the Ultra is very popular (19.5%).
  • The big watch is much more popular than the small one. I know there are more men than women in my audience but I also suspect my gang thinks about battery life more than most consumers.
  • The cellular watch is more popular than I thought it’d be. I try not to think about the money I spend to have a cellular watch vs. the amount of actual usage it gets.
  • Seventy percent of those responding sleep with the Watch on at least sometimes. That is a much bigger number than I expected.
  • The feature usage numbers were not that surprising, except for Focus modes. I expected more people to be using the watch for Focus Mode shifting, and the numbers didn’t bear that out. I’ll be doing my next survey on how many people are actually using Focus Modes.
  • I got lots of email and comments from people using their Apple Watches in unique ways. While for most the watch is a time, notification, and activity device, for some users it’s a lot more.

Apple Watch and Early Detection of Parkinson’s Disease

Scientists have been studying motion tracking as a method for early detection of Parkinson’s Disease, which initially shows up with symptoms of rigidity and tremors. Researchers in the UK are looking to use smartwatches and their motion tracking to help prove an earlier Parkinson’s diagnosis.

Early results are positive, with AI models providing accurate early diagnosis. Further studies are underway, but it makes sense that a sensitive motion-tracking device on your wrist all day would notice things you may not.

Do you remember when the big story about the Apple Watch was that it was a fashion accessory? As the years go by, it becomes so obvious that the Apple Watch is primarily a robust health and fitness device in addition to telling you the time. I’m already starting a campaign to get one on my mother-in-law’s wrist. (Hat tip to Amber Neely at Apple Insider for turning me onto this research.)

A Brief Review of the Orange Nomad Sport Band

I’ve been leaning into the orange bands with the Apple Watch Ultra. They look great, particularly with that big orange button on the side. The problem is that my Apple Orange Alpine Loop is getting filthy. I wanted an orange band appropriate for working in the yard and whatnot so I ordered the Nomad Orange Sport Band.
It arrived a few days ago, and I’m digging it. The material is “Premium” fluoroelastomer. It feels good on my wrist and the abundance of holes makes it comfortable, even when I’m working outside and sweating. It feels secure and looks easy to clean. If you’ve got the orange watch band bug, this is one to check out.

The Trouble with Apple Watch Faces

I’ve made no secret of my dissatisfaction with the Apple Watch faces. As someone who wears an Apple Watch every day, I can tell you things I don’t like about every available watch face. I’m not alone in the sentiment. Zac Hall wrote an article over at 9to5 Mac arguing that Apple needs to give users more customization to the existing Apple Watch faces. Amen.

I agree with everything Zac wrote, but I also have a few additional points from a fifty-plus-year-old nerd.

Complications Need to Become Easier to Read

For instance, the current corner date complication puts the day of the week in large text and the day of the month in small text. Why? Most people that need the date on their watch need the day of the month. Also, why not an option with an even bigger number that is the day of the month and forego the day of the week altogether?

Another example is where they put in small bits of text in a complication in addition to an icon, like the Activity Rings. I like complications, but I feel like the inclusion of the exact count for each ring on the face isn’t necessary. Why not an option with just rings?

Watch Hands

Many faces have hands that blend into the background. For example, most of the color variations of the California face have hands that are the same color as the background. When you want to check the time but have to spend time trying to find the hands on your watch, that’s bad. There are exceptions in the California face, like Navy Blue (pictured), but they should all have at least an option to be this readable.

Making more customizable Apple Watch faces seems like such low-hanging fruit that it baffles me why Apple hasn’t done it yet. I fully realize the “get off my lawn” tone this article sets, but it seems like every new iteration makes reading watch harder for anyone over 25. If Apple gave users more granular controls over watch faces, we could build faces we’d like a lot more.

Apple Watch Ultra Reviews and Trade-Offs

The initial Apple Watch Ultra reviews are in. I spent the morning reading them. Some of the best coverage came from The Verge and Marques Brownlee.

The trade-offs of this watch are not in dispute.

The Good Parts

  • Doubled battery life (two days, perhaps three)
  • Lots of power-user features
  • An additional button
  • Rugged, bulky design

The Bad Parts

  • It’s big
  • It’s pricey
  • Rugged, bulky design

For a lot of people, myself included, the Apple Watch Ultra is overkill. That doesn’t change the fact that I’m interested. I am a fan of rugged design and the thought of never having to think about battery life on my watch is an appealing one to me. Best of all, it appears I’d be able to trigger shortcuts with that action button.

I’ve ordered one. Whether I keep it will come down to how big it looks and feels on my wrist, but I’m looking forward to trying it out.