The Flat Apple Watch Rumors Return

Rumors are coming back about a flat-sided Apple Watch getting released this year. John Prosser made some renders, below. Who knows if this thing will actually ship. People were convinced it was going to release last year and it didn’t.

If this is truly the next design for the Apple Watch, I’m going to need some convincing. Just looking at the images, I like the existing, rounded design better. Maybe flatter equals thinner and lighter, and that would be good. However, my immediate reaction is that it looks boring.

Apple Watch 7 Initial Reviews and Thoughts

Yesterday all the early reviews dropped on the Apple Watch Series 7. My favorites were from TechCrunch, John Gruber, and Marques Brownlee. One theme that seems to run throughout is that the Apple Watch Hardware is to a point where the changes are more iterative than revolutionary, which is probably good news. I’ll be upgrading my Series 5 to a Series 7, so I’m invested. I like the additional pixels and the brighter always-on display. To be honest, I am most looking forward to having a watch with a fresh battery. I wear my Apple Watch every day and use it aggressively. I’m now to the point I often need a mid-day charge to get to the end of the day.

To me, the obvious next step for the Apple Watch is more and better watch faces. I seem to repeatedly bounce between watch faces, none of which I am particularly excited about. At this point Apple has put way more creativity into watch bands than watch faces. I don’t need a new industrial design for the Apple Watch, but I sure would like some more face options.

Personalize Your Apple Watch with the Watchsmith Update

Before there was the sensation that is Widgetsmith, there was Watchsmith. If you’re an Apple Watch user, then you know that the device is a lot more than just a watch. It’s also a highly customizable accessory. But what if you wanted to make it even more personal? That’s where Watchsmith comes in. This newly updated app for your iPhone lets you customize your Apple Watch with a degree of control I have not seen from any other app.

Just like Apple left the Apple Watch with limited face options, it also left it with few complication options. Watchsmith fixes that. It starts with a comprehensive collection of highly customizable complications, ranging in function from date to weather. You can adjust each complication precisely how you want it and how that best suits your desired functionality or appearance while still retaining all the Apple Watch features and faces.

Watchsmith offers a pile of fully customizable complications ranging from today’s date to surf conditions. You also have complete control over how they look, so you can make them just about any foreground and background color. One of my more functional but straightforward complications with Watchsmith is a big, easy-to-read date complication giving me today’s date.

Version 2.0, the newest version of Watchsmith, ups the game a bit. Among the new features:

  • All of the complications have been updated to take advantage of the latest watchOS capabilities, which will lead to better performance and behavior when used in tinted watch faces.

  • A variety of new complication styles:
    – Photo
    – 24 Hour Dial
    – Modern Moonphase
    – Geometric Solar
    – Moon & Stars
    – Sun Timer
    – Solar Path
    – Golden Hour
    – Step Counting
    – Text Calendar

If you use the Apple Watch but aren’t satisfied with your complications, this one’s for you.

Five Years of the Apple Watch


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Zach Hall is one of my favorite people covering the Apple Watch. He’s heavily invested in the platform but objective enough to call balls and strikes against Apple. I enjoyed his recent retrospective post looking back at the Apple Watch from his initial review in 2015 until today. It’s a great read.

As for me, the Apple Watch very quickly became a daily companion. I’ve historically worn watches, so putting one on never felt weird to me. The difference is that this watch delivers messages from my sweetheart, helps me stay in better shape, allows me to leave my phone in my pocket (or on the charger), and puts a digital tool chest on my wrist. It’s felt like a 100% upgrade to me.

I have my list of gripes, and I’d certainly like Apple to let third parties make watch faces, but overall, I don’t see myself stopping wearing my Apple Watch any time soon.

The Elusive Green Ring

When I first got my Apple Watch, I’d been using a FitBit for years and was very proud of my daily 10,000 steps. Immediately, however, I discovered that despite much walking, the green ring on my fancy new Apple Watch barely moved. Not only was I not hitting that target of 30 minutes of elevated heart rate a day, I realized I hadn’t even been aiming for that goal in all those years of wearing a FitBit.

So I made some changes, and now I spend time hiking up hills, riding my bike, and (until a few months ago) going to the gym to fill that elusive green ring. Even being stuck home, I’m finding ways to push myself and fill that green ring most days. I read some affirmation for this exercise this morning from cardiologist Brian Lima, who explains that when it comes to those Apple Watch rings, the green activity ring is one ring to rule them all.

Digging the Cellular Apple Watch

I’m on vacation this week (Aloha!) and as a result, spending a lot of my time doing things – like swimming in the ocean and jumping out of airplanes – that aren’t very friendly to iPhones.
This week I’ve come to appreciate the cellular radio in my Apple Watch. I initially bought it because I do lots of hikes and bike rides without a phone and wanted something that could give me a life-line “just in case”. It occurs to me this week, however, that the cellular Apple Watch is also useful if you just lead an active life.

With the cellular radio, I’ve been able to call my wife while snorkeling, text her from the plane right before I did my first skydive, and generally stay in contact with the rest of the world when otherwise I wouldn’t be able to.

While I still think the number one use case scenario for the cellular watch is for emergencies, I would add “a connection for an active life” as number two.

A Follow Up Point about Battery Life

Somewhat related, the series 5 Apple Watch started out with some significant battery issues that got better with recent software updates. However, using it to track extended ocean swims and hitting that cellular radio have been destroying my battery. With me starting most days at 7 AM, twice now I’ve had it go into low power mode by the end of the day. At this point, I’ve got a new habit that when I take an afternoon nap (it is a vacation after all), the watch goes on the charger.

The Physical and Fiscal Benefits of the Apple Watch

Apple’s new Close Your Rings website is a good message and an excellent way to sell the Apple Watch. While I’m not particularly excited about any app using game theory to push my buttons, for the Health app I’m willing to make an exception. I’m more aware of my activity since I started wearing the Apple Watch than I’d ever been before. It’s because of those rings that I bike most places, often wake up an hour early to go on a hike, and even occasionally find myself marching up and down the stairs in my house in the evening just to make sure I get those extra 10 minutes of elevated heart rate. Don’t believe me? Look below.

Not only does this help my physical health, it also helps Apple’s fiscal health. Several times I’ve told friends about how I use the Apple Watch to track fitness, and it often ends with them nodding approvingly while saying something like, “Hmmm”. Then the next time I see them following a birthday or big holiday, they are wearing their very own Apple Watch.


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Getting the Most from the Siri Watch Face


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I have been using the Siri watch face with watchOS 4 as my primary watch face since iOS 11 shipped. Ordinarily, I am not a digital watch face guy. I grew up looking at analog watches and I’ve been primarily using those on the Apple Watch since it first arrived. Nevertheless, I like the idea of a smart watch face on the Apple Watch giving me more timely information, so I went in with the Siri watch face. Also, I spend a lot of time at the sharp end of the stick when it comes to Siri, so I had to give it a try.

The idea behind the Siri watch face is to contextually give users the information most relevant to them at the time. The face itself is the time with a few complications and a scrolling list of information boxes below that you can move throughout using the Digital Crown. Tapping on any of these boxes brings you into the source application. Tap on an event, for instance, and you go to the calendar app.

There are a lot of Apple applications acting as a data sources for the Siri watch face. Using the Apple Watch face you can get information as to when the sun will rise, the weather forecast, and upcoming appointments. It runs much deeper than that, however. Data sources can also include reminders, alarms, timers, the stopwatch, your wallet, workouts, meditation/breathing reminders, HomeKit notifications, what’s now playing on your media device, photos, and even news.

For the two complications, I use the one on the right to display the current date and the left one for OmniFocus.


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There are a lot of applications feeding data into the Siri watch face. One of the first things I did was customize that. If you go into the Apple Watch settings application on your iPhone and tap on your Siri watch face, you get a screen that gives you several options to turn these data sources on or off. I left most of them on but turned off photos, because pictures on that tiny screen don’t make sense to me, and news, which I found to be too much of a distraction.

I have had a few pleasant surprises using the Siri watch face. I like the way it displays upcoming appointments. They are easy-to-read, and they disappear automatically as the day goes on. Rotating the Digital Crown up gives you future Siri chosen events and spinning the opposite direction brings up prior entries and if you’ve played audio recently, the last playing audio. This gives you an easy way to restart podcast or music from your wrist.

I’ve often been tempted to add the timer and alarm complications to my analog faces, but that complication space is so valuable. With the Siri face timers, stopwatch, and alarms only appear when in use so I get them when I need them and only that. Finally, the now playing entries are great for getting back into whatever audio you played last.

Overall, the convenience of the Siri watch face is enough to get me to stick with it despite my preference for analog faces. I’m going to keep using it for the foreseeable future. If you are going to use it, take the time to go into the settings application and customize the data sources to your preference. 

My biggest wish for the Siri watch face is to see third-party applications get on that data source list. For instance, why can’t I get upcoming OmniFocus deadlines or Carrot Weather reports? Hopefully, that comes with future iterations.

Apple Watch Series 3 Review and Thoughts

The Apple Watch series 3 reviews are starting to show up online. My favorites were from John Gruber and 9to5 Mac. There also appears to be some sort of bug with unauthenticated Wi-Fi networks but I expect that will get sorted out.

While Apple’s marketing is focused on the fact that the cellular Apple Watch makes telephone calls, I think the more relevant point for nerds is the always on Internet connection. Having your watch be able to use Siri, connect to the Internet, and otherwise interact with the world without having to first go through the middleman of your iPhone seems to be a significant benefit. All of this said, the cellular companies charging $120 a year for the connection seems pretty steep.

Road ID for Apple Watch

For people who are active or have special needs, Road ID is a great product and service. Road ID is a wearable doodad that lets emergency responders know who you are and who they should call. There is even an option that allows you to keep an online profile with lists of your medications, allergies, and more.

Best of all, they now support the Apple Watch. They’ve got several products that will work with Apple Watch bands. If you’re active without identification or have a medical condition that you want to make sure first responders are aware of, check these out.