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My year with the Apple Watch: Good-looking tech, still flawed

Michael deAgonia | April 29, 2016
It's got a lot going for it as a wearable, but remains a work in progress.

What's the issue? The Workout app loses my heart rate, then displays it as 40-50 beats per minute in the middle of an intense workout. But if I stop the Workout app and launch the heart rate glance, it accurately displays my pulse! So, there's nothing actually wrong with the hardware; it can get an accurate heartbeat (and generally does a good job when I'm running). But accurate data isn't making it to the Workout app. This is clearly a software issue that's never fixed.

Your mileage may vary, but the first-generation Microsoft Band had a better, more accurate heart rate monitor for fitness tracking. I only stopped using the Band because Microsoft never delivered support for Apple's Health app. That's a complete deal-breaker for me.

On a related note, Apple's Workout/Activity/Health apps need serious makeovers; they lack the social aspects of other workout apps that help people stay motivated, and, while filling in the ringed Activity circles is a clever twist for base-level fitness, the Health app needs a rewrite along the lines of TactioHealth to better display information in easy-to-understand ways.

And yet...

Despite these irritations, I wear my Watch daily. I recognize that what it needs most is faster hardware (and more accurate heart rate software) to truly allow developers to build on what can it can do. It's easy to forget that the iPod took several generations to catch on, as did the iPhone. I expect the same thing will happen with the Watch. It remains most useful for the tech-savvy, but it's poised to broaden its appeal as services like Apple Pay expand.

Despite the first-generation tradeoffs -- and there are always trade-offs when you're on the leading edge -- this is a wearable that will continue to gain traction over time as features, battery life and technologies improve. On a larger scale, it's likely the Apple Watch will do to the watch market what the iPhone did to the smartphone industry.

Am I going to give up on the Watch? Hell no, I love this thing. It will not be exiled to the Drawer of Forgotten Tech. Though it remains a work in progress, it is useful day to day. The Apple Watch has made watches interesting again for a generation that had largely given up on them. And it's shown a whole new generation of tech users that a watch can do so much more than just give you the time of day.

 

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