Most frustrating piece of tech I have? The Apple Watch.

Before I’m dismissed as just another hater, let me say that like many, I couldn’t wait for the Apple Watch.  I thought the idea was cool, the tech was cool, the possible use cases were cool.  To that end, I waited up half the night to pre-order the watch just as soon as Apple listed it on its site.  I counted down the days (and eventually the hours) until its arrival.  I took half the day off, so that I would be sure not to miss the UPS delivery driver and I spent the weekend after receiving it excitedly installing and setting up apps.  Since then, I’ve attempted to use the Apple Watch daily, I’ve listened to numerous podcasts (both disability-related and non) on tips and tricks to make use of the watch and after all that, it remains a struggle at times not to just throw the damned thing across the room.


So why this post?  I still think the watch represents really cool tech and despite my desire to throw it, I think it’s even worth all I’ve gone through.  I’m happy to be an Apple Watch owner.  My hope is that in describing the challenges I’m experiencing, others will identify as having similar experiences or even better, others will have solutions, solutions that can move this tec from being cool, to actually being useful for me.  So, let’s get to it.

  • Sluggishness:  The watch seems incredibly sluggish.  Whether it’s waking it up to simply check the time, finding an app, launching an app or doing something within an app, it seems to take forever.  Sometimes I have to try not to tap the screen in a “hurry up already” gesture.
  • Loading, loading, loading, loading…:  Sometimes, when I launch an app, I get the app as expected, but often, I get this “loading” graphic.  This seems to happen somewhat randomly, but when it does, there seems to be no hope of getting anything done.  I’ve tried forcing the app to quit and relaunching it, but this has yet to ever fix anything.  Eventually, my only recourse is to perform the task on my phone which, I could have done initially.
  • Hearing me is not the same as listening to me:  I press and hold the digital crown, speak a command, let go of the digital crown, get the little vibration that seems to mean “got it,” and … nothing at all.  So I think OK, maybe I didn’t speak clearly or maybe there was background noise, so I go through the process again and again, nothing.  So I think maybe it’s just not able to contact whatever it needs to contact on the network, however, I find that it’s connected and my phone is connected and Siri works just fine on my phone.  By this point, I’ve gone from trying to do something on the watch to trying to troubleshoot potential connection issues with Apple.  Sometimes restarting the watch fixes this, sometimes it doesn’t help at all.
  • Placing a call doesn’t always place a call:  This is somewhat related to the above point in that I’ll ask the watch to call someone, it will say calling so-and-so, but nothing ever happens.  Eventually, I tap the screen to see if anything has happened only to be greeted by the watch face.  It’s almost like the watch is saying, “huh, was I supposed to do something?”

Excepting calendar and activity, every notification has the same tone and vibration pattern:  On the phone, I often can tell what app is notifying me because apps are not forced to use Apple’s default notification tone.  Indeed some apps even allow me to set a specific notification tone within the app.  Not so on the watch where every notification uses the same tone/vibration.  Put another way, when I hear the notification tone, I don’t know if it’s something important like a breaking weather alert, or something that can wait like FaceBook wondering if I know someone or other.  The net result is that I often ignore notifications and then have a pile of them to go through later, or just miss things entirely.  To try and address this, I’ve stopped many notifications from going to my watch, but isn’t that part of the reason for having it in the first place?

  • Sometimes, I just want to check the time:  OK, to be fair, this might be made easier if I were to use a different watch face or fewer complications or something, but I’m itemizing it here because it drives me crazy and may be doing the same to others.  Essentially, there are times when I just want to, well, check the time.  So I tap my watch screen and after waiting for it to do its wake-up thing, it reads me the current temperature, or my next appointment, or my battery status, everything but the current time.  So I try and flick through the watch face, but that just tells me I have unread notifications.  I eventually give up and figure that time is just an elusion anyway.
  • Where’d that app go anyway?:  I’ve tried multiple ways to organize my watch apps to make them efficient and easy to find.  I’ve dragged them here, I’ve dragged them there, I’ve uninstalled them and tried reinstalling in the order I want to see them and yet it seems that no matter what I try, the watch eventually mocks me by deciding to just do its own thing with my app organization.  It’s very probable that I don’t have a good understanding of the Apple Watch app layout, so if someone has a good description of this, I’d be happy to check it out.  In the end though, I need to quickly be able to open an app and not spend a minute looking for it, or tell the watch to open it and hope it’s not one of those times where the watch is “out to lunch” somewhere.
  • I could spend half my life deleting things:  So this is only in part a criticism of the watch, but only in part.  If I receive an iMessage, it goes to all my Apple devices.  Now, I can easily delete it from my iPhone and iPad.  On the watch though, I have to open messages, long tap on the thread, choose delete, and confirm that I really do want to do this delete thing.  Since there’s sluggishness throughout this entire process, every step takes quite a bit of time.  Way more complicated and far less efficient than on other devices where I can delete a thread with just two gestures.  This probably applies to other apps as well, but Messages is the app I notice this happening in the most.
  • Apps that seem to do nothing:  OK, I can’t blame this on the watch, but there are a few apps that seem to serve no purpose what so ever.  For example, if a messaging app lets you view messages but not reply or otherwise interact with them, what’s the point?  In such situations, is it best to leave the app installed in the hopes it’ll eventually do something, or is it better to uninstall it and just mirror notifications?

Again, the above frustrations represent those that I face on a daily basis.  This doesn’t mean that the watch is something to stay away from and definitely doesn’t detract from the “coolness factor”.  I would love to know though, am I alone?  What frustrations, if any, are others facing?  And, most important, does anyone reading this have ideas of things I might try?


By Steve Sawczyn

Blind from birth, I do what I can to help make the world a more accessible and inclusive place for all.

13 replies on “Most frustrating piece of tech I have? The Apple Watch.”

Dear Steve,
I came across your lovely and beneficial blog while I was doing some research on Android. I have been following your blog since. I read the post related to your impressions about Apple Watch a couple minutes ago, and since I have been thinking of getting an Apple Watch for quite a long time, I wanted to know your current thoughts on the Watch now that new software updates have been out for months.
So, what do you think about the watch with the improvements that came with software updates? I know that the processer inside Apple Watch Series 2 is also improved, and I will buy the Series 2 if I ever get one. Is your Watch still sluggish? Would you rewrite your post? What would you recommend me?


It’s interesting: for reasons I will never understand, your comment got held in a moderation cue and it’s just now surfacing almost three years later. In your comment, you were asking about the Apple Watch series 2 which I did get and which, like the series 1, also disappointed me. I didn’t get another watch until the series 4 and wow what an improvement that was. I love the series 4 watch, it’s everything I had hoped the series 2 would be and more. Finally, at long last, the processor is fast enough to make VoiceOver very responsive and the increased memory allows apps to open much more quickly making the watch feel more natural. If I were to rewrite my post today, I would have nothing but praise for the Apple Watch, it’s finally become something I can really enjoy using. As I write this, I realize that the series 5 is already out. I don’t plan on upgrading from the 4 to the 5 as there doesn’t seem to be many hardware changes that interest me, but I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what the next series has in store.


The Watch has a lot of issues, and it has definitely not lived up to the hype, but I like mine and find it useful enough. I actually primarily use it with time buzz open and voice over off; this allows me to check the time silently and I like it much better then a traditional braille watch. silent Notifications are the other main thing I enjoy about the watch, and they are the reason that I where it every day. I love that I can be in the office or with my wife and be notified that something is going on without anyone else knowing. I agree that there should be more vibration patterns, but in my experience messages and mail have one vibration pattern, and third party apps have another. This works pretty well for me, because I normally treat text messages differently then my third party alerts that are typically from twitter. As far as Siri, she works really well for me. It is obvious that your experience is terrible, but she works better on the watch for me then on the phone. Maybe try using hey siri instead of the crown. I’m not trying to defend the watch, I agree with almost everything you said, and that’s why I’m not touching on most of your points. The lag is especially annoying for me. My biggest issue I have with the watch is that you can’t read notifications without touching the screen or having the watch yell at you all of the time. I wish there was a mode where the watch would read the screen if you lift your wrist right after you get an alert. As far as watch faces I had your issue until I switched to the simple face; it has a large time area in the middle with one complication in each corner; it works for me. .


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment on my post. I really like your suggestions and will give it a try, especially trying to use the device with voiceover off. I also wish there was a mode that would just read out notifications on wrist raise, that would be a definite plus. I’ll also give the simple watch face a try, my problem may be in part because I have one of the very busy Watch faces with many complications and so it makes sense that if I touch the wrong one, I’ll get the wrong information. One thing I’m curious about, when you get a notification and want to read it, does the notification stay on the watch long enough for you to first enable voiceover?


No I do not think the notification would stay there long enough for you to turn on voice over. Most of the time when I’m using the watch with voice over turned off the vibrations are enough for me, and I just pull out my phone if I want to see the notification. One thing that you could try, however, is to simply turn the volume of voice over down all of the way; when a notification comes through you can tap the screen, which will make it stay for a moment, and then turn up voice over, which is quicker then turning it on. I just tried it and it worked. The only reason that I turn off voice over is that I find the volume gestures kind of inconsistent. The only reason you really have to have voice over off is that with it on you will hear tap to buzz time when you touch the screen. Of course I understand that most people would probably want to read the notification on the watch, and I would too, but telling the time silently is more important to me, especially with the lag. When I use siri on the watch I’m often texting my wife, which I feel comfortable enough doing without voice over. Siri has worked reliably enough for me that I can normally assume that the text went through and was heard properly. Besides, I believe that if you tell siri to text someone you don’t get a chance to review the message even with voice over on.


I share some of your frustrations, and others make me wonder if there might be something wrong with your Apple Watch. My watch always gives me the time when I tap it, unless it’s focused on another app, in which case, it’s not supposed to. But yeah, particularly when trying to use third-party apps, I strongly share your frustrations. And yet, I still love my watch. I just hope these things are addressed soon, or my personal customer sat rating will have to be altered somewhat.


Eric, I’ve wondered if my watch is just defective, but too many people are having the same issues. Regarding the time thing, it could just be that I have a very busy watch face with too many complications or something and that’s why I focus gets confused. Curious, which face are you using? Totally willing to try others.


I use fhe Mickey face. Just three complications. Two in the upper corners and one at the bottom. Hey! A Mickey within a mickey! Never noticed that before!


Almost all of the frustrations you expressed above I can directly relate to.
Mallory got me an apple watch a couple of months ago, and i have noticed how much it fits into my life. I think the battery has a lot of work, as well, i don’t know about you but i find myself charging at least once a day.
this frustration from above directly connected with me:
“• Hearing me is not the same as listening to me:  I press and hold the digital crown, speak a command, let go of the digital crown, get the little vibration that seems to mean “got it,” and … nothing at all.  So I think OK, maybe I didn’t speak clearly or maybe there was background noise, so I go through the process again and again, nothing.  So I think maybe it’s just not able to contact whatever it needs to contact on the network, however, I find that it’s connected and my phone is connected and Siri works just fine on my phone.  By this point, I’ve gone from trying to do something on the watch to trying to troubleshoot potential connection issues with Apple.  Sometimes restarting the watch fixes this, sometimes it doesn’t help at all. ”
I think the Hey Siri could work better, and also i seem to get a bit of delay when using my watch to make calls.
Thanks for this post, looking forward to what apple does with the next watch.


Thanks for the comment. I too charge daily, I’ve thought of turning it off at night, but I actually really like the Night Stand mode. In a way, that mode is one of the coolest things about the watch for me. Here’s hoping they fix this in the next watch or, more ideally, in an update somehow.


Things you might try: Sell it or throw it away. Apple have pretty much lost everything to do with innovation.
Every iOS updates have some sort of software feature, which developers could easily make apps for if Apple would open up their OS for greater customization.


I’ve thought of selling it, but frankly, I have too much invested in it and don’t want to take that much of a loss. Also, I keep hoping Apple will release an update with optimizations, but that hasn’t happened yet. I know this though, I’m not planning on getting the next model, even if it has more ram and a better processor, they’re gonna have to do a lot of work with the OS before it’s worth it to me.


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