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?



Looking for accessibility resources on the Apple Watch? David Woodbridge has you covered

Like many, I had so many questions about the Apple Watch: what would its accessibility be like? Could we actually use all the watch’s features? And most important to me anyway, what’d it sound like? David Woodbridge has been tirelessly blogging about his experience with the Apple Watch in addition to having created a fantastic series of podcasts detailing just about every watch feature using VoiceOver. In addition, David has done a fantastic job showcasing various applications that he has found accessible, or problematic. Fortunately for the world, David has consolidated all of this into a blog making it easy to find these invaluable resources in one place. If you’re thinking of purchasing the Apple Watch, or if you’re just curious about it, David’s blog is a must-read.