I had an original Apple Watch way back when it first came out, and I really liked it. I also ended up feeling like it was “another thing” — another thing to charge, another thing to take care of, another thing to buy accessories for. Sometimes I’d forget to put it back on after a shower. Eventually I just stopped wearing it.
But wow, have things changed since then. Hugely.
For the past three weeks, I’ve been wearing a Series 4 Apple Watch (thanks to the folks at Apple who provided a press loaner) and I honestly can’t imagine not wearing it now. Which shocks me.
The changes from the Series 1 Apple Watch to this version are just that significant, making it totally worth it to have one more USB charging port in use by my nightstand, because the effect it’s having on my overall wellbeing is pretty significant too.
I love the Apple Watch face that lets you alternate among favorite photos
Here are the changes I’ve experienced since I started wearing it:
1. I am far more aware of how inactive I can get when I’m working.
I have mastered the essential writer’s ability to tune out the entire world when writing — for better or for worse. That means I can also go hours without so much as standing up. I now see how much I’ve missed the Apple Watch’s gentle warnings to get my butt out of my chair every hour or so, and I happily obey.
Not only do I stand, I walk around, drink some water, stretch — all good things.
It’s telling me: Get up offa that thing!
2. I’m getting more exercise, and generally feeling better.
I recently wrote about how much it’s helped me to get more sleep lately. Well, it’s giving me the energy to be more active too — and the Apple Watch nudges that along as well.
(Though to be fair, the need for daily charging means that while you can use a 3rd party sleep tracker app on the watch, there goes your nighttime charging opportunity. So if you’re looking to track sleep, I wouldn’t rely on an Apple Watch for that.)
The notion of “completing my rings” in the activity tracker are really motivating for me. The new Apple Watch notifications like “you’re so close…just a brisk walk for 5 minutes will get you there” absolutely do the trick! I pick up the pace, walk a little faster to the drug store or school pickup, and whoo! I’m getting more exercise.
Bonus: getting that extra endorphin rush from the sparkly little graphic that comes up with a note of congratulations after completing the rings. Gamification works, friends.
Okay so I’ve had better days. That’s what happens when you’re writing about your Apple Watch all day.
I also like that the new GPS in the watch plus an altimeter make it far more accurate in terms of steps taken, flights of stairs, climbed, and miles traveled than my iPhone health app, from what I can tell. It’s motivated me to walk the .75 miles to work each way, even when it’s raining and I reallllly want to call a Lyft.
(Okay, once I called a Lyft. It was a lot of rain!)
Another cool feature: While you can turn on the smart new workout app at any time, it will also automatically activate if it senses you are performing repetitive motions at a certain pace and distance that cues a particular workout — swimming, hiking, yoga, most gym cardio workouts (rowing, biking, elliptical, stair climber). It even differentiates between indoor and outdoor walks.
The app did perceive that one outdoor walk of mine was indoors, but it’s my understanding that that’s a factor of the GPS getting a little glitchy amongst all the tall buildings of New York.
And yay! I get to call my walking “exercise.” The Apple Watch says so.
3. I’m taking little self-care breaks for myself each day, and they add up.
We’ve talked so much about how self-care isn’t always a spa appointment — sometimes it’s just taking a moment for yourself in the midst of all the craziness.
The Apple Watch Breathe App comes installed, and it clicks on at random moments I’ve been inert for a while (or you can set your own schedule), instructing me to focus on my breathing. I just look at the pretty little kaleidoscope icon that grows and shrinks, guiding my inhales and exhales. I love the excuse to stop everything and…just breathe. If only for one minute. It’s starting to become a habit for me and I love that.
The best part is, my daughter does it with me nearly every day now too.
Oh, and you can even turn the app into your watch face, should you want to focus on mindfulness more frequently.
4. I’m listening to more podcasts.I don’t just listen to *my own* podcast, promise.
The Watch is designed to pair beautifully with my new AirPods (also a loaner courtesy of Apple) and now I see why Kristen loves hers so much! And yes, I’m a late adopter here.
I find the easy connectivity allows me to just click the podcast app and start listening. Or better, I can say, “hey Siri, play the Spawned Parenting Podcast” and…voila! IT JUST STARTS PLAYING. No clicks at all, phone still in my bag.To adjust the volume via your watch, just turn the crown up or down — no need to go back into an app. Love that.
And of course you can listen to your music the same way via apps like Spotify, or with your Apple Music library streaming right to your Apple Watch.
“Hey Siri, play Stevie Wonder.”
Stevie always makes the subway ride go faster.
5. I am not stressed about getting it wet.
This isn’t like a major life improvement, but the Apple Watch 4 is waterproof and OMG it’s awesome. Not that I’m swimming more or anything because of it, but it is one less thing to worry about, especially over the summer — and the fear of ruining it while I did dishes is something I didn’t like about the original Apple Watch.
On a recent beach resort trip, I switched to a waterproof sports band and hallelujah — I could wear it in the water and swim with my daughter, much to her delight. Even under the pounding waterfall of a lazy river, it was fine.
On top of that, now I’m getting “credit” for exercise as I splash around with my daughter.
Can you tell that this is a big thing for me? I REALLY want to close those darn rings.
But the biggest, most important change:
6. I am putting my phone down more and connecting more with my family.
This to me is the most appealing Apple Watch benefit overall, and I truly had forgotten how valuable it can be to me.
When we say “no phones on the table at dinner” I’m less likely to cheat, because I know if there’s any urgent text, I’ll get that little light haptic vibration on my wrist. A quick glance, and I’m ignoring the not-urgent text, instead of opening my bag, finding my phone, opening it up to check the text, blah blah blah.
It’s also nice to be able to schmooze at a party with friends or simply walk around the neighborhood without a phone in my hand, tempting me at all times. If I were to activate cellular service for my Apple Watch (Series 3 and 4 allow you to do this), I could even leave my phone behind entirely, and still be able to get texts, notifications, important calls. But honestly, it’s another $10 or more a month — and then I’m turning my watch into a phone, which for me, defeats the purpose.
When you become aware of how much you glance at your phone, a watch that helps you do that less often so you can have more uninterrupted time with your family and friends is invaluable.
Apple Watch 4: Some other interesting stuff
I’m really impressed with a lot of the safety features now on the Apple Watch 4. I can press a small button to activate Emergency SOS; it will call 911 (or a number you specify), then automatically text a designated emergency contact to let them know you did.
Also brilliant: fall detection. If it senses you’ve taken a hard fall, it will ask if you want to call emergency services. If you are don’t respond and are immobile for 60 seconds, it will call automatically as well as alert your emergency contact.
That makes me think of it as a really smart gift for an older parent, or someone with a medical condition.
And while the new digital crown helps you navigate to various functions without covering the screen with your fat thumbs, it also accesses the built-in ECG app. Just touch the crown, and check your heartbeat, so you can chart your resting and active heartbeats. Awesome.
As far as the fun stuff, I’m a sucker for the myriad customizable faces (like one featuring your favorite ten photos, seen up top), and especially being able to have one-touch access to 2-4 of my most-used apps. For me, that’s text, weather, date, workout tracker, shown on very top) all right on the face without mucking up the design.
If you’re super app-y, you can even try a dedicated infograph watch face that lets you add 8 apps. But I prefer a cleaner face.
I like being able to tell my watch to set a timer, via Siri, without having to look around for my phone — especially helpful if I’m cooking or exercising or honestly…I just want to make it easier.
And hey, movie and theater goers: Nothing makes me more nuts than catching you check your phone or Apple Watch during a show. Don’t do that. Especially since the Apple Watch 4 now allows you to check the time without fully turning on your watch. Just slowly rotate the crown clockwise and it will brighten just enough to check the time, should you be dying for a bathroom break.
And in that sense, your own Apple Watch could make life better for all of us.
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