WatchOS: Time and Notifications

Ultimately, Apple Watch is a first generation product. As a result, details like the CPU, GPU, and RAM configurations are of secondary importance to software. Choices made early in the growth of a platform can have far-reaching consequences that will remain many years after the original hardware has long been obsolete. Android still uses the sdcard convention for user storage, even though many modern Android smartphones place the sdcard partition on internal storage as early Android smartphones strongly relied on microSD cards for user storage. iOS generally sees more issues with aspect ratio and density transitions than Android due to choices in UI rendering architecture, which were determined with the original iPhone. As a result, Watch OS 1 has to be a solid base for future growth, even if future iterations of Watch OS end up nothing like the original Watch OS.

Probably the first area worth discussing are watchfaces. One of the first things that became apparent to me in my experiences with Watch OS was that watchfaces have a great amount of depth when it comes to interactivity and customization. On other wearable platforms there are definitely applications that allow a pretty decent level of watchface customization in terms of appearance, but the equivalent of complications in Watch OS is usually missing to some extent. You might be able to see the weather, but you usually can’t display something else like battery percentage, sunset, calendar events, moon phases, activity progress, stocks, or any other information that you might be interested in seeing at a glance. It’s also possible to change the amount of detail you get when displaying the watch and use the digital crown to adjust the detail present analog faces. For example, the chronograph watchface allows you set 60, 30, 6, and 3 seconds for the timer. Other analog faces make it possible to set hours, minutes, and seconds of precision on the display. This might be a bit boring, but the included watchfaces show a solid framework for future growth.

It is a bit disappointing to see that there isn’t support for third party watchfaces out of the gate, but I suspect this is more due to a need to work out exactly what is needed for the API and the need to commit to long term support for any public-facing API. By comparison, it goes without saying that whatever private APIs Apple is using to enable the first-party watchfaces are subject to change at any time, which allows for significant latitude in how watchfaces are implemented.

Overall, the included watchfaces are also well-designed. It isn’t really possible to show with video, but the animations that are included are impressively executed. On analog watchfaces, the second hand moves smoothly with no apparent stutter, which is a nice touch even if this isn’t all that difficult for a general purpose computer with a display that can refresh at incredibly high rates as I’ve seen more than one smartwatch that will only update the second hand every second rather than in a seemingly continuous manner. I personally ended up using the modular watchface most of the time, which doesn’t have any analog motion, but something as simple as the breathing second indicator is subtle and well-executed.

Given that Apple Watch is supposed to be a timepiece first, there are other aspects of the watch worth discussing like the timer, alarm, and stopwatch UIs. Although this is seemingly small stuff, it’s really worth calling out the timer and alarm UIs as the best example of how the combined touch and digital crown navigation works in practice. There are large touch targets to select hours and minutes, and the digital crown allows for fast and precise selection within hours or minutes. The stopwatch UI is a great demo of Force Touch in action, as it’s possible to go from a simple analog or digital interface to a hybrid one, with a live graph of relative lap times instead of just a list of previous laptimes.

This is all really rather boring when you take a step back and realize that I’ve been talking about three of the most boring and bog-standard applications on any smartphone today, but when it comes to a first generation smartwatch it’s critical to get these applications done right. Of course, it goes without saying that alarms and timers work incredibly well on the Apple Watch due to the haptic feedback that is occurring on my wrist. Overall, on these simple aspects it's already pretty clear that Apple has put a pretty significant amount of thought into WatchOS. Probably the most obvious example of this is the ability to set the clock to be a set number minutes ahead, which is something that really shows attention to detail on Apple's part.

Outside of watchfaces, the next most important aspect of the Apple Watch is probably the notification system. When purely focused on the actual notification shade, the design doesn’t have any obvious flaws. If there are notifications in the drawer, a red dot appears on centered on the top of the display. Swiping down from the watchface opens up the notification drawer, with the ability to scroll through notifications with the digital crown and dismiss all notifications by using Force Touch providing a smooth and quick experience, although if you’re like me you might not realize that you can use Force Touch to dismiss all notifications for some time. However, in my experience with Watch OS 1 the experience is pretty bimodal when it comes to how useful these notifications are. The first case usually involves the ideal experience, which is an actionable notification that I can respond to on my wrist and dismiss after responding to it without ever taking out the phone to respond to the notification. Multiple simultaneous notifications are handled smoothly and logically. This is usually what happens with simple text messages/iMessage and other first-party applications.

The second case is usually what happens with third party applications, which tends to be a combination of poor handling of multiple notifications and no real actions that can be taken. Pretty much any third party IM client suffers from these issues right now, and probably the biggest source of notifications on my phone comes from third party IM clients. As a result, it’s really quite irritating to raise my wrist and see nothing but the application icon and a message saying that I have two notifications. In order to appropriately respond to this, the only solution at this time is for me to take out my phone, unlock it, and then read and type out my response on the phone. Alternatively, I have to dismiss the notification, then go back to the notification drawer and go through each notification separately.

To me, this represents a pretty significant issue that pretty much every wearable platform has right now, which is that there are often corner cases where wearables end up using more time than just using a smartphone alone. In the near term, I suspect the quickest solution to this issue is turning multiple notifications arriving simultaneously into a scrollable list instead of simply notifying that there are multiple notifications. It would also be helpful to be able to respond to notifications using dictation on the watch to draft a response, but I suspect that this requires additional work on the part of the developer to enable such things.

Apple S1 Analysis WatchOS: Apps and Glances
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  • Murloc - Monday, July 20, 2015 - link

    First! Reply
  • Murloc - Monday, July 20, 2015 - link

    the reviewer has no hair?? Reply
  • ianmills - Monday, July 20, 2015 - link

    HAHAHAHA exactly. The apple watch is reviewed by someone who is self-concious enough to shave their arm hair. This explains why the review is so positive. Some people find self-esteem in odd places... Reply
  • supermoon - Monday, July 20, 2015 - link

    That's just what some people's wrists look like bruh, including mine. what are you grasping at?? Reply
  • dsumanik - Monday, July 20, 2015 - link

    This entire article (photos and content) has been 'photoshopped' by apple PR. Hair and skin smoothed, bokeh added....look at how the watch is posed in the shots, it is amateur photography heavily post processed....in a lame viral marketing attempt.

    ANANDTECH STOP TRYING TO SELL US SH*T.

    APPLE SAMSUNG CORSAIR WHATEVER

    IF I WANT A COMMERCIAL, ILL GO TO THE MFG WEBSITE.

    PS.

    EVERYTONE IN INTERNET LAND THE REVIEWERS FORGOT TO TELL YOU THAT THIS WATCH DOES

    NOTHING.
    ZIP.
    ZILCH.
    NADA.

    WITHOUT AN IPHONE.

    IT COSTS $400 + AN IPHONE EASILY PUSHING THE PRICE OVER 1K.

    PS

    GO SEE IT IN THE STORE, ITS CHUNKY AND PRETTY CHEAP LOOKING, NOT LIKE APPLE'S WEBSITE PHOTOS AT ALL.

    GO SEE FOR YOURSELF.

    12K FOR THE 'EDITION' ?????????????

    LOOKS LIKE IT BELONGS RIGHT AT HOME IN THE WALMART ELECTRONICS SECTION!

    LOL!
    Reply
  • navysandsquid - Monday, July 20, 2015 - link

    Hate on brother lol butt hurt much its ok enjoy your droid turbo lol Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Monday, July 20, 2015 - link

    "This entire article (photos and content) has been 'photoshopped' by apple PR. Hair and skin smoothed, bokeh added....look at how the watch is posed in the shots, it is amateur photography heavily post processed....in a lame viral marketing attempt."

    While we do use Photoshop for editing (once you get past basic cropping, you probably want Photoshop), to be clear here these photos haven't received any significant processing. The only work we do on our photos is lens/sensor correction and auto toning.

    The fact of the matter is that Josh is an excellent photographer (the best one among us, in fact), which is how he's able to pull off these amazing shots. So the fact that you think it has been heavily edited is flattering in a sense; we didn't have to edit them, we were able to take those photos naturally in the first place.

    And no, no one from Apple PR has touched the photos. Or the article.
    Reply
  • BittenRottenApple - Monday, July 20, 2015 - link

    Worship the holy apple.

    The apple way, selling over expensive crap to stupid consumers that like to
    get robbed.

    This has been a disastrous launch in every respect. The iwatch is such an
    ugly piece of crap, it is truly unbelievable how a company, formerly known for
    its remarkable design, dares to put out such a crap ton of shit. Some
    characteristics are glaringly obvious and inherent to it: over expensive,
    hardly innovative, limited functionality and usability (need of an iPhone to
    make it work), looks exactly like a toy watch and so on.

    There are of course way better smart watches out there, especially from the
    likes of Samsung, Sony, Motorola, Asus, LG, simply put, there is no need for
    another piece of over expensive junk.

    Regardless of what the casing and strap are, it's still maybe $8 worth of electronics at best, a painfully tiny screen, awful battery life, absolute dependence on an iPhone for proper function, and in reality adding extra time to decide if the message your phone just pinged your wrist with is worth pulling the phone out for to reply with.
    The smart watch is a dumb idea in its current form. The Apple icrapWatch (tm) with its "Wealthy - Rich - Look how obscenely rich I am" case material tiers (seriously, the upgrade from plastic to red leather band is $7k? Not even a gold band available to justify that $17k price?) is the ultimate expression of that.
    Maybe in 5 years or so a transparent OLED screen over a traditional watch with these sensors to pop-up notifications long enough to be noticed but not need to be charged every two hours is when it'll make sense, but for now it's a useless gimmick that nobody really needs.

    Let's face it, the Apple Watch is a total and utter failure. The one called Sport edition doesn’t even has a dust, shock and water resistant exterior and thus fails in nearly every "sports" related usage scenario, albeit still costing nearly as much as an iPad, or, you know, a real watch, which works for years to come.
    And the luxury one? Oh god, 17k+ for this utter crapicious experience. If you’re a millionaire, donate that 17k+ to the EFF, the communist party, an union or consider that such an amount of money could save lives in many third world countries or help to preserve nature. Besides that, it doesn’t even look that luxurious compared face to face to Rolex standards, more like some sort of ugly, chubby toy enclosed in a thin, and tiny gold case. The functionality provided, if one even dares to call it that way, are utter crap too, nothing new, nothing exciting here, nothing Samsung, LG, Pebbles haven't been offering for years on a far superior basis. For example the Pebbles watch which costs
    less than 79$ and has 8 days of battery life, shows many of the notifications and info someone might need, all the while being water and dust proof, with changeable wristbands. Seriously, fuck this overpriced, environmentally obscene, eco terroristic icrapWatch (TM).

    Yet another fine addition to the long list of "Terrible Products Apple Makes to Gouge Money out of People".

    The new icrapWatch (tm) is a testament to Apple's collapsing technical acumen. They eliminate all ports providing no cable based connectivity at all? This craven stupidity should send the last adherents running. But running to what? Windows isn't even a viable option anymore, since it now is the most widespread commercial NSA gathering tool available, closely followed by Android, iOS and OS X.

    It's a sad day for people who need real smartwatches. Jony Ive is a pompous, clueless hack who should be fired and shot on the spot (or torn apart by a horde of rabid dogs) for introducing crippling regressions like this one.

    Look at this POS: No USB port, which won’t require an adapter to do anything. So if you aren’t going to require an adapter anyway, why not make that nonexistent port a modern port one: Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt can carry USB, video, Ethernet, external storage... ALL AT ONCE. And it can be daisy-chained, which would be hugely important when the icrapWatch (tm) would have ONLY ONE PORT. So WTF is Apple doing in not making its nonexistant port into a thunderbolt port?

    And again, are you kidding me? No thunderbolt connector? Now every sorry user of this pos doesn’t have to find a thunderbolt to USB C, a USB C to USB to HDMI, a USB to USB 3.0 period, a USB C to USB connector for apple’s time machine and also does not manage to don't short circuit all that with the AC/DC to USB C connectors, seriously ? Not worth 200$ new pile of hairy connectors for the brand new icrapWatch (tm), and that is called a revolution nowadays? No ********** way, the Pebbles is way superior, period.

    By the way, they're perpetrating no connectors at all. Thunderbolt is a much-needed step to a modern I/O standard. No connector is an outdated, abused standard that was designed primarily for Rolex watches. It's not suitable for external storage, video, or anything else requiring bulk data transfer with minimal CPU overhead. A nonexistant connector at all is a regression, a major step BACKWARD.

    Starting at $349.00----Less than $8.00 worth of hardware = ~$341.00 premium to use icrapWatch OS instead of windows. (Honestly the most expensive component of this icrapWatch (tm) is probably the screen.)
    Anyone with real work to do will not even be able to buy this thing. My friend’s last Air was neat in that it was small and lasted all day, but it was so under-powered, it was frustrating. I can only imagine how limited this machine will be.

    Who cares about price, weight and size, when this product is crippled by a hopelessly defective design? You can't hook up a power adapter and external storage at the same time. You can't hook up an external display and external storage. Hell, you can't even plug in a thumb drive!

    This product is the most asinine piece of shit Apple has produced, and that includes the (thankfully) short-lived Shuffle that could only be controlled by a gimped Morse code.

    $270 less gets you the new Pebbles which will eat the crapWatch's lunch.

    If you need to do a lot of processor intensive work, than you would not even go near this thing. It would be useless to you. If you need to crunch spreadsheets or are heavy in corporate analysis, this icrapWatch (tm) would also be useless to you.

    This is the kind of icrapWatch (tm) that Apple sells a lot of. This icrapWatch (tm) is largely useless for anything other than email and facebook. It cannot store many files, it cannot process much information, and it has no external port. There is nothing wrong with using this icrapWatch (tm) for casual tasks, but it is CERTAINLY not a productivity machine.

    It is what it is. A status symbol/statement. Or some other statement. A statement that you just bought a $349 or icrapWatch(tm) with a $341 or more case so you can show off in front of your hipster isheep friends.

    I hate to stick to Apple only facts here, but Apple said that the current Samsung Smatwatch is 24% thicker than this new icrapWatch (tm). That does NOT mean that the new icrapWatch (tm) is 24% thinner than the current Samsung Smatwatch , it means that it is ~20% thinner than the current Samsung Smatwatch. They clearly phrased it that way to make it sound more impressive and hence dupe the consumer, aka stupid isheep.

    So, it's a toy watch plus with a display and no over expensive dongle so you can’t do everything a Pebbles can do, at more than four times the price while looking posh.
    And here I thought technology was about function over form. I get it, functional art; art I can do things my phone does, but in a space that anyone can see me doing it, stylishly. Crippled and non standard in-house branded "business" software does great, can't do anything really artistic on it except maybe GarageBand or stock filter photo edits to my innumerable selfies, but it's got that partially eaten fruit on the back that screams "money I'm too stupid to keep or invest wisely."

    Take my money!
    I wouldn't hold my breath.

    This is apple's marketing strategy: mind-numbing markup on dirt-cheap, mediocre icrapWare (tm). They throw together a cheap little toy like icrapWatch (tm), pretty it up with silver or gold paint, and ride the wave of ignorance, outrageous markup, and marketing that they've been using as a business model for many, many years now. The only thing Apple has ever made that's less worthless than all the other crap their conspirators like Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Ltd excrete all day and night by taking advantage of child labour are iOS and OS X which, besides being notoriously crippled and constrained walled gardens, aren’t even worth the hassle unless you also dumped thousands of dollars into other apple products.

    Many apple owners I’ve encountered never stop trying to belittle and demean others because they don’t have a Macbook or an iPhone (or an icrapWatch (tm) for that matter) and then try to act like their overpriced apple products are overall better when they are certainly not, by any standard.

    Luxury cars, while still worthless crash grabs, usually offer some quality and features that are actually somewhat superior to cheaper competing vehicles and models.
    icrapWatch (tm) such as this start already expensive as hell with little performance to warrant such outrageous costs. Apple isn’t the luxury car of anything. It’s the luxury car DESIGN with a 4-cylinder under the hood and a tape-deck in the sound system, all with the price tag of "luxury". They sell laptops made cheap in china, using child labour and the same hardware you can find in SO many other laptops, slap their OS on it, put it in a thin case, and then markup the price by 300% to 600%. These are the facts. This icrapWatch (tm) in question is nowhere NEAR worth that kind of money. I mean, smartwatches in general are overpriced, but apple has made their entire business model out of extreme markups backed by clever marketing with little actual technological superiority of any kind. Every single apple product on the market can be outperformed in every way by comparable products. Apple icrapWatches (tm) can be outperformed by smartwatches that are FAR FAR cheaper while relying on older tech. The only thing that apple has that nobody else does is OSX and iOS, their operating systems. These are mediocre operating systems, but they are literally designed to be limited on anything it determines to be "non-apple hardware". Other operating systems can be installed on just about any computer you can slap together, whereas OSX is specifically and deliberately designed to be non-functional on ANYTHING that isn’t made by apple. It’s nothing but a cash-grab.

    Apple is indeed playing run-of-the-mill capitalism, they try to capitalize on the ignorance of the average consumer with marketing campaigns designed to make you assume you're getting your money's worth.

    There are millions of consumers who are on the fence, who are actually interested in buying something that's worth the money they spend. Those people deserve factual information and do not deserve to be exploited for their ignorance on the topic. So excuse me if I have a problem with it. College students especially, who don’t have a lot to spend in the first place, are being taken advantage of in every area of their life. Buying a smartwatch should be one less area of exploitation. This is why I have a problem with apple and with many other companies and services that attempt to capitalize on ignorance.

    Years down the road when the batteries in this model are dead and you have to keep it plugged in just to use then you'll have no way to plug in a flash drive or an external hard drive. I don't care how sexy it looks: sometimes and more often than not less means a serious lack of functionality.

    We can only hope that consumers send this piece of diabolic garbage to oblivion, as they did the idiotic iPod Shuffle that could only be controlled with Morse code over a proprietary headphone wire.

    The Apple Iphone 1 and Ipad 1 might have been innovative at their time,
    but since then, the bitten apple has been continuously rotting from the inside
    outwards, always swarmed by millions of Iworms which regale themselves with its
    rotten flesh, not forgetting all other Americans who support apple by means of
    their tax dollars to finance its bought US Treasury/Government bond interest rates.

    Last but not least, every Apple product includes a direct hotlink to the NSA,
    free of charge, something that might make it a good value, after all.

    Ceterum censeo Applem esse delendam.
    Reply
  • twanto - Monday, July 20, 2015 - link

    "There is nothing wrong with using this icrapWatch (tm) for casual tasks, but it is CERTAINLY not a productivity machine." I was really hoping it could handle some spreadsheets and a bit of 3D rendering, but I guess not.

    This post was either satire or the greatest literary achievement by someone with a bonus chromosome 21.
    Reply
  • Schickenipple - Tuesday, July 21, 2015 - link

    Word. If you are trying to create spreadsheets on your watch, or any screen that small, you are an idiot. Reply

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