One month with the Apple Watch: Pain, joy, and daily experiences

The Apple Watch Sport edition has been strapped on my wrist for a month and for the most part it has exceeded all of my expectations. It's even better now that I realized I was wearing it wrong.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer
I went running in Virginia, navigated around New York and Seattle, took an Uber ride in DC, suffered wrist and hand pain for hours on end, bought coffee, played games, made calls, shared my heartbeat and sketches, followed the Mariners, and looked at my iPhone 6 Plus a bit less all in my first month with the Apple Watch Sport edition.

After a month of use, check out my full review, the Apple Watch is my favorite smartwatch so far and it's helping keep my SIM card in my iPhone 6 Plus. It's definitely not an essential accessory, but it has surpassed my expectations and I agree with Consumer Reports that it is the best current smartwatch.

Apple Watch likes and dislikes

Smartwatches are not for everyone, but as a person who prefers to wear a watch it provides me with the time and so much more. As I've done before in my one month articles, let's break it down into a couple of simple lists to share my experiences over the past month.

Here is what I like about the Apple Watch:

  • Battery life: I was very worried about the official reported 18 hour battery life. I use my Apple Watch from 4:30 am to 10:00 pm every day, charging it up while I sleep at night, and regularly put it on the charger with 30 to 40 percent remaining.
  • Design: The hardware is extremely well put together, the display looks fantastic, the digital crown turns effortlessly, volume sounds great, and the sport band is smooth and yet dense. I've bumped my Apple Watch against brick without a single scratch on the glass or sides.
  • Watchfaces: I switch between the utility, modular, Mickey Mouse, and motion faces, but primarily stick with utility. They all look fantastic and I like how I can customize colors and essential information.
  • Activity tracking: I am honestly standing up more at the office every day thanks to my Apple Watch. Reminders like this will change lives over the long term. The activity app is colorful, basic, and easily accessible which are all things that make it so functional.
  • Running companion: I already covered in detail how accurate the Workout app is without your iPhone and I am enjoying every run with my Apple Watch. Heart rate monitoring seems to be fairly accurate as I go back and review my Apple Health data.
  • Full control over notifications: I was frustrated by the Pebble iOS experience where I always seemed to be overloaded with notifications. The Apple Watch iOS app gives me the control I want over my notifications, glances, and apps. It's easy to customize your Apple Watch experience from your iPhone.
  • Siri: Prior to the Apple Watch, I really only used Siri for setting up alarms and creating reminders. I now use it for messaging, searches, placing calls, and more while speaking into the Apple Watch.
  • Taptic engine: Other watches vibrate, but the differing vibrations from the taptic engine on the Apple Watch have changed how I feel about notifications. Navigating with Apple Maps is awesome with the Apple Watch so I look forward to continued improvements in Apple Maps.

The Apple Watch is not perfect. It's a first generation product that gets most things right, but here is what I don't like about the Apple Watch:

  • Third party apps can be slow: As my ZDNet colleague, Kevin Tofel, wrote, third party apps can be slow to load useful data. I only use about five third party apps on a daily basis, I'm focused on Apple apps, so I don't see the lag too often.
  • No Outlook app: The Outlook app is so good on iOS that I have moved all of my email usage to it. Unfortunately, there is no Apple Watch app so I can't use my Apple Watch for email.
  • No GPS receiver: I'm fine carrying my iPhone when I run as a safety measure and to capture photos, however I also like to run without a phone. The Apple Watch does a solid job without the iPhone, but it would be nearly perfect as a running watch with an integrated GPS receiver.

Pain in the wrist and hand

My Citizen Ecodrive is fit to be a bit loose and tends to wander down my wrist close to my hand. I've been wearing other smartwatches, including the Sony SmartWatch 3, Pebble, Fitbit Surge, Garmin Vivoactive, and more down low on my wrist, primarily situated just below my wrist bone towards my hand.

It turns out I may have been wearing my watches incorrectly.

Over the past week or so, I have been experiencing serious pain in my wrist and left hand after wearing the Apple Watch for a couple hours. After taking off the Apple Watch, the pain would go away in three to five hours. I then tried wearing some of the other watches I have, with no pain resulting from extended wear.

I searched around to see if others were experiencing the pain and after some forum research it didn't look like it was widespread and that there was no technical reason (strong magnet, high signals, radiation, etc.) that any pain should be caused by the Apple Watch.

Upon closer inspection of exactly where the Apple Watch was sitting on my wrist, I self-diagnosed that it was likely the Apple Watch was pressing down on a large vein I have on top of my wrist near my wrist bone. Someone on the Apple forums recommended shifting my Apple Watch up my arm further above the wrist bone.

It turns out it is actually more comfortable to wear the Apple Watch above my wrist bone since I have full range of wrist motion and the Apple Watch seems to sit flatter. I have not experienced any wrist or hand pain since moving my Apple Watch up.

When you view the photos of people on the Apple Watch, who apparently all shave their wrists, the Apple Watch is placed up higher where I now have it secured. I guess I really was wearing it wrong.

Apple Watch setting the bar and raising smartwatch awareness

Prior to the Apple Watch launch, I visited the New York City Fifth Avenue store and enjoyed the personal hands-on session with the Apple Genius. I left and ordered a Garmin Vivoactive, but after using both the Vivoactive and Apple Watch over the last month the Apple Watch is the one left attached to my wrist.

I camped out for the first generation Apple iPhone and by 2007 I had already been using PDAs and smartphones for 10 years. However, even with its basic functionality, that first Apple iPhone revolutionalized the way we used our phones and set the mobile world on fire.

Companies have been selling smartwatches for years, but the only Pebble has shown substantial success when it passed the 1 million mark at the end of 2014. Like that first iPhone, the Apple Watch user interface is different and there is a slight learning curve. However, the hardware is fantastic, the UI is smooth and flashy, the battery life is excellent, and developers are actively making apps for the platform.

The Apple Watch is a winner and it's likely the success of the Apple Watch will raise the awareness of the entire smartwatch category.

Related ZDNet Apple Watch coverage

Apple Watch review image gallery and screenshots

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