GoGear: The Apple Watch Goes RVing

Don Cohen Don Cohen  |  10.19.2015

Sometimes I’m the first in line.  Sometime’s I’ll hold back.  In the case of the new Apple Watch I pushed my wife out of the airplane first, but kept my hand on her ripcord.  I easily adapt to new technology, but in Terry’s case, she generally waits until I saddle her with something.

The Apple Watch was different.  On watching the Apple announcement video months before the product’s release she declared, quite definitively, “I want one.”  And so it came to pass that the order button was clicked on the first day of availability.

Terry’s not a habitual watch wearer.  I, on the other hand, came out of the womb with one and I still have my childhood Hopalong Cassidy watch kept in a little cedar souvenir box with an laminated photo of Echo Lake, Colorado on it.  What really intrigued and excited Terry wasn’t all the fancy watch functions, but it’s ability to keep track of exercise activity.

As soon as her watch arrived I, being the household IT manager, paired it up with her iPhone 5s.  All went pretty smoothly, but I observed (and this remains true) that it can take 5 to 10 minutes for the phone to boot, pair and download apps from the phone.  In an era of fast technology the process (even though it’s technologically miraculous) seemed a little pokey.

Over time, as new software is developed specifically for the Apple Watch, I’m sure it will have more “independent smarts.”  But, at least for now, the best way to think about an Apple Watch is that it’s an extension of your iPhone.  It needs to be in the immediate proximity of your iPhone to process and display data.  When you’re home (or in your motorhome) on a personal wifi network the watch can be further away from your phone as it uses the wifi network.

I was surprised at how diligent Terry was at wrapping the watch with it’s elegant and supple magnetic band (Milano) around her wrist every morning.  And with its wearing, the out-the-door checklist of having her phone and reading glasses became a new habit.

Before hitting the “buy” button for me, I continued to observe Terry’s use and interaction with her Apple Watch.  She often referred to her daily activity screen to see steps taken and miles traveled.  During the summer the Major League Baseball AT BAT app would notify her of the Colorado Rockies game progress (mostly losing) by gently vibrating on her wrist.

She also started using other features like answering a call on her wrist.  It’s easy to do, but only for short calls as it is awkward keeping your wrist held up to your mouth (sorry Dick Tracy).  Text messages also attracted attention through the watch’s gentle vibration and were easily glanced at.

A couple of months after the launch I watched Apple’s developer conference keynote where they announced a fall update of the Apple Watch operating system.  As a thirty year veteran Apple observer this announcement was neither unexpected and was also comforting in that the device would take on new features via software.  Knowing that an update would come in three months I went ahead and ordered one to get a jump on things.

Like Terry I purchased the stainless steel case with the Milano mesh band ($699).  This adds $300 to the cost of the $399 Sport model of the watch.  Beyond the svelte mesh band, you get a harder crystal and stainless steel case versus the less expensive aluminum one.  The watch comes in two sizes:  38mm and 42mm with the larger size costing $50 more.  Terry’s 38mm looked very attractive and modestly sized for a feminine wrist. My 42mm surprised me with how nicely proportioned it was.  For years I’ve worn large analog and/or digital chronograph watches and the Apple Watch’s thickness and overall size was very comparable, but actually seemed less bulky.

After a few months of use, I’m pretty darn happy with the watch and have come to rely on and enjoy variety of features.  I don’t baby it and don’t take it off when I’m in the shower.  However, for more aggressively wet activities such as kayaking and fly fishing, the Apple Watch stays home or in the rig and my more rugged Casio Waveceptor goes on my wrist.

And let me take a small detour here and talk about a different watch.  Prior to buying an Apple Watch I had heavily researched timepieces.  I was very specific.  I wanted a watch with analog hands, but also with a digital day/date and stopwatch function.  And, unlike previous watches I’ve owned with these features – I wanted a solar (battery-less) one.  The Casio Waveceptor can be found on the Internet for a little over $100 bucks.  One of its other great features is that it finds the time via a widely broadcast radio signal and requires no setting of time, save for a few buttons to move you back and forth between timezones.  For me, it would ultimately become a perfect back up to my Apple Watch that never would run low on batteries (as long as there’s some kind of light to fire it up).

Here’s what I really like about the watch in general:

  • I can have an analog time display which I prefer
  • I can see the outside temp displayed on the main face
  • Daily tracking my daily steps and mileage
  • Upcoming calendar events are displayed on the main watch face
  • Notifications (text messages) show up on my wrist

Here’s what I like about the watch for RVing and general travel:

  • Dark Sky! this awesome app notifies me of local weather changes
  • No need to fiddle adjusting time when crossing time zones, it’s automatic
  • I just say “Hey Siri” and then say, “set an alarm for 7 AM tomorrow” and it’s done
  • The backlight makes it easy to read the watch in the dark
  • If we’re walking or driving and require directions, the watch works well with feeding directions from my iPhone along with sounds and taps when you need to make a turn

And what don’t I like about the Apple Watch?

Well, not much.  Sure I’d prefer that the display was on all the time, but that’ll take massive breakthroughs in technology.  When we’re at home I don’t mind at all taking my watch off before bed and putting it on it’s little magnetic charging pad, especially because I can see the alarm clock.  However, we don’t have a nightstand in the Navion so I’ve taken to putting the Apple Watch on the charging pad and wearing the Casio to bed.

To sum up, I wouldn’t think of going anywhere without my iPhone.  That would be a very terrible thing.  But if I didn’t have my Apple Watch on, the world as I know it, wouldn’t come to an end.  However, I believe the watch has the potential to be on the iPhone’s same trajectory of indispensability down the road.

A final note – we get new iPhones:

Both Terry and I recently hit our two year cycle with our iPhones and upgraded our 5s models to the new 6s.  Since our first iPhones (stood in line on day one) we’ve upgraded every couple of years.  Without a doubt the 6s is the biggest improvement to date.  It’s blazingly fast (even my friends who’ve gone from recent 6 models to the 6s have commented on it’s lighting-like speed).  As a photographer by training I’m very impressed by the camera quality.  If you talk between iPhone 6 models you’ll also be amazed at what they call “HD Voice” which sounds significantly better.  Finally, AT&T just turned on the ability to make and send calls via Wi-fi.  This is very helpful in our city loft where, up until this feature, we’ve had to use a Microcell for adequate phone coverage.  Life is a constant upgrade!

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  1. Bob Duthie Posted on 11.06.2015

    I wanted a watch that would also have a step counter. I researched the Apple Watch and concluded that Apple was primarily selling jewelry as you found with the extra $300 for a band you liked. I bought the Garmin Vivoactive which links to my iPhone 6s and has both a digital time display as well as an analog display. The battery lasts about 2 weeks on a single charge. The display is readable in bright sunlight and there is a button to turn on a back light when it’s dark. It also sells for less than the Apple watch band.

  2. Captain Jim Posted on 11.06.2015

    My wife bought me an Apple Watch (dedicated Apple fans since we bought an Apple IIe when they first came out) last summer. I read everything about it, but wasn’t sure how I’d use it (kinda like the original iPad when it first came out). Turns out, it has been very functional – I appreciate being able to access and send texts (Siri’s voice to text is very accurate), check weather, see if I want to immediately respond to an e-mail, get directions, etc.

    Like you, I appreciate a nice watch, but my other watches have been left in the watch case since getting the Apple Watch. Our Winnebago Aspect has night stands, so the watch is also my alarm clock while on its charging stand. I have found that I can be outside the motorhome, on the patio, and still get the signal from my phone (if not too far away).

    I like it!

  3. Melanie Metzler Posted on 11.06.2015

    I got my watch in Portland OR while on the way to WIT caravan of Oregon coast. Lamenting the my inability to take pictures while driving by myself, I rigged a holder. Using the Tire Minder holder, my iPhone slipped into it perfectly and mounted it to the windshield. Phone was plugged into power and left on camera. When I encountered a beautiful sight, I merely tapped my watch and snapped the picture! Really loved being able to capture those ohh and awe moments!