Why I went from the Apple Watch to a Garmin fēnix 3 HR

Hello everyone,

in July last year I wrote an article about the Apple Watch, detailing my opinion on the user experience and mostly what I thought the use of such a device could be.

Turned out, I sold it in February this year and got a Garmin fēnix 3 HR instead.

fenix3_familyshot

 

Reselling the Apple Watch

This is actually the first Apple product that I resell.

The reasons for the decision are twofold: it has to do with functionalities, but mostly with the expectations I have for a wearable device.

In the end of my Apple Watch article I finished by stating what was at the time a big limitation: with WatchOS 1 only the interface of an App ran on the watch itself, the rest was on the iPhone, which led to limitations for the App both in terms of functionality and speed. WatchOS 2 did bring native Apps on the watch. However my experience as a user did not really improve. The apps remained slow and very dependent on the iPhone. At some point I gave up on third-party apps altogether.
It has something to do with the user interaction as well. I still think that if the interaction with an app should last longer than about 30 seconds, it is faster to do whatever the task may be on the phone. As an example I can mention the newspaper apps. I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to actually read an article on the watch – that means my use of such an app was limited to headlines. Which brings me to notifications.

Notifications

I believe the value proposition of the Apple Watch relies on two key features: notifications and fitness. I went from finding notifications on the Watch useful to turning them off in a few months. In the beginning I had all the notifications of my phone on my wrist. It was a lot. It took me a few weeks to shut down all notifications from third party apps (with the exception of WhatsApp). I used to find it very useful be instantly notified of incoming messages on my wrist and being able to see what just came in in just a glance. To this, I have three observations:

  • Focusing on something became a lot harder. Because I turned off almost all notifications but for incoming messages, I knew if the Watch vibrated it was « important ». Let me illustrate that with a short anecdote. I was sitting in a meeting and making an important point to the management of my client. As I was speaking, the watch vibrated once – and it took me just a moment to process this event and moving forward with what I was saying. It was a bit of a weird moment, and because the taptic feedback is quite discreet, no one knew why I just kind of paused in my speech.
  • At some point I began to feel social pressure… When someone wrote me and I was doing something – let’s say having a coffee with a friend – I saw something came in, but ignored it to answer it later on. I used to do that, but now I knew if the sender of the message knew I had the Apple Watch, they knew I was ignoring them, because I just got a tap on the wrist. There are times I am just not available to answer a message right away (when discussing with someone for instance) and I didn’t like feeling this expectation. But for that point maybe it’s just all happening in my head.
  • The last remark is in the same situation as I just described: the message did take my attention away for a moment, which ends up being rude for the person sitting in front of me.

Fitness

The second main feature is the « fitness watch ». It does quite a good job at doing that, but a lot of the fitness watches out there (Garmin or fitbit) do a far better job for a lot less money. Because of my recurring issues with third party app, I only used the native Apple App for sport. It is good, but does not offer a lot of feature to analyse your data – point where fitbit and Garmin excel. Plus I did have some issues: using the touch display when you’re sweating a lot is really not easy. The heartfrequence tracker was sometimes just not doing its thing (no idea why), mostly during the warm-up, which is when I kind of really want this information. And there is no sleep tracking, because the battery just won’t allow it, you have to recharge at night!

Having reached this point, I decided the Apple Watch may be a great product, but just does not live up to my expectations. Which is why I went on selling it and getting a Garmin fēnix 3 HR.

Garmin fēnix 3 HR

Multi-angle-fenix-3

Now I’m not going to review it. If you’re interested this is the review made by Jeff Rizzo – which is in my eyes the best one on youtube.

I’ll just mention the distinctive features which make this watch a better match for me.

  • It has a life without the phone. You can go for a run/a ride without the phone, and still track everything (built in GPS) without restrictions in the functionalities.
  • The battery lasts more than a week (about 9-10 days for me) on one charge, with 3 workouts a week and bluetooth during the day.
  • The display is always on. You can have a discreet look at the time without doing the wrist gesture to activate the display. Now the Apple Watch does have a far better resolution and colors. But it comes at a very high cost.
  • It is waterproof – and tracks your swim.
  • The Garmin Connect App on the phone, on the Mac and the Website sync all seamlessly and offer a LOT more data than Apple. (Just google Advanced Running Dynamics, it is really cool). Data in itself is good, but the added value is in the insights that are built on it. There are plenty of visualisations. During the workout you get help (fitness index, VO2 Max, Lactate Threshold, heartrate areas). I think a very advanced runner may know all of this out of their experience. I don’t and I appreciate the help.
  • Last but not least: it looks a lot cooler!

Of course it is not perfect and does have some drawbacks – the display is not as high def as the one of the Apple Watch (there is pixelisation on the hands of watch if you use an analog watch face). Not having a touch display is both a pro and a con: a pro because you can use the watch without looking at it, with sweat on the fingers, or with water on it; a con because navigating through the menus is not always straightforward.

In the end it is a better match for me and I’ve been a lot happier with it than I ever was with the Apple Watch.

Now why am I writing all of this? I am actually trying to share one insight, because it took me several months to really understand this.
Much more than for a phone, if you are condisering buying a wearable, you need to think about what your expectations are. As you’re going to wear this thing all day, it can only a great experience if it matches what you expect from it.
You like real watches and only want activity tracking? Maybe have look at jabra product or fitbit charge (hr).
You want to replace your watch, see a lot of value for fitness, a bit less for smartwatch functionalities? A Fitbit Blaze or Garmin Vivoactive HR could be what you’re looking for.
Or the other way around, fully fledged smartwatch appeals to you, fitness is only secondary: I guess that’s where Apple and AndroidGear have the best added value.
And last but not least: you want to be serious with sport and fitness data more than everything else: that’s the space for the fēnix 3.

Thoughts About the Apple Watch

hoff

As an early adopter and strong believer in the Great Steve, I didn’t even try to fight the urge to buy the new Apple Watch. This will come as a surprise to anyone knowing me…

I bought the dark version of Apple Watch Sport 42mm two weeks ago, and had many questions from friends and colleagues since then. As I did when I switched a few years back from the iPhone 3G to a BlackBerry Bold 9700 (yep… but that’s another story), I am going to share here some thoughts about the Apple Watch.

I’ve always loved watches. Nice watches. My dream is to have one day  an Omega Speedmaster. Since the smartphones have become ubiquitous, a watch is less necessary. You always have your phone with you, which already gives you the time. And a watch is old school: it’s a single purpose device. For many, wearing an Apple Watch will be a switch from not having a watch to wearing one. For me it’s going from a vey nice Tissot to something not wearing the words « swiss made ». Which brings me to the price tag.

Apple Watch

The Apple Watch Sport in 42 mm costs about 450€. I chose this one because I actually like the aluminum finish over the stainless steal. But it has something to do with the price tag as well. I initially tried an Apple Watch (not sport) with the steal armband. It felt very nice, but the price is then north of 1200€. Though for a watch this price is not extravagant in itself, I am not sure about the loss of value. Usually a watch above 1000€ does not lose value very fast. Yes it is expensive, but it mostly keeps its value. In the case of the Apple Watch I guess that when the Watch 2/S/Plus will come, the first one can basically be written off. So for 1200€ I’ll rather buy a Rado. (On a side note, about two thirds of the price is the armband…)

The quality of finish is really good. I won’t cover that part – if you want more details, read the very detailed review on Ars Technica. On a personal note, I hope matching aluminium armbands will become available from third parties for a decent price.

Now the part that I actually want to cover, the software/user interaction side.

The first function of the watch is, in the words of my girlfriend, to be « a remote control for the iPhone ». Though it’s correct, it brings other functionalities, but what I think is a new interaction paradigm as well.

I haven’t installed a lot of apps on the watch. I haven’t found that many actually. From third party I have Soundhound, Twitter, Evernote, Nike+, AirBerlin and DB Navigator (this last one I haven’t got to work properly). Of these I think the best ones are Soundhound and Twitter – both have a strong usecase for the watch, and work fast. One major issue for third party apps is that in watchOS 1 the logic runs on the iPhone and only the graphic interface is on the watch itself. It will change with watchOS 2 this fall. For the time being it does have major drawbacks: speed, usability when the iPhone is not around and no access to the watch’s sensors. I hope the watchOS 2 will solve that.

In the apps from Apple, I mostly use the emails and messages. The preview of emails is actually very usable, even for rather long emails. The message app works great. The contextual answers are often relevant, and Siri works fine – when you are in a situation where you can talk to your watch. The language for both is the language of the conversation. I have set up the watch in French, but if I receive a message in German, the contextual answers are in German and Siri expects me to speak in German. Most of the time it’s just fine, but I’d like to be able to control that – « Siri – switch language to English ».

A lot of the added value comes for the fitness capabilities. It has a heart sensor, accelerometer, and it can use the GPS from the iPhone. The heart sensor is precise. I own a Garmin watch with heart sensor as well, and could not notice any significant difference. That’s quite an achievement, because the Apple Watch does not require you to wear a sensor on your torso. The app from Apple works fine, and gives stats about the workout. It does not have advanced feature for running. The Nike+ app is very limited, because it does not have access to heart sensor, and suffers from context switches (I’ll come to this later). It has a lot of value for me. I live mostly in hotels, and I can have a full fitness companion without having to pack an extra watch, sensor and specific power adapter in my suitcase like I did with the Garmin.

Now on a more abstract level, I think this new space for software developer is interesting and challenging. It is much more personal than a smartphone. I wear this thing, I don’t want it cluttered with useless apps, it feels kind of my own personal space. I deleted a lot of them which were automatically installed. The interaction paradigm is completely different as well. The interactions are way shorter than on a phone. If I want to use the watch for more than 30 seconds, I take my iPhone. For mails, messages, Twitter – it goes faster to do something on the iPhone if the interaction is longer than about 30 secs. It brings some challenges. The added value of the app has to be delivered in that time. It has to load fast and offer me directly what I need. It has effects on the context switches as well. The Watch goes active when your bring your wrist to sight, and goes inactive after either a few seconds, or if you stop looking a you wrist. If the watch goes inactive and you call it back shortly afterwards, it will bring you back where you were. For instance Twitter will still be open. However it closes the apps automatically after a short period of time when inactive. It makes sense for a short interaction, the user does not have to press the digital crown (« home ») like they would do on an iPhone. On top of that, when you look at the watch, chances are you want to see the time, not where you left Twitter 2 minutes ago.

It works mostly seamlessly. But there have been times where the Watch did not behave a I expected it to (app already closed, or on the contrary app still open and I had to manually go back to the watch face). The only real problem I had is with Nike+. It works like a normal app, and does not lock the context like the Apple Training app. I hope watchOS 2 will solve this, because it makes a training app hard to use.

The battery life is good on the watch itself. I used it a lot, an didn’t go under 35% after a full day (from 5 am to midnight). It does affect the battery life of the iPhone. I used to leave the Bluetooth off. When I use the iPhone a lot within the day, plus now the watch, it ends up in low in red levels at the end of the day. The USB charge cable is ridiculously long, like if the power plug is in the kitchen and you want the watch on your night desk, Apple got you covered.

Conclusion

I like the watch. I see an added value in it, for the Watch Sport model. Though it does not have the romanticism of a mechanical watch.
The software is good, but today limited. A bit like iOS was in version 1 good (iPhone OS then!) but became great starting in version 3, I have big hopes for the Watch OS 2. It is a new space for software, with another interaction paradigm. Like the expectations and behavior of a Mac and an iPhone app are different, so is the watch compared to a phone. It will probably take a few month until everyone gets there.

Should you buy it? Well, if I were to answer that, I’d probably start a war with AndroidGear fans… Which helps no one. A few point to consider are – I think – the fitness capabilities, the potential for great software, and the easier access to messages when on the go. I think there is a fair case for waiting a well. The software isn’t there yet, and the next version is likely to have major hardware improvements.

When I was 7, I was a big fan of Knight Rider (still am). I liked how Michael Knight would talk to his watch, and KITT would come pick him up. I used to try to talk to my Casio watch so that my bike would come. Didn’t work. Now I can talk to my watch. We’re 50% there.

If you have questions, I’ll do what I can to answer them!

BlackBerry Bold 9700 vs. iPhone 3G, mon avis

Chers tous, aujourd’hui je vous propose un article qui sort un peu de ma ligne éditoriale. Il sera question ici de mon avis concernant mon switch de l’iPhone vers un Bold 9700. Comme on m’a demandé assez fréquemment mon avis ces dernières semaines, je me suis dit que je pouvais le partager ici.

Alors un point de contexte, pour que vous sachiez d’où je parle. Je suis un mac user convaincu depuis 4 ans environ, et j’ai eu le premier iPhone lors de sa sortie puis le 3G quand Orange l’a proposé. Mes études en témoignant, je suis un peu un g33k à mes heures aussi.

Mon utilisation est principalement : voix, sms, mails (beaucoup, et sur plusieurs comptes), musique (via casque BlueTooth) et Facebook.

J’ai eu une très bonne expérience utilisateur de l’iPhone pendant plus de 2 ans donc, et d’un point de vue technique, les différences sont mineures avec le Bold. (Meilleur APN, plus d’autonomie, mais la mémoire se fait par micro SD). Les différences sont plus à voir dans la philosophie d’utilisation que dans la technique à mon avis.

L’iPhone est fun, facile à utiliser, assez orienté multimédia. Il y a des petites animations, des application à télécharger à la pelle, pas (encore) de support du multitasking pour les applications tierces. A l’opposé, le BB sera orienté efficacité. Il y a un écran d’accueil qui récapitule les activités, ainsi que des accès rapides à ce que l’on veut (la première ligne du menu principal en fait).

Si vous voulez, le BB est orienté efficacité, quand l’iPhone est plus fun à utiliser. Quand on ouvre l’application Mail sur iPhone, il lui faut 3 ou 4 secondes pour s’ouvrir. C’est peu, mais si on le fait 25, 50 fois dans la journée, dont souvent en réunion, c’est fatiguant. Surtout que les boîtes mails sont séparées. Idem pour l’application SMS. Sur le 9700, c’est instantané. On sélectionne la boîte de réception unique (pour tous les comptes mails, sms, mms, BlackBerry Messenger), et on y est tout de suite.

Par ailleurs, il est possible d’avoir du push e-mail sur 10 comptes (pour les clients grand-public, dits BIS dans le jargon), même sur des comptes exotiques. Mais la navigation internet est d’un autre âge, surtout par rapport à l’iPhone. Certes, quand on prend le temps, avec Opera Mini, on s’en sort, mais c’est lent et à côté de Safari pour iPhone, c’est un peu une supercinq contre une A5.

Certes il n’y a pas d’écran tactile, mais par contre un vrai clavier. Dans mon expérience, je tape aussi vite sur l’un que sur l’autre. Il est à noter que si l’écran du 9700 est plus petit, il présente la même résolution que celui de l’iPhone.

Pour résumer, voici un récapitulatif :

– je trouve les mails et sms plus rapides sur BB : on sélectionne et c’est ouvert, il n’y a pas 4 ou 5 secondes d’attente pour que l’appli s’affiche (pour le clavier à mon goût c’est du pareil au même en rapidité)
– diode pour les activités, sympa en réunion pour voir si il y a un mail sans avoir recours au vibreur
– autonomie au moins deux fois plus longue (toujours dans mon utilisation!)
– push mail même sur des comptes plus ou moins ‘exotiques’
– musique en BT STABLE, et le profil BT télécommande est implémenté en entier (sur l’iPhone ils ont laissé tomber précédent/suivant…)
– beaucoup de réglages
par contre :
– le navigateur est d’un autre âge
– certaines applis sont lentes (hypothèse perso : le Java sur un OS mobile c’est pas une bonne idée?)
– beaucoup de réglages
– pas d’appli SNCF ou Figaro…

Quelques photos pour la route, suivies de deux pubs : la première de BB, puis la réponse d’Apple…