To Tim Cook, Jony Ive, Kevin Lynch, Jay Blahnik, and whomever else it may concern,
I’ve been drafting this in my mind for quite a while, ever since I made the determination that the Apple Watch had, indeed, changed my life. I first started contemplating this letter over two months ago, before the release of watchOS 2, to coincide with attaining my 150-day Move Streak. At the time, I had lost somewhere around 50 pounds from my weight on the afternoon of April 24, when my Apple Watch Sport was delivered. At the time, I was happily living within the limitations of watchOS 1.1 and eagerly awaiting the changes that watchOS 2 would provide.
As I begin writing this, on November 20, nearly seven months and 80 pounds from that initial introduction to my Apple Watch, though, I find myself increasingly frustrated. As such, I find it necessary to write to Apple: to the hardware designers who crafted the best watch I have ever owned; to the software team who has me wanting to smash it with a hammer; and to the CEO who champions the device and who I hope is not content to rest on his company’s laurels or brush aside the “minor” pain points that have cropped up.
Let me begin by expressing my sincerest gratitude to all of you for creating the Apple Watch and sharing it with the world. Earlier this year, after countless false starts and halfhearted attempts at controlling my weight, I crossed a line that I had promised myself I would never reach. I reached, and exceeded, 300 pounds. I come from a family where issues with weight, heart disease, diabetes, and a host of other related medical issues are prevalent on both sides. Watching my father fight what has to this point been a losing battle with his waistline, and learning of his diabetes diagnosis several years ago, left me feeling hopeless: not even 30, and I was prepared to give up on myself.
Apple Watch has changed, and quite possibly saved, my life. The motivation of the Activity Rings and common-sense Achievements (and, admittedly, the desire to justify a seemingly frivolous purchase) quickly got me making a real, sustained effort to change my sedentary lifestyle in a way that no other fitness tracker I’d tried to that point could match. I found myself actively planning to meet my Move Goal on a daily basis regardless of travel plans, work obligations, and due dates for coursework in my graduate program. The Activity features of Apple Watch got me to do something I had never really done before: start looking at my physical activity as a priority rather than an add-on.
For the first couple months, though, I didn’t see any substantive change in my weight. So I started looking into what I needed to add (or subtract) from my routine to start seeing the progress I wanted. It was then that I realized what I really needed was to start using the data the Apple Watch was collecting and compare it to something. Long story short, I started putting HealthKit to work: after years of dismissing calorie-counting as a waste of my time, I finally broke down and started religiously tracking my caloric input to compare to what my Watch said I was burning. Since July 10 (the day I started tracking what I ate), I have lost 77.6 pounds, putting me 40 pounds below where I was when I graduated from college in 2006 and close to what my weight was when I entered high school.
So yes, Apple Watch has changed my life and I am eternally grateful to Apple for that.
It is for this reason that I am extremely disappointed in some aspects of the Watch, particularly as they related to watchOS 2. Most notably, rather than improving my experience, watchOS 2 has demonstrably worsened my Watch’s workout-tracking features. For instance:
- It often (i.e. during at least 75% of my workouts) takes my Watch at least a full minute (and sometimes as much as three minutes) to begin displaying calories burned.
- When it does begin tracking my calories, the calorie counts vary wildly (sometimes by as much as 50% during equally intense workouts). The results are also dramatically different from those provided by the elliptical machine that I use, when before they were at least reasonably close.
- Sometimes, the Watch continues to display 0 calories, and I have to restart the workout.
- The Heart Rate sensor, which, prior to watchOS 2, was never significantly different from the one built into the elliptical machine I use, often displays 68 BPM or 165 BPM early in my workouts, and will frequently drop to 92 BPM and stay there mid-workout. These numbers come up regularly, and it takes multiple attempts to get them to change. (My heart rate ranges between 110 and 130 normally during intense workouts, and when the Watch’s sensor works properly, it confirms this.)
- In roughly 20% of cases, I have to suspend my workout to restart my Watch completely to get it to work properly. Since the Watch takes so long to reboot, this is especially frustrating.
While these are certainly minor annoyances in the grand scheme of things, they are not things I want to encounter 1) when I’m killing myself on a piece of exercise equipment, and 2) with my $400 watch that was sold to me on the promise of it being a highly accurate fitness tracker. There is absolutely no excuse for the Apple Watch to be performing this way, especially when it worked just fine prior to September (which is why I’m assuming this is a software issue rather than a fault in the hardware). During workouts are about the only time that I find myself wanting to stop wearing the Watch … or contemplating the option of just smashing it with a hammer and be done with it.
I recognize that this is a very complicated device. I recognize that the fact that it exists in its current form at all is a massive achievement of engineering, both in terms of hardware and software, and of Apple’s focus and drive. It is probably the most significant purchase I’ve made in my near-28 years on this planet, and I see it as the future in many, many respects.
So again, thank you for providing me with the tools I need to turn my life around. But don’t let my thanks, nor the enormity of what you’ve achieved, distract you from the work that still needs to be done. No one should buy a device that is sold on the premise of accurately measuring calories and heart rate and find themselves angrily demanding, “Then why the [expletive] doesn’t it do that?” every time they set foot in the gym.
I look forward to seeing what the future holds for Apple Watch and for watchOS. And I look forward to experiencing more of the life-changing magic that Apple provides to the world.