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My Apple Watch: Initial Impressions, Uses, and its Benefits for Attorneys

I received my Apple Watch mid-May. I was disappointed to not receive it early, but I suppose I’m less of a die-hard fan than I thought: refusing to wake at 3 a.m. to place an order. Oh well, it’s here now, and I’m enjoying it thus far.

Here are my intial thoughts:

Setup

In typical Apple style, my watch arrived snug inside a sleek white box. Included in the box were a power cord and instruction booklet. I immediately connected the charger to my outlet and placed the watch on the charger. It easily snapped into place.

Initial setup was a breeze. I wear my watch on my right hand—a slight oddity since in reality, I’m right-handed. Nevertheless, during the setup I had the option of customizing the orientation, including which side I’d like the crown and secondary button below. I chose the traditional setup: crown and button on the right. I tried flipping it around such that the crown and button were on the left-hand side, but it didn’t feel right.

After the initial setup, I customized my watch face. Apple gives you a number of options (those options will increase in the fall, as per Apple’s recent developer’s conference) including digital and analog faces, along with “complications,” which are additional tools available on the face. I selected the “Utility” face with an analog clock and complications including battery life remaining, temperature, date, and upcoming calendar events. I can further customize the Utility face by adding detail to the analog, changing the color, and customizing complications.

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Most other settings, including app selection, layout, notifications, and more can be tweaked from your iPhone Watch app (you’ll need at least an iPhone 5). I’ve played around with the app layout a bit. I’ve found the best setup is to cluster all your frequently used apps in the center, since the watch defaults to center view when accessing the app screen. I’ve setup most of my notifications for apps to mirror those on my iPhone. I’ve also activated “Glances” using the iPhone app. Access Glances by swiping up from the bottom of the watch. Glances give you a quick look at a certain app without having to navigate to the app screen to find and open the app. By tapping on a particular Glance, that app will open. Currently, you can only set a certain apps to display in Glances. My Glances include Calendar, Heartbeat, Batter, Activity, Maps, Dark Sky, Wunderlist, Fantastical, and NYTimes.

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Look and Feel

What I most appreciate about the watch is its subtlety. I selected the space gray aluminum model with black sport band primarily for that purpose. It’s got a sporty look to it, but still appropriate in a professional setting. Even with a small wrist, the 38mm watch face blends in nicely. I’ve always worn a watch, and this feels just like any other watch. Only recently did a stranger reach over and attempt to activate my watch. And, of course, my two-year-old is always interested when the watch face appears. Otherwise, most don’t notice it.

After activating the watch, I immediately turned off all audio notifications and turned on the haptic pulses. This also lends to the watch’s inconspicuousness. However, it took some getting used to the pulses. At first, I didn’t notice them at all. In settings, I increased the strength of the tap and created a double tap for all notifications. After about a month of use, I rarely miss a notification. I also love the ability to immediately silence a phone call or notification by covering the face of the watch with your hand.

In terms of reading on the watch, I’ve never had an problems. If you do find the text on the phone too small to read, you can enlarge and bold it in the watch settings, as well as brighten the entire face of the watch.

Using the Watch

Apps
The watch comes with a number of Apple apps installed similar to the iPhone. I regularly use Apple’s Maps, Weather, Alarm, Activity, and Passbook (soon to be “Wallet”). Activity monitors your total steps, distance, calories burned, exercise, and standing. You can customize your goals and set notifications to remind you to stand, exercise, and to alert you when you have completed your goals.

Most of the apps require a bluetooth connection with your iPhone, forcing you to be within close proximity to your phone (estimates range from about 10 to 330 feet depending upon conditions). Currently, I’m able to use my watch from my office conference room which is at least four or five walls away from my private office where I keep my iPhone. Only a select number of apps will run without a connection, including the monitoring activity, playing music stored on the watch, and using Apple Pay.

Here’s a list of some of the apps I’m currently using with my watch:

  • 1Password
  • Drafts
  • Fantastical
  • NYtimes
  • Evernote
  • Feedly
  • Instapaper
  • Keynote
  • Wunderlist

One app that I don’t use much on the iPhone is Mail. I can read, delete, flag, and mark mail as unread. However, I cannot dictate a simple response and send it.

I was a bit worried that when using the apps it would be difficult to press small buttons, but I haven’t found that to be the case. All of the buttons are of decent size and don’t require more than one or two touches to access what you need. For scrolling, you can swipe up or down, or alternatively, turn the crown.

Phone Calls
I answered my first phone call on my watch while at the park with my daughter (don’t worry, not a habit, only for testing purposes of course). The caller noted that the sound quality of my watch was better than my iPhone! From my end, the sound emanating from the watch’s speaker was much more discrete than I had expected. As far as I could tell no one noticed or overheard my call, even though I looked a bit like Dick Tracy.

Siri
Because most of the watch functions rely on voice commands, I’ve started to use Siri much more in daily use. I’ve found activation about 80% reliable. With ambient noise or a bad cellular connection, sometimes it doesn’t pick up my voice or takes a while to transcribe. However, when it does recognize my voice it’s about 95% accurate.

Apple Pay
Apple Pay on the watch is a breeze and all that more convenient because you don’t even need to have your phone to use it. Double tap the button below the crown to pull up your cards and then hold it near the reader to pay. The only hurdle is finding a store that uses Apple Pay. Although, I suspect we will see more and more offerings as the watch becomes the norm.

Battery
While I’m the type of person who carries around multiple charging cables and portable chargers, I haven’t bought a second charger for my watch. I’ve yet to have a problem with battery life after wearing my watch from the time I wake to the time I go to sleep (anywhere between 14 – 18 hours). Furthermore, the watch does not seem to have any impact on my phone’s battery life.

New Features on the Horizon

Recently, Apple held its annual developer conference, where it announced the watch’s new (second) operating system. It addresses many of the issues I’ve described above, including adding the ability to respond to emails, native app support, and wireless connectivity to your phone (allowing you to be further from your phone). The new OS will also feature new time piece faces including those with pictures and rotating pictures from albums, complications from third-party developers, as well as a clock and alarm function. The new OS will be available for the general public in the fall of 2015.

How will the watch change the practice of law?

Like most technology, the watch will eventually impact the legal profession, but incrementally. Right now, the watch is mostly an extension of your iPhone with the beginnings of productivity benefits to reduce the number of steps to receive, process, and disseminate information. As with any technology, it also has the potential to create distractions. But, with a little self-control and proper notification settings, I’m confident that distractions can be minimized.

Certainly as the watch develops it will prove more and more useful for practitioners, particularly as developers are able to create native apps that don’t require pairing with the iPhone. Imagine tracking time at a meeting with a subtle click of a button, conducting a conflict check via your practice management program, receiving a notification when its time to wrap up a current meeting to avoid being late to the next one, advancing slides and using a laser pointer for presenting, and more. Some of these functions already exist, while some are on the horizon.

About Heidi Alexander

Heidi Alexander
Heidi S. Alexander, Esq. (@heidialexander) is a Law Practice Management Advisor at the Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program (MassLOMAP), where she advises lawyers on practice management matters and provides guidance in implementing new law office technologies. She frequently makes presentations to the legal community and contributes to publications on law practice management and technology. Follow her on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

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