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Exploring the User Experience of the Apple Watch

| May 5, 2015
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Over the last couple of weeks, Apple fans were met with a pleasant surprise. The long-awaited Apple Watch, formerly expected to arrive in June 2015, shipped early for some customers!

To explore the user experience on the hot new device, we ran a study with seven early adopters. For this study, we didn’t set any particular demographic requirements other than owning an Apple Watch. Our participants ranged in age from 18 to 54 and were located in the US and the UK.

Here’s what we found.

Learning curve

Most participants agreed that the Apple Watch takes a little while to get used to, since the interface is so different from other products. Some said they had to explore it for a few days before they got comfortable with the features and functionality. Two participants said they looked up tutorials online to learn as much as they could right away.

For users who didn’t look up tutorials, some of the features caused a bit of confusion. For example, one test participant pointed out that the side button next to the digital crown looks like a power button, but actually provides access to recent contacts.

Some of the users said they wished the Apple Watch had certain features, like the ability to adjust the screen brightness and timeout, that it actually does have; they just weren’t immediately apparent.

Three of our test participants didn’t receive notifications on the watch when they got a text message, and two weren’t sure whether setting “Do Not Disturb” on their iPhone would affect their Apple Watch, too. (It turns out that it will if you select the “Mirror iPhone” setting.)

Innovative features and functions

Despite the learning curve, our test participants were really excited about the features of the Apple Watch.

The digital crown worked more smoothly than the users expected, and it reminded a couple of participants of the click wheel on the iPod Classic.

Sending a text was easy for almost all test participants, thanks to good voice-to-text recognition, emojis, and pre-programmed common replies like “Hey,” “Thanks,” and “On my way.”

Users liked using the iPhone to install and arrange new apps, noting that this option was often much easier than using the watch to do so.

However, one user complained that the apps he installed on his iPhone automatically installed on his Apple Watch, even though he had tried to disable this feature.

Most users liked the idea of using the Apple Watch to remotely take a picture from the iPhone, though some had trouble imagining a scenario where this would be easier than just taking the picture with the iPhone.

The little things

When asked what, if anything, they liked most about the device, the test participants’ most common response was that the Apple Watch did a great job with “little things that make life easier.”

One user particularly liked the ability to control the music playing from his iPhone through his Apple Watch, especially if his iPhone is in his pocket or plugged into speakers across the room.

Another said she liked using the watch to get driving or walking directions because of the haptic feedback (vibration) on her wrist indicating when it was time to turn left or right.

One user who admitted to being a sound sleeper said she uses her Apple Watch as her alarm in the morning: the vibration wakes her up easily but doesn’t disturb her partner.

Several users appreciated the fact that they didn’t have to look at their phone as often, so they wouldn’t be distracted by the Internet and all of their other apps every time they wanted to read a notification.

Many of these “little things” are also big wins for accessibility, making everyday activities easier for people who have visual or hearing disabilities.

Final thoughts

    Overall, users were very excited about their new Apple Watches. Regardless of what style they chose, all of our test participants said they felt like the watch was the right fit for them.

    All seven participants said it “felt” like an Apple product, describing it as innovative, customizable, and well-designed (though one user noted it didn’t have the “new Mac smell” she was expecting when she opened it).

    In spite of the initial learning curve—and the fact that many third-party apps aren’t up to snuff yet—all seven of our test participants said they would use the Apple watch on a daily basis, and they’d be very likely to recommend it to a friend. And, of the five test participants who had used other smartwatches before, all five preferred the Apple Watch.

    Have you gotten to play with the Apple Watch yet? How was your user experience? Tell us about it in the comments below.