Another Apple Watch application

Siri Alarm

I have had another important use of my Apple Watch this week as we returned back to school.

Notifications (text message and e-mail) have become more important now that I am teaching, and a quick glance to my wrist quickly lets me know if I need to respond to something.  Being married and having kids, you are always a little worried about mid-day text messages from your wife, especially those that say, “Can you call me?”

The surprise Apple Watch feature this week has been a combination of Siri and Alarms.  Yes, alarms.

Our Middle School has no bells (other than start of the day and end of the day).  We have different schedules all the time.  So what I have done is this: at the end of one class, I raise my wrist, say, “Hey Siri, set an Alarm for 10:15” (or whatever the ending time of the next class is).

At 10:15, my watch dings, but more importantly, taps my wrist, and I know that I need to dismiss students.

I would have never done this on the iPad or the iPhone…it was just too cumbersome to haul out and to set alarms (although you could use Siri there, too).  But this is a case where the watch really wins and has helped me in my job.  There is a peace of mind not having to look at your watch OR watch a clock on the wall–something I have never experienced in my 20 years of teaching.

What an elegant and useful solution.

On an unrelated note, I end up taking nearly 6000 steps at school each day, not even trying to do so!



What can you do with an Apple Watch? (Sung to the tune of “What can you do with an drunken sailor”)


There have been a number of posts recently about what you can do with an Apple Watch.  I have had mine a little over a week now.  My primary goal was to get it to get moving again–and I have been doing that.  The lowest I have had the watch–when I charge it at night–was 13%, and that was on July 4th when I was up far longer than normal.

Here is a list of things I have been doing with the watch…

  1. Tracking exercise (steps, exercise, and standing)
  2. Notification and response to text messages
  3. Reading e-mails (From Spark Mail)
  4. Testing the various music apps (from my previous post about the Apple Watch)
  5. Siri
  6. Paying by Apple Pay (NFC).  It flips the salespeople out.  One McDonald’s worker nearly hyperventilated–and I’m not kidding
  7. Set an alarm (the “ding” alarm almost didn’t wake me up–I incorporated the “ding” into my dream for a while)
  8. Set a countdown timer
  9. Check the weather
  10. Receiving notifications about an Apple Maps route (it taps you before the expected turns)
  11. Controlled my Apple TV
  12. Controlled audio playback
  13. Controlled podcast playback (with Overcast)
  14. Customized watch faces (and have used about 4 so far)
  15. “Pinged” my phone (just to see if it works–I usually know where my phone is)
  16. Tracked my heart rate
  17. Used the camera app as a remote to take a picture of my wife and I (With the Glif smart phone mount and a mini tripod)
  18. Used the watch as a Tip Calculator (Calcbot)
  19. Received a weather alert (Tornado Watch tonight, in fact)
  20. Controlled a Keynote presentation (just to show I could)
  21. Tracked exercise (different than the 3 bands): bicycling and elliptical
  22. Checked baseball scores (At Bat)
  23. Looked at photos (yes, they are SMALL)
  24. Tracked my son’s chores with ChoreMonster
  25. Made Dick Tracy type phone calls (this works surprisingly well)

The Apple Watch works well if you want a fitness device that does far more than a FitBit, as long as you are not interested in your sleep patterns (FitBit and Misfit track sleep).  The Apple Watch really shines when it comes to motivating you to move (it really does–if you are the kind of person who buys an Apple Watch, you will also be the kind of person who wants to see all 3 bands completed), and with notifications.  The Apple Maps integration is the feature that was most surprising to me.  I thought I wouldn’t care, in reality, it is a nice addition.

The Apple watch also shines in any situation where a quick interface works well–Apple TV, controlling audio playback, controlling a Keynote, and so on.  Even the Chipotle app is perfect because it takes a saved order (assuming you like the same thing) and allows you to order it with a single press.  Any time a Staples “Easy” button would work–the Apple Watch works well.  And truly–Apple Pay on the watch is perfect.  Press the lower button twice, pull up the card, and turn your wrist to the NFC reader–and that’s it.  No phone, no card.

Where the Apple Watch doesn’t do well is in situations requiring a lot of text, such as e-mail and RSS readers (and yes, there are a lot of apps with Apple Watch functionality that fit these categories).  The digital crown (a nice feature–the Watch would look plain without it) does a nice job with scrolling (Sometimes I wish I had such a crown on my iPhone!), but the screen still isn’t ideal for text-heavy applications.   I would also like to be able to make the icons larger (I’m scrolling anyway), as sometimes I don’t press the right app button.

I did buy one accessory for my watch other than Apple Care–the watch really didn’t charge well on its side, so I bought a Belkin Apple Watch stand.

Is the Apple Watch worth it?  That is up to you.  I am hoping it is a catalyst for me to get back into shape, and if it does that, it would be worth its weight in gold (so far, so good).  Sure, I could have bought another fitness tracker, but the ones that are out there never appealed to me–and I’m unlikely to buy a Google Wear watch as I don’t own an Android SmartPhone.  I’m a week in, and my wife is already hinting at wanting one–and she used to be happy with her Misfit (it eventually fell out of its little holder and got lost) or her three month old FitBit.  She’s already ready to move to an Apple Watch, so that tells you something (remember–my wife is NOT a tech geek by any means).

[Note: My wife’s FitBit tells the time and notifies her of phone calls in addition to tracking steps and sleep.  I do not believe that her model tracks her heartbeat]

Apple Watch Apps for Music (Education, Performance, etc.)

Last night I broke down and purchased an Apple Watch.  You can finally purchase them at an Apple Store, and the Apple Store at the Mall of America has most of the models in stock (apparently, there are only a few stores in the country that sell the gold model).

As much as the Stainless Steel model appeals to me, it costs $200 more, and a recent article discussed how the glass screen (Apple Watch Sport) was actually better than the sapphire screen used in the Apple Watch or Apple Watch Edition in daylight.  As a result, I bought the cheapest 42mm watch I could purchase (space grey) with the 2 year Apple Care protection.  I think I will be ready to upgrade in two years.

There has been a lot written about the Apple Watch, and really, Jim Dalrymple’s recent review has pushed me over the edge with the purchase.  I need an external motivator to start getting in better health, and a Fitbit isn’t going to do that for me.

Yes, there are some different interactions with the watch that take a few minutes to learn.  There has been a lot of griping about the watch not being on “instantly” when you lift your wrist (it is almost instantaneous), as well as the sync time between the watch and various apps.

What you have to understand about the Apple Watch is that (for now, until Watch Kit 2.0 in the fall), it relies on the iPhone for data, so you have a temporary lag as the watch updates.  That said, it isn’t a long period of time, and I still wait for some web pages on computers longer than I have to wait for the Apple Watch to sync.

What is weird, for musicians, is that under Watch Kit 1.0, developers cannot utilize the Watch’s speaker or the haptic touch sensors in the back of the watch.  Therefore, things that would seemingly make sense on the Apple Watch (e.g. a metronome that taps you with the tempo instead of playing it) can’t be done.  You can get a piano app on the watch, but you need Bluetooth headphones or your iPhone to hear it.

My main use of the Apple Watch will never be for music purposes…I have larger devices for that (in fact, I hardly ever use my iPhone for music purposes–98% of my work is done on my iPad, and the other 2% is done on my MacBook).  So I want to make it clear that I didn’t buy this Apple Watch specifically for use with music–but that doesn’t mean that I’m not interested to see what it can do.

When you buy your Apple Watch, the Apple Watch App syncs all of the apps that you have on your iPhone that also have Apple Watch programming.  For me, this included apps like Feedly, The Weather Channel, and so on.As you download other apps (on your iPhone) that have Apple Watch programming, they are added to the watch.  Unlike the home screen with a permanent grid of the same apps, the Apple Watch apps appear as little “tiles” on an ever-growing sphere.  You can move apps (and delete them), but in general it isn’t too hard to find the app you want.

So far, I have downloaded about five iPhone apps that have Apple Watch programming included.  A quick search of the App Store will yield a number of metronomes, which mainly allow you to control the tempo and on/off from your Apple Watch–but still play through your iPhone.  I have also downloaded one Piano, one music game, and a version of GarageBand (not from Apple) called “Watch Band.”  These apps pretty much summarize what is available on the Apple Watch for musicians at this time.

Each of the apps requires the iPhone to produce sound (although I am told that you can attach Bluetooth headphones to the watch and listen that way–but you will never do that in front of a class).  Basically, these Apple watch apps simply run an iPhone app.  Fully functional, independent apps (that don’t need an Internet connection) will come with Watch Kit 2.0 this fall.

The apps I have tried:

You can watch the video I made showing these apps on the Apple Watch below.

Additionally:  Here is a list of other metronomes I did not download.  As you can see, it won’t be long before the App Store is flooded with apps (just as there are hundreds of metronomes on the App Store).  So for this brief moment in time, this post represents a nearly summative list of all Apple Watch apps that can be linked to music education & performance.  Again, functionality and performance will improve with Watch Kit 2.0 in the fall.

Other apps that might be of music-related interest: