I was 8 years old, in the early nineties standing outside iconic British retailer Argos with pocket money I had saved, and I was ready to make a purchase. I was about to buy a watch. This watch was no ordinary digital watch. It had a built in headphone jack and FM radio.
For me, owning this watch would be a glimpse into the future. No heavy Walkman bigger than my hands, but something that played music from my wrist.
In truth, it was rubbish. Poor reception, the dial to change station was difficult to turn and it turns out having a headphone cable hanging between your ears and your wrist means it gets caught on everything you walk past. But, there was something there.
My first iPod was a Nano bought in about 2005-6. It had 1GB or storage and sounded great. But 1GB gets filled quickly and soon enough I had an 80GB iPod Classic. I’ve also had Shuffles and other Nanos over the years. Trouble was, it was always something extra to carry along with your phone. I remember having a car dash mount to hold both my massive phone and my massive iPod. It was massive and I sometimes wondered how I managed to see out of the windscreen.
So fast forward to 2015. I got the original Apple Watch. It was great and I still have it. I didn’t really use it much for music though as it was too slow.
The Series 2 was much better in terms of speed. Storage was the same as the original at 2GB. Enough for short walks or workouts.
Then came the Series 3. Or more specifically, the Series 3 with Cellular. The cellular version has 8GB of storage which is a considerable upgrade.
True, you can stream over cellular now, but I’ve found the quality to not be quite as good as storing music on the watch.
So now I have an iPod on my wrist. Music comes from playlists I’ve made in Apple Music and I have plenty of tracks on there. Syncing is painfully slow, but I tend to leave this going overnight.
Initially I paired this with my Bose QC 35s, then the Beats X earphones and now AirPods. Whilst AirPods have zero noise isolation they are fantastic. So easy to use and no pairing each time I want to listen to music.
I think as much as the Apple Watch has been a learning curve for me in terms of how it fits into my life and routines, it’s been equally so for Apple. Initially touted as a Smartwatch with apps, messaging and fitness features, it’s primary focus now is a health and fitness device. This is probably the right move as a wrist-based device will never replace the convenience of the phone. I do think though, that there’s an opportunity to make more of this as a music-playing device too.
Watch OS4 made it easier to access music controls, but I think there are ways to improve this further.
- Controls Access. Weirdly, you can swipe from the right and force press to change the watch face. This seems a bit of a waste of a gesture. How about swiping right from the watch face to access music playback controls?
- Artwork Display – It would be nice if album art could be displayed somehow on a refreshed playback screen.
- Apple Music Watch face anyone?
- More than 8GB music storage on the next generation watch.
- A dedicated Podcast app with on-device playback.
- An easier way to access the track list of a playlist, instead of the very small icon in the corner.
- Use scribble-typing to search for songs on Apple Music, not just Siri.
With the release of the HomePod in the next couple of days, I’m hoping that it’ll be just as easy to stream playback from the watch too.
There’s something quite brilliant about using the Apple Watch as a music playing device. I can’t quite pinpoint what it is, but somehow, it’s fun. It takes me back to 8 year old me with my lousy FM radio watch all those years ago. We got there in the end.
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