Apple Watch battery

Do Apple Watch owners suffer “range anxiety”, in the same manner as electric car owners? In my experience, yes, but it fades quite quickly once expectations and experience collide and settle down.

For my usage so far – albeit just a week and a half – my 42mm watch generally has more than 50% left when I hit the sack, having been on my wrist approx 06:45 to 23:00. Given that I have no qualms at all about charging it every night, that’s pretty good, and better than a lot of scare stories had led me to expect. Of course if I was going camping for a week it would be utterly useless, but I accept that it’s just not the right product for that scene.

How much do I really use it though? I don’t stare at it all day long, especially as the novelty starts to wear off. Apple are correct: its rightful place in the world is for fleeting interactions lasting just a few seconds, and I have quickly settled into that very casual relationship with it. Right now, I use it to:

  • check the time (obviously)
  • check the weather
  • to see what song is playing on my iPhone when I don’t recognise it
  • to see incoming messages and tweets (but very rarely to respond to them)
  • to snooze/dismiss calendar alerts
  • to quickly set a timer for an ad-hoc reminder
  • to take incoming calls, before getting my iPhone out and switching to that – but I hope to get out of that habit
  • for running (much more about that in a future post)
  • for keeping tabs on general activity via Apple’s ‘Activity’ app with its all-knowing three circles

I’ve had one day where the battery ran out prematurely. Very prematurely, at 1830! That morning I’d gone for a 5km run using Apple’s built-in ‘Workout’ app – my first and only time with that app so far – which had knocked the battery down to 84% by 0700. That actually didn’t seem too bad for the run itself, since it was working hard keeping track of heart rate etc. but I still don’t understand how it came to expire later on, from being a mere 16% down at the start. Perhaps the battery level reporting was poor and when it said 84% it was actually much lower. Indeed when it flaked out, it was reporting 13% so maybe calibration was poor, and maybe I’m closer to the wire than I think when I go to bed with an apparently healthy percentage left. We’ll see how future experiments pan out.


The allure of being able to walk into an Apple Store, try one on and get instant purchasing gratification was just too much, and I caved. Having decided to get an Apple Watch to develop apps against, but never having actually liked the look of them, my opinion changed the moment I fondled one in the store. The quality feel is simply exceptional and it was immediately comfortable on my wrist, but the best and most surprising thing was the size.

I don’t have large wrists but the larger 42mm watch sits very nicely indeed. It is definitively not a hefty lump of technology struggling to masquerade as a watch. And I say that because I had expected it to be ungainly and oversized, based on my limited experience of Android devices.

But how have they achieved this? Wonders of electronic miniaturisation of course, with miserly power consumption allowing for a tinier battery than the competition. But that’s not the most cunning part in my opinion.

The crucial trick was to employ a rectangular screen and a user interface with a black background. This affords many subtle wins over much of the competition!

Rectangular screen

Many Android watches have gone for a circular screen – which best mirrors the classic round watch look. But it’s hard to use the circular space efficiently for displaying information other than a clock face. Apple’s rectangular screen is (comparatively) easy to fill up with well-spaced information, even though it’s tiny. To show a block of text on a circular screen means lots of wasted curved scraps of space. As a developer I’m glad I don’t have to create apps for circular screens!

Black background – black bezel

The Apple Watch user interface employs a black background throughout, which merges seamlessly into the black bezel around the screen, with the glass wrapping over both. The shine of the curved glass edge and the super-deep black of the OLED screen means it really is an invisible transition. This means that the user interface elements can run right out to the edges and corners of the screen, without requiring any padding to space them pleasingly away from those edges. The physical bezel outside the screen is that padding.

Again, this maximises the usable space whilst keeping the package small. Competing watches that have a distinct bezel have to inset UI elements and so a surprising amount of power-draining screen real-estate is wasted.

Also, with an OLED screen, a black background is directly better for power consumption, as each pixel is individually illuminated (there is no separate backlight) and black pixels consume the least power.

UI tricks to maintain the illusion

The ‘home screen’ is a hexagonal grid of circular icons, which immediately diffuses the rectilinear reality. The most cunning part of all though is how the icons smoothly shrink down to nothing as they approach the physical limits of the screen. This stops them being chopped off at the straight edge and so maintains the inky black illusion.


Elsewhere in the user interface, elements with non-black backgrounds are heavily rounded. Of course the screen edges reveal themselves when scrolling vertically through content, or sideways between glances, but those are usually fairly brief transitions, and the illusion can only go so far.

Bonus: no lugs

Unrelated to the points above, but worth mentioning for its vital impact on the sense of size, the strap connects to the case seamlessly via Apple’s custom attachment (all the better to sell you expensive replacements) but this negates the need for two lugs top and bottom, sticking out and increasing the height of the device.

Finally, some amateur prognostication

As smart phones evolved it turned out that telephony was way down on the list of real users’ activities. There will probably be a similar story with ‘smart watches’, with years of exciting evolution ahead, not just for the raw technology but to establish a successful form and function. It’s anthropology as much as it is technology. People’s habits and expectations, and fashion too will evolve alongside the gadgets.

Right now many vendors are trying to replicate the traditional watch in form, it being the obvious starting point, but I predict that we’ll quickly move on from that as people get used to having their digital lives reflected in miniature on their wrists. One of the clock faces that Apple provides is named “Modular”  – shown in the image at the top of this post – and is a very utilitarian grid of configurable information. At first I didn’t like it, but already it has won me over and I find it striking how far I’ve already been moved away from the traditional watch. Once again, the rectangular format plays well to this direction.

On the fashion front, I notice in the mirror that the Apple Watch on my wrist is a featureless, glossy black blob on a black strap when it’s not illuminated. This is quite a departure from the aesthetic of a traditional watch, and right now I’m not especially keen on it. But before long that will be an accepted norm that doesn’t seem strange or out of place.

Who knows – maybe my thoughts here are completely out of whack with what Apple were thinking. It’ll be interesting to see how things develop.


Ford Focus Econetic

The setup

Ordinarily I drive a mark 2 Skoda Octavia estate (07 plate, 2.0 TDI) which I rate extremely highly and may just be the perfect family car. According to Wikipedia, “Auto Express awarded to the second-generation Octavia the gold medal in their prestigious Driver Power top 100, stating that it is “the UK’s most satisfying car to own in 2007” and that it “has bettered every other car on sale in the UK”.

Of course this isn’t a review of my Skoda, but of the latest generation Ford Focus that I had for a week whilst the Skoda was in the garage for a new turbo (it’s done over 100k miles, but that’s still a bit early frankly). However the Octavia bears special mention because that’s what the Ford is up against in my affections and it’s a gold standard as far as I’m concerned. How does Ford’s finest fare?

The lovely people at St Albans Car and Van Hire gave us a silver 1.6 Focus Econetic, which is the super-eco version of the line-up. I say gave, but there were no favours here and we paid the going price. I find the technological push for frugality absolutely fascinating and I think that the car industry is going through a huge change in this decade, more so than any other in living memory, so I was fascinated to see what the Econetic version could do. I’m going to undermine my own limited review by linking to the What Car version, because it’s got the juicy details on the spec of the car, and it’s a great review regardless. The key facts however are: 1.6 litre diesel developing 104bhp with stop/start tech and only 88g/km emissions. There are various other tweaks to eek out the economy (eekonomy?) such as optimised gearing, active aero flap in the front grille etc.

Initial impressions

Credit where it’s due – it’s a sexy car. However I reserve a special distaste for silver cars and the people that buy them. Take a look in any car park these days and you’ll notice that it’s almost entirely monochrome, with silver especially popular amongst the imagination-challenged masses. Take the same look at a classic car rally and marvel at the wondrous palette! Rant over. It’s not Ford’s fault, though they do have form here – “any colour as long as it’s black”?

Ford Focus interior

Looks on the outside don’t entirely translate to the inside, which to me feels a touch cramped and surprisingly cheap to the touch. Hard plastics in the areas that you touch the most, rather than softer, more luxurious finishes. Various bits of trim were also coming away, though maybe that’s just hire cars for you. Still, the interior’s not bad and it wouldn’t especially stop me buying the car.

Eco awesome?

The engine and drivetrain is perhaps the most interesting part of this particular model. I’m the biggest fan of stop / start systems, which in this case automatically switches off the engine when at rest with the handbrake on and the clutch up. Imagine your favourite crowded city centre with centuries old road layout and traffic crawling through it. Now imagine the same but with all the engines switched off whilst the cars aren’t going anywhere. Breathe in the sweet, pure air! I rather suspect that in ten years, when perhaps the majority of cars on the road will sport this technology, the difference will be tangible and wonderful.

In the Focus it really does work seamlessly, with the engine firing up quickly when you depress the clutch,  which means that by the time you’ve got the hand brake off and are bringing the clutch back up again, everything’s ready to go. No fear of being left on the line. This is nitpicking of the highest order, but the one thing I did notice is that the diesel engine does a little Postman Pat’s van shudder as it dies and when it sparks into life. That’s physics for you, as rotating masses slow down and stop, but if they could make it disappear then the whole experience would be impressively refined.

I’m sure they can work on that slight shudder, but overall the engine is actually decidedly smoother than the agricultural 2.0 in my Skoda, which sounds like a tractor a lot of the time. That’s the one thing I’d fix if I had a magic wand. Really the Ford’s diesel is very smooth and just provides a whoosh of power without accompanying sound effects, and this for me was the biggest category-win in the battle. Don’t forget however that the Ford is 9 years newer than the Skoda model in question.

Refinement aside, the power may whoosh but it doesn’t dazzle. I found that first and second gear were great with plenty of point and squirt fun, but then performance fell off a cliff rather disappointingly. I suspect economy-oriented gearing here, not to mention the disadvantaged 104bhp vs 140 in the Skoda, though I still harbour a desire for the 170 of the vRS Octavia. That said, the lack of serious oomph wasn’t problematic and I’d have got used to it perfectly well. That 88g/km figure doesn’t come for free obviously and it does genuinely worry me that my great big usual diesel is choking the world with it’s particulate heavy exhaust. Still, no more big clouds of black smoke out of the back under acceleration with the new turbo now fitted!


It’s not an estate, but I’m still a bit surprised that Ford’s flagship everyman car doesn’t have more room and more of those nice little touches that I’ve been getting used to from Skoda, and Alfa before that. The boot is positively tiny if you ask me, but maybe I’ve been spoiled. I get the impression that with a space saver tyre you get more depth, and with no spare at all (just some plasters and a four-leaf clover) you gain quite a lot more. Ours had a full-size spare but peering underneath the car showed several inches of unused vertical space between the bottom of it’s well and the effective ‘floor’ of the car. I suppose this must be a packaging issue with the suspension, but it still seemed to me that it ought to be possible to drop that wheel space by four inches and make a massive gain and it seems like a win worth going after on the engineering front.


It’s a properly decent car and drives beautifully, with a surprisingly high-up driving position and great refinement of the power-train. Lack of urgency is mostly made up for by its eco credentials, though I didn’t have enough time to judge fuel economy. I get about 56mpg on long trips in the Skoda, which is pretty decent I reckon given the size of the engine, but the Ford claims 83mpg which would be stellar if true. If they could just amp-up the interior quality and thoughtfulness then as as long as you don’t require a large boot, this would be a hard car to fault.

I have blogged on my employer’s blog about the simple, but relatively featureful, Knockout.js page router that I whipped up recently. The core router.js file is only 61 lines but is packaged up into a nice demo app, src on GitHub, that you can just clone, then double click index.html to see it working (no server required).