The Apple Watch Returns to My Wrist

After about two months, my Apple Watch is back on my wrist.

Until this afternoon, I'd been itching to start wearing my watch again after going so long without it. The introduction of watchOS 3 at WWDC last week only intensified the yearning, so I'm glad to be wearing my watch once again.

But before putting the watch back on, I wanted to conduct a little experiment first. I wanted to see how easy it was going to be getting the watch on my right wrist. Ever since Apple Watch debuted last year, I've worn it on my dominant hand—my left—because it's felt the most comfortable. It's worked well, but there's always been a caveat: I've always had to use magnetic bands such as the Leather and Milanese Loops because they're obviously the easiest to put on. Again, it's worked well for the most part, but isn't without its warts.

There have been two problems. First and foremost, the Leather Loop I wore most of the time I think caused me to break out into a pretty annoying rash. It's healed now, but my doctor advised me to not wear the watch for a while (hence the lede to this post) and to seek another material that isn't leather.

I could've swapped in my Milanese Loop, but I really didn't want to wear it day after day. The watch is supposed to be a fashion statement too, right? So, in search of a solution, I decided to try wearing my watch on my other wrist. What a novel idea! I figured doing so wouldn't irritate the location of my rash and, most importantly, I'd be wearing my watch again. (Seriously, not having it for so long made me appreciate the power it really holds.)

This leads me to the second problem: the band. Wearing the watch on my left wrist, while comfortable, yields a significant accessibility problem for me. Something like the Sport band is virtually out of the question as a choice unless I have someone help me put it on. This is due to the partial paralysis on the right side of my body, caused by cerebral palsy. Put simply, my fingers just aren't nimble enough to hold down the pin side of the band while simultaneously bringing the hole-y side over to match the pin. This goes for any of the other bands that require multiple steps for fastening, like the classic buckle or nylon band.

Which brings us back to the aforementioned experiment. Since I already decided to put the watch on my right wrist, I thought a good litmus test would be that wretched Sport band. So, today I went downtown to the new Apple Store in Union Square and bought a Sport band in royal blue. I brought my watch with me, so after paying for it, I removed my Leather Loop and put the Sport band on.

Now the moment of truth. I put the watch on my wrist, holding down the pin side while bringing up the hole-y side to match. Success! I was able to get the watch on my wrist by myself without too much hassle. The process still is a bit fiddly, but the important thing is I got the damn watch on my wrist without assistance. The watch feels weird on the other side, but I'm going to give it a few days to see if it ends up feeling normal. The obvious benefits to this setup are that (a) my dominant hand is free; and (b) interacting with the screen is easier with my strong hand, particularly when entering my passcode.

I'm going to live with this for a while and see how it goes, but for as successful as this little endeavor was, it's underscored a big drawback to Apple's watch bands. While the Sport band now is a viable option for me now that I'm using my strong hand to fasten it, it shows that people with fine-motor delays like myself really have limited options in terms of bands. For many people, the magnetic bands could very well be the only choices for pragmatic and independence reasons. That's a narrow scope, unless you're okay with switching wrists or you don't mind getting help.

I'd like to see Apple get even more creative with materials and logistics in this context. Maybe make Velcro more elegant, I don't know. The magnetic bands that exist today are great, but aren't the greatest if you want to go for a more sporty look or get a workout in.

The accessibility aspect of Apple Watch bands is an overlooked part of the watch as a whole. My story has a happy ending, but just as Apple creates bands for different looks and occasions, so too should they be created with accessibility in mind.