October 2015 Issue  Volume 16  Number 10

Book Reviews

Watching Without Looking: A VoiceOver User's First Month With the Apple Watch, by Anna Dresner

For as long as there have been iOS devices available with built-in accessibility for people who are blind, it seems that there have been books by Anna Dresner to help us learn to use these cool gadgets. Her Getting Started With the iPhone series from National Braille Press has, for many of us, been the voice of calm reassurance in a world of flicks, scrubs, and taps. Just when we thought we had the whole Apple iOS thing figured out, Apple released an entirely new product--the Apple Watch. From the first day that Apple began talking about this amazing new, ultra-hip fashion statement, the blind community began to ask itself whether or not this new product would be as accessible as other recent offerings from the company. As most of us predicted, Apple did indeed build accessibility into the Apple Watch right from the get-go. At $349 for the small Sport edition of the Watch, people quickly turned from the question of accessibility to that of practical application. Would a person really use the watch? How good was VoiceOver accessibility on the watch, anyway? Where was that calm, reassuring presence to help us sort out the confusion when we needed it most?

It didn't take long for the community to start getting answers. Podcasts such as David Woodbridge's Apple Watch 101 series on AppleVis began to answer the most pressing questions. Over time, various other members of the blind community began purchasing Apple Watches and sharing their impressions. Finally, out of the confusion and chaos, the book we had all been waiting for emerged. Dresner has recently released a new, self-published book entitled Watching Without Looking . Costing only $10, this book is definitely worth considering for anyone who owns or is thinking about purchasing an Apple Watch and who needs assistance in becoming familiar with the product. Available in EPUB format, the book can be read using iBooks, Voice Dream Reader, and the Victor Reader Stream, just to name a few options.

Apple Watch from a Personal Perspective

In Watching Without Looking, Dresner returns to a writing style that has served her well in previous books. She shares her first 30 days with the Apple Watch through journaling. She manages to capture the spontaneity of a personal journal, while being careful to alert the reader to the fact that a particularly frustrating problem recorded in her journal was eventually fixed by an update to the Apple Watch OS. She does all this in a style that is not confusing, or jarring in any way.

Dresner thoroughly covers purchasing, unboxing, and setting up the Apple Watch at the beginning of the book where one might expect this information to be placed. She saves a detailed discussion of the physical layout of the watch for a later section of the book--a structure that might make a reader that she will not cover this information adequately. Not to worry, however. Dresner leaves no stone unturned.

Watching without Looking strives to answer many of the questions that readers most want to know. Is it possible to check the time using vibration patterns in a busy meeting rather than using VoiceOver speech? According to Dresner, it is not possible to do so at this time. This is just one example of the many practical questions that are answered in this reference.

Dresner provides many examples of how she uses the Apple Watch in her daily life. Whether it was a gentle reminder to stand up and move around during the day, or gentle taps on the wrist from the watch to help her with turn-by-turn directions to a local donut shop, the watch was a constant companion throughout her day.

The beauty of Dresner's journaling style of writing in Watching Without Looking is a compelling, easy-to-read snapshot of one person's initial experiences with the Apple Watch. The downside of this style of writing is that much of what was true for Dresner may no longer be true for the person using a later version of the Apple Watch operating system. Dresner takes care of this problem by providing many resources in her reference. She makes special mention of the Apple Watch 101 series mentioned earlier, as well as help received from Dr. Robert Carter of the Tech Doctor Podcast. Along with the many references provided in the book, there are also carefully detailed sections on various aspects of configuring and using the Apple Watch. Many of these sections of the book are not likely to change any time soon. The markup in the EPUB text is quite good, so it is easy to move through main sections and subsections of the book in order to quickly and easily locate areas of interest.

Other Perspectives On the Apple Watch

The cost of the Apple Watch is not insignificant, and many readers who are considering the purchase of one of these devices might like opinions from other sources besides Dresner's book. Jonathan Mosen recently wrote a blog post about his experiences with the Apple Watch. He mentions that some apps are slow to respond, a fact that Dresner also acknowledges. Mosen also laments the lack of a way to tell time using haptic feedback. Finally, he seems to have had better results with the fitness aspects of the watch than did Dresner. As someone who wears hearing aids, Mosen provides an interesting perspective on the reasons why a person who uses hearing aids would use an iPhone versus the Apple Watch.

In addition to Jonathan Mosen's excellent blog post, AppleVis has devoted a section of its site to the subject of getting started with your first Apple Watch. In addition to David Woodbridge's excellent Apple Watch 101 podcasts, you will find a blog post entitled "An In-Depth Look At Apple Watch Accessibility Features." Finally, AppleVis editorial team member Michael Hansen has written an article entitled "Apple Watch Review: A Device I Don't Need But Wouldn't Want to Be Without." In this piece, Hansen goes into quite a bit of discussion regarding the various bands available for the Apple Watch--a subject that Dresner discusses in her book, but not in the detail that Hansen goes into in his article. Like Dresner, Hansen devotes quite a bit of detail to various aspects of setting up the Apple Watch. One particularly interesting section of Hansen's article talks about a morning when he was forced to not wear the watch for a few hours so that it could charge. Hansen says that he was surprised at how much he missed not having the watch on his arm, even for just a couple hours of the day.

The Bottom Line

Apple is showing serious commitment to its newest product, and there is no doubt that the Apple Watch is here to stay. If you are considering the purchase of an Apple Watch, or perhaps you simply wish to stay abreast of the latest developments in both mainstream and accessible technology, Watching Without Looking is a book definitely worth adding to your library. Priced at $10, and available in EPUB format, this book is well written, well organized, and provides many resources for further exploration. Those resources plus the ones included in this article should give you plenty of material to consider when thinking about the Apple Watch, and whether it is right for you.

Product Information

Watching Without Looking: A VoiceOver User's First Month With the Apple Watch, by Anna Dresner

Available From: Watching without Looking
Price: $10

Available Format: EPUB

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