I Bought an Apple Watch as a Gift. It Turned into a Tech-Support Setup Nightmare

Originally published at: I Bought an Apple Watch as a Gift. It Turned into a Tech-Support Setup Nightmare - TidBITS

No good deed goes unpunished. Josh Centers bought an Apple Watch for a relative who had heart surgery but ended up spending many hours getting it set up.

I don’t have ECG on my AW3 but soon after I bought my watch I visited my family doctor who noticed the watch and asked if he could see the heart rate data on my iPhone. It was just for his own interest at the time but useful to know that doctors are aware of these data.


First, my deepest sympathies on what you went through. This kind of experience is far from Apple-like, and Apple needs to do some serious work on the Watch experience to prevent nightmares like this from happening.

I just want to comment on one thing you said: “There’s a good reason we keep encouraging TidBITS readers to install watchOS updates at night.” That isn’t a guarantee things will go ok. Watch updates frequently time out or just fail during the process, only to find this out in the morning when you wake up. I find they must be monitored closely, so I won’t do mine at night.

I have a love-hate relationship with the Watch. I love using it but absolutely hate it when it has to be updated.

My response to stories like this is always, “Whatever…”

If many or most or the vast majority of Apple watch users experienced these issues sales would have dropped to zero by now. But sales continue to rise and the Apple watch dominates the smartwatch market. Yes, outlier stories like this one are sad, stressful tales but are not in any way the “norm”. If the intent of the story was to claim Apple watches are too difficult to operate then it falls short.

The point wasn’t to show that Apple Watches are too difficult to operate, but if you’re considering buying one for a loved one, there are a number of potential headaches that you may not anticipate. Now that the Apple Watch is set up, everything is hunky-dory.

1 Like

Ah, you were punished alright! Never, ever, touch another’s iPhone (or any iDevice) that Apple designed for individuals. Best prod them to the Apple store and let Genius bar handle it. I’ve been there and yes, good deed it was, horror it ended. (e.g. 9400 images never, ever, backed up…and halfway through, well, some mp4 crashed iTunes on backing up-every time…but by some mysterious force, the images were transferred, and 4 hours later, a new SE 2nd gen was running well and working without a hitch and the user didn’t lose anything. I, however, lost significant timer and energy)

Also, buying a later generation Apple product, based on “deal” is not a good idea with how storage and updates get applied. We think 16GB is enough, but reality is that, like the old days of a 27" is really 26" means that with Apple’s products, they fail to warn the buyer that, "16GB is really 11.5GB after the original iOS, is free. Then there are apps. And after that, whatever the user stores (texts, images, music, books, movies, contacts, notes, bookmarks and hidden files like cookies, caches, …). And every iOS upgrade has incrementally increased in a GB or more. So even a minimalist user of a 16GB iphone will usually have about 2GB free after 3-4 years. The iOS update will always be more than what is free, if not maintained.
So the lesson here was that Josh missed that “you need at least an iPhone 6s or later with iOS 13 to paired with an Apple Watch Series 5”. And if the iPhone 6s was not on iOS13, the question is Why Not?… going from 11 to 14 is a MAJOR leap and being you were only thinking of kindness, this is why punishment was the result. (I know it too well that now I just offer verbal advice…take it or leave it).

@ Elijah Baley : I think his story is valid warning to not getting involved supporting someone-with cavaets, and that Apple’s design and sales of iPhone storage is impractical (by not upgrading every year or two, whether iOS or larger capacity model, will eventually cause headaches).
(LOL…Josh just responded…)

When I upgraded to an Apple Watch 4, I passed my Apple Watch 2 to my brother-in-law. When I visited him a few weeks later, he complained that the watch would not wake up when he flicked his wrist and that he wasn’t getting any haptics for notifications. (Note: he previously had an original Apple Watch so he was familiar with what should have happened).

After looking at the watch for several minutes, I realized that the theater mask icon was visible at the top of the watch face. So the problem was that the watch was in Theater Mode. He, of course, had never deliberately played with the Control Center. So, it turned into a nice learning opportunity.

1 Like

Looking at all the info on the face of the Apple Watch, and how incredibly small all the type and icons are, I wonder how anyone with vision problems (at any age) can read, let alone decipher, everything displayed? I have to use my reading glasses every time I use my iPhone (and that’s using a lot of Accessibility features). How can anyone even see these miniscule-sized icons and abbreviations? Especially someone who is not particularly Apple-savvy?

I found switching from contacts and reading glasses to progressive lenses in my glasses made a world of difference. There is also a setting (in Watch > Accessibility) to make text more bold, which helps a lot.

1 Like

The legibility of the tiny watch face should be a factor in buying a watch as a surprise present (as well as the heartache of setting it up for them).
BTW - I recommend that you both see (!) an ophthalmologist as you might be developing cataracts. I had both eyes fixed a few years ago and am delighted to not have to wear multi-focal specs or contacts. And I can read my watch face without having to put on reading glasses (to get back on topic : )

My condolences, if that’s the right term…

I myself, on the other hand, have had great success gifting an AW 5 to my elderly mother, who turned… 90 two months ago. But then she’s long been interested in ‘iTech’, in fact even refers to her iDevices as ‘iToys’, no joke!

The difference here, though, is that I was the one who had set up all iterations of her various iToys as well as my father’s, so adding an AW with cellular — after she fainted and took a fall at the local CVS back in January (to which she had driven herself alone :scream:) — seemed only logical.

What’s more, since she has mitral valve prolapse, the ECG app has come in really handy. Last I checked about three weeks ago, the Health app on her iPhone had recorded 5 AF incidents since May, which info can be shared with her cardiologist readily by email from the phone.

And as “ace” has suggested, I had also changed the text setting under Settings/Accessibility to largest size and bold — which I had already done on my own AW — so legibility has not been an issue for my mother at all.

Finally, since she really uses only a handful of apps on the AW (or even on her iPhone), it was very easy to set up the Infograph watch face for her. Aside from the Calendar, ECG, Heart Rate, Phone and Messages complications, she can contact my father and her 2 favorite children directly with one touch. Which affords us kids (as well as our father) considerable peace of mind — especially since she never has her phone on her when working in the garden, for example!

While I don’t know how ‘typical’ such a setup might be for most families with elderly members, I do know it is a serious commitment. But I do believe such a commitment even more worthwhile in these crazy Covid times, when we must do our utmost to minimize exposure to those with heightened risks.


My wife who almost never wears a watch told me she wanted an Apple Watch for Christmas. Her friend has one and she decided she wanted one also. I told her I wasn’t not very thrilled with the idea because I did not want to become a tech support for her watch. She already has an iPad and iPhone that I have to maintain and all I need is another device. I don’t even have a smart watch myself. Fortunately, it did not take much convincing. She quickly decided she’d rather have some new clothes instead.

I would buy my wife an Apple Watch if she wanted one. We live together, so that’s easier. I pay for her iPhone, so that’s a bit less stressful for me. And, most importantly, I know she keeps her iPhone up to date, so that wouldn’t be an issue. I also insist on getting her iPhones with a bit more storage than she might think she needs. And she had a Series 0 so it wouldn’t be a completely new experience for her.

If only she’d get that Windows laptop instead, life would be so much easier for you!

I gave one to my wife. Never. had any of those problems. Lucky I guess.

1 Like

It might be more accurate to say that the Apple Watch Is Not A Great Gift for people who need your help setting it up. Josh, you can buy me an Apple Watch any time you like. I guarantee you that you will have no subsequent hassles at all. I’ll take full responsibility. And be grateful for your generosity.

1 Like

I was half expecting during the iPhone 6S section for you to say something like “…so I gave-up in utter frustration at the lack of storage, caved-in and bought her a new iPhone as well!” haha :smiley:
But clearly that would have been a rather expensive (and entirely unrealistic) undertaking for most people!

Great story, though.

I still can’t find a use in my life for an Apple Watch yet. Each year I check them out on their release, but especially right now being stuck at home most of the time (and for the foreseeable future), I don’t really need most of the functionality right now, either. I also don’t like that carriers want to charge extra for using cellular versions (I’d likely want), when I’ve paid for loads of data already. :roll_eyes:

Similar goings-on with my car, as it It happens… I sold my previous one in Aug last year (2019) thinking I’d get a newer (likely electric) one, now we have fairly decent on-street charging infrastructure (including right outside my home: bonus!).

But decided to try relying exclusively on public transport and my cheap-ish folding electric bicycle in London for a few months before thinking about a replacement car early in 2020, to see the cost savings vs. usage. Then Covid hit, so was stuck mostly at home anyway, and now with social distancing restrictions in place and cycling lanes being hurriedly built-out, traffic across the city is truly awful (and that’s saying something, given it’s pretty bad in ‘normal’ times, already!). Although I like driving and the convenience for some routes, one thing I quickly leant is that not running your own car saves A LOT of money, for sure – and affordable car clubs exist nearby for quick hire for those times when one is needed (~$10/hr, all in!).

You can cycle quicker than driving, and longer distances public transport is plenty available – so looks like no car for me until late 2021, at least. Although the rain is fun (not!) – luckily folding bikes like mine are allowed 24/7 on all public transport, so there is that. :wink:

I should add that I fully appreciate this is simply not an option in many rural places and elsewhere (I used to live in the countryside) – especially across a country the huge size of the US, where large distances are often regularly covered. But for large city dwellers it may be a possibility, to suite ones own personal preference (never mind the ‘green’ aspects).

One of the big selling points from the beginning for an Apple Watch for me was the ability to pay via Apple Pay with just a double tap and flip of my wrist. Where you are, it seems that contactless payments have been widespread for longer than in the States; so it’s even nicer to pay without needing to grab anything from a pocket. With Express Transit Pay, you don’t even need to double tap --just place your wrist over the reader and your designated card will be charged. I found it very handy on using busses the the Underground in London.

@aforkosh - Yes you’re absolutely right, Apple Pay & Express Transit are useful on the Watch. But then both of those are pretty easily available on iPhone too, and I often have my iPhone out doing something anyway. So unless something else attains my interest, I guess it’ll be a while.

…although, I did see these (bit pricy: US: $180/$250 / UK: £150/£200) Lumos bike helmets on Apple’s website that use the Watch so…maybe, if I can justify the price+watch (£650) vs. just a standard helmet at £30!?

My wife and I got them a year ago as the series 5 was the first one we thought was even close to being worth the expense. We’ve both found them much more useful than we thought they would be…texts, timers, exercise and reminders have made them worth it for us…we were talking yesterday about how much more useful they are than what we thought originally.