So, let’s get the most burning question out of the way, is the Apple Watch a must-have?
At the current time, a smart watch (the Apple Watch included), is merely a ‘nice-to-have’, not a ‘must-have’. However, I would definitely classify the Apple Watch as a ‘very-nice-to-have’. Read on to find out why.
Just The Beginning
As the head of our software company, it is my job to predict and to create future trends. So, I am often purchasing newfangled gear while it is still in the early adoption stage; all in the name of, um, “research.”
In all seriousness, with what we do, the future needs to make its way into the essence of what we are brainstorming and creating today.
It is still early days for smart watches. What they are and what they will become is slowly coming into view. Companies are only now beginning to write new apps and expand smart watch capabilities.
That said, the Apple Watch is, arguably, the best smart watch on the market – and definitely worth the purchase for early adopters.
So, What Is It, Exactly?
Think of the Apple Watch as an extension of the iPhone; a second touch screen as well as a second set of buttons – all conveniently located on your wrist.
It tells time, of course. But, it is also capable of running slimmed down versions of apps (provided the app developer has created an Apple Watch version).
Your iPhone must be nearby for most of the Watch apps to be fully functional. But, some apps run just fine when you leave your phone behind.
Twenty or so apps come pre-installed, including Activity (a fitness tracker), Camera Remote, Mail, Maps, Messages, Phone, Photos, Remote, Wallet, and Weather.
Notable third party apps include Translator, AppInTheAir, Currency, and Uber. Others apps are available. Many more are in the works.
What Can It Do?
The Watch comes with a built-in speaker, microphone, pressure-sensitive touch screen, rotating crown wheel, side button, and a handful of sensors to measure heart rate, calories burned, steps taken, posture, etc.
When these these elements are used with creativity and ingenuity, the experience is quietly compelling.
For instance, when following turn-by-turn directions in Maps, the Watch gently pulses to let you know that your exit or turn is coming up – no need to look around for your phone. Nice.
The Watch rings when someone is calling your phone. With your phone stowed away, you can take the call entirely from the Watch, Dick Tracy style.
You can browse Instagram, read email, check the weather, view photos.
You can listen to your music, either with the built-in speaker or via Bluetooth headphones.
Remote can be used to control Apple TV, iTunes (on your computer); Camera Remote allows you to place your phone on a tripod, jump into the shot with your family and then snap the picture from your Watch. Or, for you selfie fanatics, you can prop the phone up in front of you and selfie-away…
Here are a few of the built-in watch faces (several of which can be customized).
You can change watch face elements, such as what details are shown, and where they are placed. These details can include the battery life indicator, date, moon phase, sunrise/sunset times, world clock, and shortcuts to apps (Activity, Alarm, Calendar, Timer, Stocks, Weather and others).
Most of the watch faces have an aspect of motion to them that would require a video to demonstrate.
Notice that the Utility and Chronograph faces warn me of my 9 am schedule conflict. Chronograph is the one I use the most because it can be customized to neatly display many of the details important to me.
Siri Is On The Apple Watch Too
Just raise your wrist and say, “Hey Siri,” or, press-and-hold the digital crown.
Siri can play music, get directions, change settings (for instance, turn on Airplane mode), call your mother, tell you the time, turn your home lights on/off, search the internet, setup an appointment or reminder, get directions, send a text message, and more…
Note that on the Watch, Siri is a tad slower to respond than on the iPhone. However, the dictation interpretation is spot on – as good as it currently gets.
The Fitness Tracker encourages you to stay physically active throughout the day. If you are sitting for too long, it suggests that you stand up for a bit. It also praises you when you have achieved certain exercise milestones (calories burned, steps taken, etc.).
Reaching for your phone, especially in meetings and other social settings, can be inconvenient, impolite, distracting. Throughout much of the day, the Apple Watch frees you from ever having to do so. How does it do that?
Notifications headed for your iPhone are routed to the Apple Watch. It is especially nice to be able to get info at a glance. Additionally, many notifications are actionable – a welcomed convenience.
The Watch displays a summary of each text message (email, SMS, Skype, etc.) as it arrives. You can reply to text messages using pre-defined responses such as ‘Yes, please’, ‘No’, ‘Thanks!’, ‘Not sure’, ‘In a meeting. Call you later?’ and others. Conveniently, based on the message content, the most relevant/likely responses are shown at the top of the list. Slick.
If the built-in responses do not suit your fancy, you can create custom responses of your own.
Paying at the register while pulling out neither wallet nor phone is super convenient. Simply double-click the side button and select the debit card to use. Easy.
It Tells Time
Lastly, since it is a watch, after all, the Apple Watch gives you one less reason to reach for your phone. And, I am happy to report that it tells time perfectly well.
Comfort & Build Quality
The bands are some of the best I have ever worn. Comfortable. Intuitive. That probably sounds silly when speaking about something as simple as a watch bad. However, it is amazing the amount of thought that has gone into them. The manner in which they buckle and unbuckle, even the manner in which they attach to the watch, itself: ingenious.
In fact, the build quality of the entire Apple Watch is immaculate, far and above any other smart watch to date.
The screen is very nice for a device of this size. It appears high enough in resolution; the blacks are deep; and the display is bright enough, even outdoors. Probably the only problem with the screen has to do with the fact that your own finger prints tend to spot it up after a while, requiring a frequent wipe down.
As a side note, the Apple Watch does not generate nearly the amount of staring and gawking that the Google Glass did when I would wear it. I consider that a good thing
In normal use, I am getting nearly two days between charges. Not bad. But, also, not great. I expect that if I used the music and video more, that would drop to a single day between charges. This compares favorably to the LG Watch Urbane (reviewed next).
A Few Tips and Tricks
If you’ve made the purchase (or plan to do so), here are a few tips:
- Use the Watch app on your iPhone to create custom responses for text messages, things that you would normally want to say.
- To prevent information overload, use the Watch app on your iPhone to switch off notifications from apps that are too chatty.
- Is your iPhone lost? On the Watch, slide up and press the phone icon. Your iPhone will emit a sound to let you know where it is.
- To take a screenshot, press the crown and power buttons simultaneously. The image will show up on in the Photos app on your phone.
- Double-tap on the crown to switch to the previous app.
For a more in-depth review, checkout MKBHD’s Apple Watch video review.
- Provides info at a glance, drastically reducing the need to reach for your phone.
- Encourages physical activity and health.
- Comfortable to wear.
- Excellent build quality.
- Still relatively pricey.
- Does not have enough apps quite yet (our company is among those working on that).
- The Apple Watch is only compatible with iOS at this time (and for the foreseeable future).