For the people who already have an Apple Watch strapped to their wrist, this short review is going to seem redundant. But for those who may have been on the bubble about whether or not to purchase Apple’s “most personal device yet,” hopefully these words will provide some clarity as to whether or not you should get a Watch.
First, let me list some of the Watch’s positive attribute from what I’ve seen over the first three days:
- The Watch (I have a 42mm aluminum model) is very comfortable and barely noticeable on my wrist. I am glad I didn’t choose to buy a stainless steel model, as I’m not sure I’d like the extra weight.
- The screen is incredible. It’s a typically bright and clear Retina display, shrunk down to the size of a watch face. Even with my relatively bad eyesight, I’ve never needed to bring the Watch closer to my face in order to read something. Photos look good, app displays are clear and usable, and the animated watch faces are spectacular.
- Force Touch is also a “wow factor” on the Watch. When used, a hard push responds haptically by making it feel like your finger is going through the display a little bit.
- Haptic alerts are incredible. The first time you feel a tap on your wrist, you realize just how unique this feeling is. I am particularly fond of the double-tap that tells me I need to stand up and walk around once an hour.
- Battery life is better than I expected. I’m not a person who obsesses over playing with the Watch every minute, so the Watch has never gone below 50% battery for me yet. I usually put it on at around 7 AM and take it off for charging at 9 or 10 PM. I’ve also found that my iPhone battery seems to be lasting a bit longer since I’m not pulling the phone out of my pocket as often as in the past.
- Some features are downright magical. If you have a meeting scheduled at a specified location, touching the Maps app Glance screen will show you a map with a route between your current location and the destination, along with how long it’s going to take you to drive through traffic to that place.
- I like Apple’s Activity app… a lot. I use a lot of step tracking apps on my iPhone, but the at-a-glance ability to see how active I’ve been on a particular day and an estimate of how many calories I’ve burned is impressive. The Activity app is much more informative to me than any of the step trackers I’ve worn or used.
- Apple has also done a very good job with Messages on the Watch. Incoming Messages provide a list of canned responses, some of which take into account what the sender is asking you. This is a huge time saver when Messages arrive, as you can often respond with a single tap. Dictation and Siri commands work flawlessly with the Watch — if you use Siri on the iPhone or iPad, you’ll find it to be even more useful on your wrist.
As with any first-generation product, there are some things that aren’t exactly what I expected:
- It’s obvious that a lot of developers have no idea how they should be designing companion apps for their iPhone products. Some apps are fairly useless, just providing notifications with no way to respond to them, while others strike the correct balance between providing both useful information and being unobtrusive at the same time. Kudos to Major League Baseball’s AtBat Watch app, which I personally find more useful than the full iOS app.
- When trying to respond to a phone call with the Watch, I wasn’t thrilled with the voice quality. However, I was in a very noisy location when I made my test call, so that may have had something to do with the lack of quality.
- As I did expect, there were some iPhone / Watch apps that were being insistent and almost obnoxious in terms of providing notifications. You will need to spend some time making sure that you properly balance useful notification against constantly being hounded by apps.
In discussions with some of my industry peers who have also purchased Watches, some people like myself are finding the Watch to be a very helpful companion to an iPhone — blogger Dave Caolo likened the iPhone and Watch “dynamic duo” to Batman and Robin, with the Watch being a “capable, smart, and useful companion” to an iPhone. Others, especially those who currently use a wrist-based activity tracker, are finding the Watch to be somewhat redundant to devices they already own and use.
My suggestion to those who are “on the bubble” about whether or not they want or need an Apple Watch? Wait a while. It’s not a necessity, and it’s certainly an expensive accessory. Give the company some time to keep up with demand for the Watch and let the developers figure out better ways to make their apps function in a companion mode, and then keep an eye open for articles about the functions and foibles of the Watch. Like any other Apple device, I think the Watch will only become more useful with time once developers have a while to live with it.
To give the Apple Watch one of the standard OWC review ratings right now, I’d have to give it a 4 out of 5. It’s much better than I anticipated, and more useful right out of the box than any other new Apple device I’ve ever owned. The sole one point that it’s missing is due to the lack of truly “killer apps” at this point, though I think we’ll see some amazing products coming out soon that will turn the Watch from a “want” to a “need”.
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