Hello everybody. I’ve been struggling to review the Apple Watch for a few weeks now. I want to get straight to the important part. I can’t recommend this device to anyone . . .yet.
For some background, I have been an Apple fan boy since I first saw OS X in 2001. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of using most of Apple’s products including MacBook, iMac, Mac Pro, iPhone and iPad. When Apple announced the Apple Watch, I was pretty excited. Like Apple does best, they made me want one. I wasn’t sure how I’d use it, but I wanted one anyway.
The watch was released and there was some confusion. You see, the Apple Watch comes in three flavors – Apple Watch Sport, Apple Watch, and Apple Watch Edition. Each model has two sizes available, 38mm and 42mm, and each model is made of a different metal and has multiple different band options. In their default configurations alone there are 38 separate models. 38! Prices range from $349 (for the stainless steel 38mm with the Sport band) all the way up to $17,000 for the 14-Karat Gold 38mm with red leather band. (Seriously though? WTF?)
Since there are so many options, Apple offers a concierge service – a dedicated Apple employee to help you try on watches in different combinations of watch body and band. The Apple Store carries some models and the rest have to be ordered and shipped to you. Something to note: bands for the Apple watch are universal. You can buy an Apple Watch Sport with a rubbery sport band and get a leather band later. There are also third-party bands all over the internet and even adapters that let the watch work with traditional watch bands.
Let me level with you guys. There are too many options and anything more than the Apple Watch Sport isn’t worth it. The guts of the watches are identical for each model. The $399 Apple Watch Sport is going to perform just as well as the $17,000 gold model. There is NO difference in the product on your wrist.
The Apple Watch is an extension of your phone. The watch notifies you of everything your phone can; SMS/iMessage, Email, Calendar, Weather and more. You can accept phone calls on your wrist. You can control the music on your phone while it’s in your pocket. It can play (limited) games. It’s also fitness tracker (including heart rate monitor). It works with Apple Pay, so you can buy a coffee or whatever with your watch . . . but all that said; why do I feel like I’m testing an unfinished product?
You see, the Apple Watch is running Watch OS 1.0. It relies on Bluetooth to send information between your phone and the watch. This means that if I want to load the weather or track the shipping on a package using my favorite app, I have to wait on the app to load. Spinning circles are the most common sight on the watch when using it for more than glancing at notifications. Not just that; once the apps load, they’re slow and choppy. This is because Bluetooth isn’t fast. It lags and painfully so.
So. Here’s my list of Pros and Cons on this device:
Haptic is the fancy word for vibrations – similar to vibrate on your phone but more precise. The watch can vibrate but it can also simulate a tap on your wrist. This is a really cool feature. When I get an email, the watch taps me a couple times on the wrist to let me know. Every couple hours, I get a tap to remind me that I’ve been sitting too long and to stand up and move around. Best of all, I can be notified silently so I’m not disturbing anyone nearby.
Each app that’s installed has it’s own interface and typically include a smaller app called a “glance.” Think of it like a widget. It can deliver information from an app at a glance. When I want to change the song on my phone, I swipe from the bottom of the screen and open the glances for Music and pick my song. It’s meant to save time. It’s at least faster than opening an app (I guess).
Heart Rate Monitor
The Apple Watch has a heart rate monitor built in. On top of the regular fitness things you’d expect, there are sensors on the bottom that read your heart rate. You don’t see this in Fitbit or Nike Flex or any other fitness tracker that I’m aware of.
Double edged sword here. The Apple Watch is meant to notify you of events happening on your phone. By default, most every app has notifications. You know that game that buzzes at you because you haven’t played it in a while? Now imagine that on your wrist. Dinging. Tapping. All of that. Every IM = TAP. Every e-mail (even spam!) = TAP. You can control which apps notify you and which don’t. Remember to do that!
Is it an App? Notification? Glance?
There are too many options here. Notifications? Swipe from the top. Apps? Press the crown button on the side. Glances? Swipe from the bottom. Which is which? What’s the difference between this glance and the full app? Why don’t I just pull my phone out of my pocket?
I live in the south. It’s hot outside right now. The watch is a rubber band around my wrist with a piece of glass smooshed against my skin (for the heart rate monitor). When you get hot and start sweating, it starts to get uncomfortable. This may be better with a new band but I don’t have one to test it with.
I haven’t had a bad time with the battery life. But I barely use the thing at this point. Others have complained about it, so I’m mentioning it here. You will need to charge this daily. Recharge time is quick though, so put it on the charger while you’re taking a shower or getting ready in the morning and it’ll be ready to go when you are.
Overall, the Apple Watch is a strong first-generation product. It’s got a lot of potential but I feel like it’s a beta test. In fact, Apple Watch OS 2.0 has already been announced and is being tested. It brings with it a bunch of new features, most importantly NATIVE apps, meaning apps can run on the watch itself without the phone. Honestly though, this should have been in the initial release. Once the new software rolls out, I may revisit this review. We’ll see.
Bottom line: wait for the next one. Battery will be better, I’m sure, and the software sure as hell will be.