As a die-hard watch freak, and gadget addict as well, of course I couldn’t allow the Apple Watch to pass by. So two months ago I bought the 42 mm Space Grey aluminum Sports version with the black rubber strap. The watch hardly hasn’t been off my wrist ever since. I now dare to say that I’m able to substantively write something about it.
First I want to clear that I don’t think the Apple Watch is a watch. It’s a device worn on a wrist which can be described as a communicator or informer. In fact it’s probably best described as a remote display of your iPhone. And so, just like your iPhone, it tells the time and much more information as well. By telling the time additionally to informing the wearer of mainly other stuff, it doesn’t make it a watch for me.
I’ve never used or worn it as a watch as well. It always has been, and of course still is, on my right wrist (with the buttons on the device at the left side), and besides the Apple I always keep wearing a real watch on my regular left wrist.
As usual with Apple products the packaging of both the watch and the separate strap I bought are beautiful and high quality. As well installing the device is a breeze and for me a fun thing to do. You’re up and running within a few minutes. Adjusting the settings of the device (which is mainly done through the Apple Watch app on your iPhone) takes somewhat more time, and depends of the number of apps you use on your iPhone. The apps are automatically transferred to your Apple Watch, and mostly take their initial settings equal to the setting you use on your iPhone. Of course you can choose to leave apps out of the watch, or change setting compared to your iPhone.
There are no less than 10 different dials, or let’s say ‘home screens’, to choose from. And even most of them are adjustable for colors and shown content as well. As I don’t use the Apple Watch to tell me the time, only one of the screens was adequate for me; the one which informs me of messages and information the most readable. Other are certainly more beautiful and fun, however not for my use on the long haul.
If installing and adjusting settings was the first thing I did with my Apple Watch, the second thing was heading back to the Apple Store to buy a new strap. Although the rubber strap feels like high quality and has a very nice ‘Marc Newson’ closure(*), it didn’t wear comfortable enough for me. As well I thought it didn’t do the, for me beautiful, design of the watch justice and so I bought a brown leather strap. Again with a very nice and comfortable closure, this time it’s magnetic. Changing straps by the way is the easiest I’ve ever seen. (*) Marc Newson used the exact same type of rubber strap closure on his Ikepod Hemipode watches.
So what the Apple Watch mainly does is informing you of what happens at your iPhone. It tells (or is able to tell, when you told it to do so) you when an message or email is received, or if any other app notices you about something.
That being said, in daily practice for me this pointed out to be quite handy. If a message arrives and you hear and/or feel your iPhone (and Apple Watch if you told it to do so) vibrate, you don’t have to get it out of your pocket or bag anymore. Just a quick glance at the Apple device on your wrist informs you about the message which has just arrived. It informs what kind of message it is (iMessage, WhatsApp, Telegram, Email or what ever) and who sent it to you.
For some apps it’s sometimes even possible to read (part) of the message, however I don’t think you should want that. For reading or viewing content of messages the screen is too small in my opinion. And besides that it isn’t able to show HTML. An interim score of a soccer match (f.i. through the Forza app) is probably the maximum amount of information for which the screen is adequate. I don’t think as well that Apple has meant the Apple Watch for reading and composing messages, although it seems that many wearers were expecting that.
Anyway, if you think the message that just arrived is interesting enough to get your iPhone out, that’s what you do. That’s where the size of the iPhone is very suitable for, reading and composing messages or answers; as said the screen of the Apple Watch isn’t. If the arrived message isn’t urgent or interesting, you know that it has arrived, however you leave your iPhone comfortably where it resides.
It’s made clear that judging the Apple Watch is mainly a judgment of the apps you’re using and how suitable they are to inform you with information on that little iPhone remote screen on your wrist. That’ll be different for all iPhone users; I’ve never seen an iPhone with exactly the same apps than I use.
– Passbook; it’s quite handy that you don’t have to get your iPhone out of your luggage/pocket when checking in at boarding an airplane. Just scan your Apple Watch and you’re good to enter.
– Music; while headphone-listening to music from the iPhone in your pocket or bag, easily change volume, skip numbers and so on, at your Apple Watch while keeping your iPhone comfortably where it is.
– Phone calls; It appeared handy to me answering a call when I had no clue were my iPhone was. Of course it’s kind of a speaker phone at that moment, however people didn’t complain about bad sound quality and I didn’t miss the call.
The above makes my earlier statement about the judgment of the Apple Watch even more clear. If you’re never flying or don’t use your iPhone’s Passbook, this function is of no use to you. I you never listen to music from your iPhone, operating music at your Apple Watch is of no use. If you never answer calls, well… you don’t need an iPhone as well, let alone the Apple Watch.
One other function I want to mention is the Activity Tracker. This function operates autonomously on the Apple Watch. Here even it’s a bit the other way around. The Apple Watch informs about your activities to a limited extent. However the Activity app on your iPhone informs more extensively about all activity information gathered by the Apple Watch. The Activity app is an app which automatically settles on your iPhone when connecting for the first time with your Apple Watch (it’s not available in the App Store).
The Apple Activity Tracker informs about the amount of extra calories used, the time you exercise every day, heart rate and your daily number of steps with distance made. An it reminds you to stand up and walk for a few minutes once an hour, which I think is a very healthy for many of us keyboard warriors.
In fact the Apple Watch replaced my Nike+ Fuel Band (which I wore daily for almost two years) and took it’s place on my right wrist. So I was happy to see this Activity function doing quite well. However I still hope for a Nike+ app which replaces all functions of the Fuel Band and calculates Nike Fuel as well..
That’s it for the functionality of the device and the apps. You have to decide for your self how functional the Apple Watch is in your personal situation. I won’t dive into the possibility to choose from 10 different screen lay-outs any further as well, as this will very much depend of your personal use of the device and apps/functions. I always use a screen type without hands (again as I don’t see it as a watch) where the most information fits on at once, as clearly readable as possible. There has to be a screen type for every one because almost all different type of screens can be personalized with the information you decide to receive on it, as well as with different colors.
On with the Apple Watch as a product. I’m quite enthusiastic about it; I’ve hardly seen watches nor other devices in this price level being so well produced. The whole thing feels like quality and looks like beauty. The rounded finish of the case and crystal, it all feels almost organic. No gaps, no sharp edges, no flaws nothing.
Operating the buttons is very adequate and precise, pressing them as well as rotating one of them. Here as well the feel is exactly right. The (new) pressure sensitive touch screen might need some habituation for some of us.
I mentioned the strap already in the beginning of this article, remains to mention something about the crystal. Apple choose to use Ion-X glass (a.k.a Gorilla Glass) for the Sports model and sapphire crystal for all other models. I thinks a wise decision. The Ion-X glass is somewhat stronger than sapphire and won’t break as easy in sporty conditions. Sapphire is somewhat harder and will scratch less easy. One minor negative point is the only 5 bar (50 meter) pressure rating, which in my opinion is somewhat lean, certainly the the Sports models.
Using the watch daily and quite intensively, receiving all kind of messages and using it once in a while for a call, gives me a battery life of just over two days. At the end of the second day most of the time there’s between 10 and 20% of energy left. Charging is very easy and comfortable; just put the Apple Watch on it’s little round charging dock, where it magnetically clicks in the right place and position to contactlessly charge.
Gerard has been in the watch industry for over two decades now. He owned a watch shop in The Hague, The Netherlands, and besides that he has journalistic and photographic activities in the field of watches. Collecting watches since he... read more