Ap­ple Watch Sport

Is it worth the time of day?

Mac Format - - CONTENTS -

From £299 Man­u­fac­turer Ap­ple, ap­ple.com

Sizes 38mm or 42mm Weight 35g (38mm), 40g (42mm) Ca­pac­ity 8GB

Con­nec­tiv­ity Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz), Blue­tooth 4.0

Tech is more per­sonal than ever, but whereas tablets and smartphones cover this ad­e­quately, the fi­nal fron­tier has al­ways been tech we wear. As ever, Ap­ple wasn’t first to mar­ket with a smart­watch, but it’s only in­ter­ested in chang­ing the mar­ket in its favour. Like the iPhone and iPad, it’s set to do so just af­ter the be­gin­ning of the growth curve. Make no mis­take, we ought to be think­ing of Ap­ple Watch as the wear­able – you’ve al­ready heard enough about con­sumer de­mand to un­der­stand the Watch’s im­pact. It’s a new prod­uct cat­e­gory, yes, but the Watch isn’t a stand­alone de­vice, as many wear­ables are. It’s most def­i­nitely an iPhone com­pan­ion. A beau­ti­ful, in­tel­li­gent and well crafted one, but a com­pan­ion nonethe­less. How­ever, you can take or leave most iPhone add-ons. The dif­fer­ence here is that once you get used to the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Ap­ple Watch and your iPhone you won’t ever want to go back.

Wristy busi­ness

The model we’re look­ing at here is the 38mm Ap­ple Watch Sport, but there’s an im­por­tant in­ter­face dif­fer­ence in the 42mm ver­sion that we’ll dis­cuss later. Un­less you’ve al­ready de­cided that you’re in the mar­ket for a beau­ti­ful new Watch worth se­ri­ous cash, you’ll be look­ing at the alu­minium Sport over the steel ver­sion, so that’s where we’ve fo­cussed this re­view. First, let’s look at its phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance. Ap­ple Watch has that Jony Ive magic at its heart. We find the de­sign at­trac­tive and suit­ably fash­ion­able in both the matt alu­minium of the Sport and the classier-look­ing steel Watch.

The Sport’s flu­o­roe­las­tomer strap is sim­ple-look­ing but in­cred­i­bly com­fort­able. It re­ally doesn’t feel as pla­s­ticky as it looks and the pin-and-tuck clasp mech­a­nism is strong. The rub­ber can feel un­com­fort­able af­ter a work­out though, and for the white strap at least, we found it dirt­ied eas­ily. As you’ve prob­a­bly heard, re­mov­ing the strap is has­sle-free thanks to the tiny push-but­ton re­lease. Be­cause it’s so easy, it re­ally does make you think, “Hey, maybe I will get a dif­fer­ent strap”, when with your old watch you’d prob­a­bly never have con­sid­ered it. Granted, that’s good mar­ket­ing from Ap­ple, but it’s also tes­ta­ment to Ap­ple’s sim­plic­ity in de­sign. Un­for­tu­nately, the sim­plic­ity of the ex­te­rior is mud­dled by a few odd choices on the soft­ware side.

Gen­tle re­minders

As with iOS de­vices, the Watch is noth­ing with­out its soft­ware and Watch OS is, at first, an ex­cel­lent dis­til­la­tion of what iOS has to of­fer. There’s a spark of ge­nius at work, but it’s cer­tainly not as re­fined as iOS.

Over­all nav­i­ga­tion is well suited to the form fac­tor, with the Dig­i­tal Crown at cen­tre stage. You’ll find that you swipe the screen in typ­i­cal iOS fash­ion, but your re­la­tion­ship to the Crown (which acts as a ‘Home’ but­ton and scrolling con­trol) is of­ten stronger than the iPhone’s but­ton. It even par­tially takes over from other, more nat­u­ral meth­ods of nav­i­ga­tion. You can use it to zoom into apps to launch them rather than tap­ping an app’s icon. For apps like the clock, you can see watch faces build up graph­i­cally as you zoom in. It’s stunning, but leaves you feel­ing slightly be­mused about the con­trols. So, you can zoom in to an app to launch it, but you will have had to have scrolled to it first.

An­other thing you’ll no­tice quickly is that no­ti­fi­ca­tions take on a whole new mean­ing. We bet you hardly con­sid­ered get­ting an iPhone out of a pocket, un­lock­ing it, and scrolling to a mes­sage to be a chore, but Ap­ple Watch will prove you’ve been wast­ing time. No­ti­fi­ca­tions are bet­ter on the wrist and the quick re­sponses in Mes­sages (which are cus­tomis­able on the iPhone), for ex­am­ple, mean you never have to miss a thing. And in a good way, be­cause a quick swipe and tap of ‘Dis­miss’ is enough to not be both­ered again if you don’t want to be. Do Not Disturb is also avail­able, but we found let­ting through no­ti­fi­ca­tions on the Watch and us­ing Dis­miss to be a far more sat­is­fy­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. You’re in touch, but don’t worry about not be­ing con­tactable. It feels like you have con­trol over the alerts you want, when you want it. The Tap­tic En­gine’s lit­tle buzz on your wrist feels just right too, ac­com­pa­nied by a brief in­di­ca­tion of the type of

Too many times we saw a spin­ning icon as the Watch tried to get data from the iPhone

no­ti­fi­ca­tion you’ve re­ceived, which then scrolls up out of the way to re­veal the no­ti­fi­ca­tion.

At a glance

Then there’s the cu­ri­ous case of Glances. Swip­ing up from the clock face pro­vides quick ac­cess to up to 20 screens (cus­tomis­able in the Ap­ple Watch app on your iPhone). The de­faults, which in­clude Set­tings, Bat­tery, Cal­en­dar, Heart­beat and Now Play­ing, are ac­tu­ally the most use­ful. How­ever, it’s a pain to have to keep swip­ing to the one you want. It’s of­ten no quicker than go­ing to the main apps screen.

Third-party apps re­ally aren’t mak­ing best use of Glances just yet. For ex­am­ple, the BBC News app merely shows a few words from one story, and Twit­ter shows a top trend­ing hash­tag. A deep press (Force Touch) does noth­ing in Glances ei­ther, and you must tap a glance to open the app, so you may as well have opened the app in the first place where you ac­tu­ally have con­trol over some­thing.

While Ap­ple’s own Glances are bet­ter, cus­tomi­sa­tion op­tions in the watch faces largely elim­i­nate the need for them. A deep press on the clock screen en­ables cus­tomi­sa­tion of its face and its ‘com­pli­ca­tions’ – the ar­eas of a time­piece that show the date, a world clock, and so on. Most watch faces have four or five ar­eas you can cus­tomise, mak­ing de­tails such as the date, weather, bat­tery lev­els and your ac­tiv­ity al­ways vis­i­ble, and leav­ing Glances of­ten un­used.

More text fits on the 42mm screen with a dis­cernible dif­fer­ence: text of­ten flows awk­wardly on the 38mm screen

On the face of it

Nav­i­ga­tion odd­i­ties aside, how does Ap­ple Watch per­form? To an­swer that you have to look at nav­i­ga­tion once again. You might not use Siri much on your iPhone, but it has found a more nat­u­ral home here. You’ll use it for both UI (launch­ing apps) and sim­ple tasks (dic­tat­ing re­minders, mak­ing calls) that you want ac­tioned hands-free. Siri’s per­for­mance is key to the Watch’s over­all suc­cess, and we’re pleased to say it’s Ap­ple’s best it­er­a­tion yet.

App per­for­mance can be trou­ble­some. Too many times we saw a spin­ning icon as the Watch tried to get data from the iPhone. Most of the time it’s a small de­lay, but some apps seemed to get con­fused and fail to re­fresh. The prox­im­ity to your iPhone is al­ways in the back of your mind and those promised apps that work in­de­pen­dently of an iPhone can’t come soon enough.

Bat­tery life was never go­ing to be great, but the all-day life Ap­ple promised is largely achiev­able. We reg­u­larly went from 7am to 11pm with what we con­sid­ered av­er­age use. It’s phone calls and long work­outs that will sap the bat­tery. With calls, the im­pact on your iPhone is equally dra­matic, but you are un­likely to make half-hour calls on the Watch. It’s not meant for that.

With tex­tual no­ti­fi­ca­tions, there is a down­side to the 38mm Watch. More text fits on the 42mm model’s screen with a dis­cernible dif­fer­ence: text of­ten flows awk­wardly on the smaller screen, mak­ing read­ing slightly less plea­sur­able on it.

Fit­ness buddy

Watch’s two fit­ness apps, Ac­tiv­ity and Work­out, are very well thought out and be­come ad­dic­tive. If you’ve never ob­sessed over calo­ries burnt each day, the at-a-glance na­ture of it here will soon change that. It’s the same for Work­out. Whether you’re tak­ing a gen­tle coun­try walk or train­ing for a marathon, its data is use­ful and pre­sented so well that you’ll hate not hav­ing those stats if you ex­er­cise with­out it. Ap­ple Watch might be less com­pre­hen­sive than some track­ers, but most peo­ple will find it an ac­com­plished fit­ness com­pan­ion. We’ll ex­plore the fit­ness fea­tures thor­oughly in next is­sue’s ‘Get Fit’ fea­ture.

Just like you love your iPhone, you’ll learn to love the Watch too, per­haps more in some sit­u­a­tions. But there’s not enough here yet to sway the doubters. If you want a cheap fit­ness tracker then you can get one for a third of the cost. If you want a watch to last a life­time, you know this is not a pres­tige hand­crafted model. But if you want a bril­liant wrist com­pan­ion to your al­ready in­dis­pens­able iPhone, then Ap­ple Watch is your new best friend. Chris­tian Hall

The Home screen of Watch OS is Ap­ple’s most beau­ti­ful touch­screen in­ter­face… ever!

Ap­ple has made it so easy to swap out straps (by push­ing a cou­ple of but­tons) that you’ll ac­tu­ally con­sider do­ing it on a whim.

The ‘Home’ but­ton and Dig­i­tal Crown are the only phys­i­cal but­tons. The Crown has many func­tions, whereas the other but­ton is very limited.

The Watch’s Ac­tiv­ity app gives you three rings show­ing move­ment, ex­er­cise and stand­ing. You’ll be ‘pinged’ with up­dates on your progress too.

No­ti­fi­ca­tions that you’re happy to re­ceive on your iOS de­vices can come over to the Watch too. Here we’re re­minded there’s a new is­sue out, hur­rah!

No­ti­fi­ca­tions are bet­ter on the wrist and, for the most part, sim­ple replies are much faster on your Ap­ple Watch, rather than pulling out your iPhone.

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