Ap­ple Watch: A Hands-On Re­view

iPhone Life Magazine - - iNews - by Sarah Kings­bury

Last Septem­ber fol­low­ing the first Ap­ple Watch an­nounce­ment, I was ex­cited enough about the smart­watch's pos­si­bil­i­ties to put off buy­ing a Fit­bit un­til I learned more about Ap­ple's new wearable. The of­fi­cial an­nounce­ment and luke­warm early re­views left me feel­ing am­biva­lent, how­ever, and while some col­leagues were up at mid­night on April 10 plac­ing their or­ders, I was sleep­ing peace­fully. A few days later I fi­nally ad­mit­ted I was go­ing to need an Ap­ple Watch in or­der to do my job and re­luc­tantly placed my or­der for the 38mm Ap­ple Watch Sport.

Get­ting Started

Smart­watches have a wellde­served rep­u­ta­tion for look­ing like small cal­cu­la­tors with wrist­bands, so I was sur­prised by how small and un­ob­tru­sive the Ap­ple Watch was when strapped to my wrist. Like ev­ery­thing Ap­ple de­signs, the watch was beau­ti­fully sim­ple: the Dig­i­tal Crown and side but­ton were dis­creet, and the bands were easy to re­move and put back on. It easily stayed con­nected to my iPhone 6 as long as I was in the same build­ing, and though the 38mm model has a smaller bat­tery than the 42mm, I never ran out of juice even af­ter a full day of use.

Once I had the watch set up, I had no trou­ble fig­ur­ing out the ba­sics of nav­i­ga­tion: Rais­ing my wrist to ac­ti­vate the watch, swip­ing and tap­ping through glances and apps, us­ing Force Touch to ac­cess hid­den menus, dou­ble-press­ing the side but­ton to ac­ti­vate Ap­ple Pay, and press­ing and hold­ing the crown to ac­ti­vate Siri.

Per­son­al­iz­ing Your Wearable

Af­ter tai­lor­ing the set­tings and fea­tures of the Ap­ple Watch, I saw and heard only what was use­ful to me. I was able to fine­tune which no­ti­fi­ca­tions were pushed from my iPhone, which con­tacts were added to the friends wheel, and what ap­peared in my glances and in what or­der.

Choos­ing my watch face was the most ba­sic way I per­son­al­ized my Ap­ple Watch. Sadly, the choice is ba­si­cally lim­ited to beau­ti­ful watch faces and use­ful watch faces. Although I en­joyed watch­ing col­or­ful flow­ers un­furl on my wrist, af­ter a few days I gave in and started us­ing a prac­ti­cal one that fea­tured “com­pli­ca­tions,” so I could check the tem­per­a­ture, bat­tery lev­els, and my ac­tiv­ity progress at a glance.

Us­ing the Watch

Fit­ness Track­ing

I have been re­ally pleased with the fit­ness-track­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the Ap­ple Watch. The step, calo­rie, and heart rate mon­i­tors are all ef­fec­tive and the Work­out app is easy to use. I love get­ting a weekly sum­mary of my ac­tiv­ity as well.

I have never cared to track my sleep, so I don't mind that this ca­pa­bil­ity is lack­ing, but I know it's im­por­tant to many peo­ple and could be a sig­nif­i­cant short­com­ing. I also find it un­nec­es­sar­ily com­pli­cated to track my work­outs in one app, my ac­tiv­ity in another app, and then to have to go to a third app (the Health app) on my iPhone to see a sum­mary of ev­ery­thing I have been do­ing. Ap­ple is usu­ally much bet­ter at cre­at­ing a smooth user ex­pe­ri­ence.

Ap­ple Pay

You'll have to set up Ap­ple Pay for your watch even if you've al­ready set it up on your iPhone. But once you do, pay­ing for things on the Ap­ple Watch is so easy (just dou­ble click the side but­ton and hold the watch face to the NFC ter­mi­nal un­til you feel a vi­bra­tion on your wrist). I pre­dict that as con­tact­less pay­ment be­comes more com­mon, peo­ple will start com­plain­ing when they have to ac­tu­ally get out a credit card.


Open­ing apps re­quires good aim and a steady fin­ger. I quickly learned to save my­self the frus­tra­tion of us­ing the app screen and have Siri open apps for me in­stead. Once you open an app, it be­comes clear that Ap­ple has put a lot of thought into mak­ing sure apps work on the Ap­ple Watch, although apps like Weather and Maps that re­quire your iPhone to push a lot of data can take a while to load.

Un­for­tu­nately, third-party apps still have a long way to go. They're slow to load and some de­vel­op­ers ap­pear to have added Ap­ple Watch com­pat­i­bil­ity to their apps with­out adding any real watch func­tion­al­ity.

Call­ing and Mes­sag­ing

While I wouldn't choose to ini­ti­ate a call or mes­sage from my Ap­ple Watch, I haven't missed a sin­gle call or mes­sage since they started vi­brat­ing on my wrist. And when I took a call on my watch while driv­ing, I was able to hear and be heard by my caller while keep­ing my hands on the steer- ing wheel. The de­fault text replies seemed a lit­tle brusque and even un­friendly, but once I cre­ated cus­tom­ized replies with punc­tu­a­tion and emo­jis to con­vey con­text, I found my­self us­ing them fre­quently.

Fi­nal Ver­dict

One ques­tion ev­ery­one's been ask­ing about the Ap­ple Watch is, “Is it nec­es­sary?” My con­clu­sion is that it's not. No more than your iPhone is, any­way, and many peo­ple have con­vinced them­selves that they can't live with­out their iPhones. As Ap­ple up­dates the watch's hard­ware and op­er­at­ing sys­tem and app de­vel­op­ers be­gin to un­der­stand and lever­age the new plat­form, I won't be sur­prised if peo­ple be­gin to feel the same about their Ap­ple Watches as they do their iPhones.

Tim Cook was right when he said the Ap­ple Watch is the most per­sonal de­vice Ap­ple has ever cre­ated. Depend­ing on how you choose to cus­tom­ize it, Ap­ple's new wearable can help you stay on top of all your ap­point­ments and then help you nav­i­gate there. It can make sure you never miss a call or email or mes­sage again. You can even use it as a re­mote con­trol. But ul­ti­mately, for most users, I be­lieve the first-edi­tion Ap­ple Watch is go­ing to be a very suc­cess­ful fit­ness tracker. While most ac­tiv­ity mon­i­tors end up aban­doned in the back of a drawer af­ter a few months, the watch's ex­tra ca­pa­bil­i­ties greatly in­crease the odds that a user will con­tinue to strap the Ap­ple Watch on her wrist ev­ery day.

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