After weeks of waiting, the Apple Watch finally arrived in Apple Stores earlier this week, allowing eager customers to get their hands on the wearable device at long last. Apple’s latest method for selling their newest gadget involves finding the model you want to buy on the company’s website, and than reserving one for pick-up in the store later in the day. The process is simple, straight forward, and completely eliminates waiting in line. In fact, I was easily able to get my hands on the Watch I wanted (a 42mm Sport model in Space Gray), and was out of the store in in a mater of minutes. So after spending a day using the Watch, what are my impressions of it so far? Read on to find out!
As usual, Apple has done a great job of packaging the Apple Watch. The device comes in an elongated white box that is unlike anything I’ve seen a watch sold in before. Inside the box you’ll find the model of the Watch you’ve purchased, an extra band for users with larger wrists, some basic instructions for using watchOS, and the device’s unique induction charger, which conveniently comes with an extra long cable.
When you first take the Watch out of the box you immediately realize just how lightweight it truly is. Prior to the release of Apple’s wearable some critics claimed that it was simply too bulky and heavy to succeed, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It is actually very light, and reasonably thin too. I’d venture to guess that future versions of the Watch will be more svelte of course, but honestly it feels just right to me as it is now.
The Apple Watch’s display is just as bright, colorful, and clear as you’ve read in other reviews. Text and images look great on the screen, and it is easy to read all of the information that is displayed. Apple really came through with this tiny Retina class display for sure, and I think it is one of the features that sets it apart from other smartwatches.
Ease of Set-Up
If you use an iPhone running iOS 8.3 or higher, you probably have already noticed that there is an Watch app already installed on your device. That app handles all of the settings for the wearable, including the initial pairing and configuration of the device. As you would expect from the engineers in Cupertino, that process is actually pretty painless. You simply have to turn on your Apple Watch and let it cycle through its initial start-up process. Than launch the Watch app on your iPhone, and follow the onscreen instructions. You can even point the phone’s camera at the Watch face to automatically pair the two devices. It just doesn’t get any easier than that.
It took two tries before my gadgets started working with one another, but since then the connection has been rock-solid. After they are linked, the Watch app will then give you the option to transfer all of your Watch compatible apps to the device, or it will allow you to select the ones that you want to install manually. I chose to go the auto-install route, and it took about five minutes to get everything in place on my Watch, including the Twitter app, several apps from different airlines, Flipboard, and a few other programs.
All in all, the set-up process is incredibly easy and straight forward, although it did take a bit longer than I initially expected. It should be noted that the Watch can be completely reconfigured using the iPhone app as needed, and you’ll probably be spending plenty of time exploring all of the options that are available once you get the new device working properly.
Ease of Use
A lot of the early reviews for the Apple Watch noted that it has a very un-Apple-like operating system in that there is quite a learning curve to figuring out just how everything works. I had a pretty good idea of how the device functioned before I ever bought the Watch, so I’d say I was a bit ahead of the curve so to speak. Even still, it takes a bit of practice to figure out where things are hidden, and how exactly they work. There are some items that are hidden away in unintuitive places, and I have to remind myself to use Force Touch from time to time, but once you’ve familiarized yourself with everything, it all starts to gel pretty quickly.
Using some of the apps can be a bit cumbersome with the small screen too, even on the 42mm model. But I suspect that developers are still learning how to work with the device, and things will improve over time. For instance, when watchOS 2.0 is released in the fall, we’ll see native apps for the first time, which should improve performance dramatically. That will likely bring some new innovations that we haven’t quite seen yet as well, as the developers gain access to more of the Watch’s features.
I have had issues a time or two with the app icons being a bit too small on the Apple Watch display. Sometimes I’ll accidentally tap on the wrong one by mistake. Zooming in using the digital crown helps to a degree, but even then it can still be tough to hit just the right one. Additionally, finding the exact app you are looking for on the tiny screen can be a bit of a challenge too. The Watch app on the iPhone will let you organize them the way you like, but I haven’t had a chance to try that out just yet.
Early Watch reviews also noted that the performance was often slow, particularly when using third party apps. Some of that was reportedly alleviated with the release of watchOS 1.01, which was designed to address those issue directly. My Watch had that version already installed, so I can only report on the state of the device as it is now. Personally, I find it to be pretty snappy, even using apps from third parties. Sure, there are time when it could be a speedier, or the apps could function a bit better, but as I noted above, I think that is more of an issue with the devs learning how to work with the device better, and less about the Watch’s overall capabilities.
I know that the Sport edition of the Apple Watch is the “low end” model, but it doesn’t feel like it in any way. This is a high quality product with a band that is surprisingly comfortable to wear. I was worried that it wouldn’t feel right on my wrist while working out, but it works perfectly in that capacity. But that same band also feels good while out on the town, or running errands too. The Watch just feels good on your wrist, but is also subtle enough that it doesn’t draw much attention to itself either. That is certainly something that a lot of people will probably appreciate.
One of the biggest concerns that people had regarding the Watch prior to its release was with its battery life. Apple has said that it was good for about 18 hours of use before needing a recharge, which means it must be plugged in every night. Out of the box, my 42mm Sport came with a 60% charge, and as I used it frequently the first evening I was able to watch the battery steadily decline, although not at an alarming rate.
When I went to bed it was down to just 32% of its life when I threw it on the charger, thinking that it would be ready to go the following morning. It turns out, the charger is a bit more finicky than I suspected, and even though it was magnetically connected to my Watch, it wasn’t providing any power. When I got up the next morning the battery level had fallen to 24% over night, which was definitely not going to be enough to get me through a full day.
Fortunately I worked out my issues with the charger and got it working quickly. It doesn’t take long at all to recharge the Watch, and in less than an hour it was ready to go. I then proceeded to wear it throughout the rest of the day with numerous alerts, text messages, and reminders being displayed on the screen. I also took it on a 6.5 mile run (more on this later), and I still had plenty of charge left when I went to bed that evening.
In other words, the battery life on the Watch is good, and should not be a problem for most people.
Apple Watch for Fitness
A lot has been made about the Watch’s ability to be a great device for fitness, and rightfully so. With its built-in heart rate monitor, well designed activity and exercise apps, and its ability to share data with your iPhone, it is easy to see how Apple’s latest device could quickly become the center of your active life.
As someone who already runs nearly every day, burns quite a few calories, and is focused on staying active, it was easy to crank all of the Watch’s fitness settings up to their highest level. In my first day of use, I had no problems completing every goal that it threw at me, and then some. But that only inspired me to set those goals a bit higher for the next day as I begin to see how the gadget handles my regular workout routine.
By now, I’m sure all of you have seen the activity circles that Apple has ingeniously come up with to show us just how much active – or inactive – we actually are. After just one day, I can attest to how addictive those colorful little circles can be, as they spur you on to fill in each one completely. If Watch wearers integrate the activity monitor into their lives fully, and take the challenges seriously, this device can absolutely have an impact on their health.
As an avid runner, I’ve also used a number of other fitness watches in the past, with each offering unique features and options. But I love what the Apple Watch brings to the table in terms of tracking my distance and time, as well as calories burned. I also like that it allows me to pause my music or podcasts while on the go, and see texts sent my way while I’m working out. Nothing comes close to offering so much functionality in such a compact and lightweight package that happens to look good too. If you are a runner or cyclists in particular, you’re going to love having this device on your wrist.
Having owned the Apple Watch for just one day, there is a lot that I haven’t done with it yet. For instance, I haven’t made a phone call, nor have I used Apple Pay. But, I have replied to a text using just dictation – which worked flawlessly – and I have used it to navigate to a destination, which was simply fantastic as well. Having the driving directions show up on your wrist, along with a subtle tap from the haptic engine is really nice, and I think a lot of people are really going to take advantage of that feature.
All of this functionality is likely just a hint at what is to come however, and I believe that the Watch will get much better with the release of the next version of its operating system in a few months time. Apple has made a wearable that can provide some really interesting enhancements to your life, and we have only begun to scratch the surface of what it is capable of.
When I was asked about my Apple Watch experience after owning it for a day, I replied that it is a great device that isn’t really necessary for much of anything just yet. Sure, it has some great features and functionality, particularly if you exercise regularly, but some of its apps still feel a bit half-baked. It really doesn’t have that one “killer app” just yet, although it has a whole lot of features that working together can make it indispensable.
I have a feeling the Watch is going to be one of those devices that only gets better over time, and while you won’t notice it at first, it will subtly work its way into your life when you’re not paying much attention. At some point there will be that moment when you’re not wearing it, and it will start to dawn on you just how much it does actually do for you. Having reminders and notifications on your wrist is already pretty great, but all of the other things it can provide could have a big impact on your life.
Should You Buy One?
So the big question now is, should you buy an Apple Watch? That answer is a bit murky at this point, although I would certainly recommend one to anyone who has a busy lifestyle and is looking for a convenient way to check their calendar, get emails and texts, and read notifications while on the go. It is also a great option for someone who is trying to lead a healthier lifestyle, or who is already very active but wants a better way to track their workouts. That doesn’t mean it is a device for everyone of course, but in the long run, I don’t really think everyone would benefit from having a wearable device on their wrist just yet.
Yes, there are already rumors of a new model of Apple Watch coming in 2016. That isn’t a surprise. Will that model improve on the original? Almost assuredly. But, the current model is extremely powerful, and isn’t about to get outdated just because a new model appears on the scene. This is a device that is designed to last longer than our smartphones, which are meant to be updated every 2-3 years. By its nature, the Watch should have a longer lifespan than that, which means investing in one now will probably provide you with years of use before you’ll think about upgrading.
The bottom line however is that only you can decide if this is a gadget you want. I for one am glad to have it in my life already, and I’m looking forward to learning more about what it can do for me on Day Two.