Length:: 1:32 Mins
Having reviewed on Amazon for a few years I was lucky enough to be able to get an Apple Watch on release day. (Unfortunately I needed to buy one as Apple don't need to give watches away for review purposes). In common with the "Apple" view of the world I'll steer away from the technical nonsense over gigabits and concentrate on the actual experience.
This is my first impressions of the Apple watch, and I've tried to include the three options available. If you've any questions, I've included a Frequently Asked Questions section below.
Firstly this particular model is the middle of the price band, the "Watch" with the Stainles Steel case and an incredibly hard sapphire crystal watch face.
As you may know there's three models to choose from in increasing cost - the "Sport", the "Watch" and the 18-Karat gold "Edition". Obviously most people will choose the "Sport" or "Watch" as all three have exactly the same electronics, the only difference being the case and screen material. I'll therefore focus on these options.
The "Sport" comes in anodised aluminum case in silver or space gray, and the face is Ion-X glass, which is tough, but not quite as tough as the sapphire crystal on the "Watch" face.
On the other hand, the more expensive "Watch" comes in stainless steel shiny chrome or a cool space black finish. It's rumoured that steel is more likely to scratch than the aluminium sport model, and only time will tell. Both come in 38mm and 42mm sizes, and additional watch straps are available to buy which fit either model (provided you buy the correct size).
Finallly there's not a great difference in weight. The "Sport" watches (with strap) vary between 62g-72g and the stainless steel "Watch" between 56g-105g depending upon size and watch strap selected. The heaviest is the 42mm "Watch" in the stainless steel link strap - it's also the most expensive in this range.
First impressions are it's gorgeous in a futuristic, science fiction kind of way. There's lots of ways to interact with this device including the touch sensitive press and swipe screen of the iPhone in addition to the new "Force Touch" sensitive screen which senses not just "where" you're pressing but "how hard". In addition you get the "Digital Crown" to scroll though lists.
The "Crown" is a surprisingly useful feature as it means you're fingers are away from the screen while you're scrolling through options or zooming into a huge array of photos. Generally, anything you can do with the "Crown" you can do with the screen.
One of the great features of the watch is the innovative new ways you can interact with it, and these are via "Notifications" and "Glances".
You'll get a notification when (for example) an Text Message arrives on your iPhone, and you'll get a light tap on your wrist. The watch face won't light up unless you raise your wrist, at which point it will show you what "type" of notification you have. If you keep looking, it displays the full information, and allows you to reply. Of course you'll quickly be overwhelmed by the rate of notifications, and you'll need to switch off all but your most important channels.
It's worth noting, that in normal use, the watch screen is turned off to save power, and there are multiple sensors "listening" for when it should turn on the screen. In theory, this means if you raise your wrist to look at the watch, the screen turns on. This is fine in about 99% of the times, but very occasionally it doesn't which is a little frustrating when you simply want to know the time. In that case you need to tap the screen to light it up.
"Glances" are a great feature that I absolutely loved.
You get a notification (again a tap on your wrist), and swipe up from the bottom to reveal a set of "cards". These can be customised to include information about the weather, a traffic update about your journey home or your health (calories burned, minutes of exercise etc). For example, if you live or work in London, New York, San Francisco or Montreal you can get real time public travel information on your iPhone (and now watch) directly from the CityMapper App. This works a treat, as you'll be notified of delays on the London underground, without the need to fish out your phone.
The only drawback with "glances" is you don't get the information right away as they don't update in background, but are sent on-demand from the phone. This can be a bit frustrating as there'll often be a slight delay, and you'll get a "spinning wheel" while the information loads. I'm sure this will however get better with time.
As an indication of where Apple is going with this technology it's terrific, and I look forward to further software updates in the future.
The watch is incredibly accurate, and it uses what Apple call "Coordinated Universal Time" to keep all watches exactly in sync. This has one wonderful little side effect in that if you and a friend have the "Micky Mouse" watch face - you'll notice they're both tapping their feet at exactly the same time. This will (eventually) become a great party trick - once these becomes popular enough or you've got lots of wealthy friends.
The watch extends and (to some extent) replicates the functions you'll find on your phone. I found this a little confusing, and you may find yourself checking a notification on your iPhone, only to remember you could have checked it on your wrist. You'll also find that using the "Watch" App on the iPhone you can send every notification to your watch, but this will quickly become overwhelming. I soon found I needed to triage my notifications, and ended up only sending iMessages to my watch as otherwise I'd get 50 buzzes a day from the various eMail accounts I run.
In terms of what you can do with your watch:-
* You can tell the time - there's lots of options to customise the look and colour of the many watch faces
* Make a phone call (it has a speaker and microphone) although it looks a bit weird to be speaking into your wrist
* Send and receive text messages (it suggests suitable replies eg. "I'm on my way") which can be helpful
* Navigate around using the "Maps" App (although I found this slow as all geographic information is transferred from your iPhone - the watch doesn't have a GPS installed.
* Monitor your activity, work-out and cardio health (number of steps or miles and heart rate)
I found the activity and health monitoring features by far the best feature of the watch. It really does focus the mind, and at times motivates you to get up and walk about if you've been sitting around too long. It can count the number of steps or calories, and you can measure yourself against goals. Be aware, it's actually measuring your cardio activity, (your heart rate), so while it's great for running, walking or cycling, it doesn't do anything for you if you're into weight lifting or yoga.
Having said that - I tested it against a wrist based health band, and it was incredibly accurate.
The "Complications" feature of the watch were a real hit, and a feature I'd love to see extended to the iPhone. You can customise the main screen to tell you all sorts of useful (or useless) stuff including when your next appointment is, the phase of the moon or the weather outside.
One feature Apple have really promoted is the ability to send your heart beat to someone else. This isn't as ground-breaking as I thought it would be. Firstly you've got to find someone else with an Apple Watch, and then once you've send your heart-beat....well that's it. You've done it. You'd maybe send your heartbeat to your wife or girlfriend, but it'd be a bit weird to send it to anyone else. Similarly the ability to send a sketch to someone is less useful than I'd hoped. Maybe on the iPhone it'd be more of a hit, but on a 1.5 inch screen there's just not enough real estate to draw anything meaningful.
In terms of messages, you can select a favourite contact from your contacts list, and quickly send them a text or phone them directly from the watch. You can also send a custom Apple Watch "emoji" - but in my opinion these really are a little bizarre, and best avoided.
One drawback you need to be aware of is that data for apps appear to reside on your iPhone, and are loaded when you start them. This can be a little frustrating as you'll find yourself waiting for information to load (especially maps). This means any app which needs to grab GPS location information your iPhone is extremely slow. I'm hoping this will be improved over time, although GPS devices are very power hungry so I don't expect one to be added to a watch update in the near future.
You also get "Apple Pay" which means you can pay for stuff by just waving your watch in front of the payment receiver. You authenticate yourself using the "Touch ID" (finger print reader) on your iPhone, and the watch stays authenticated as long as it remains on your wrist which is a lovely touch. Paying with the Apple Watch is even faster than using the iPhone, and it's a pleasure to use. Certainly one of the stand-out feature of this device.
As a fashion item, the jury is out. It's certainly a beautifully designed device, and a first step in wearable computing. Of course you've got to have an iPhone 5 better to use it, and it's certainly better than any other wearable device on the market at the moment.
It's certainly up to Apple's beautiful design standard, and I really loved it.
I do hope these random thoughts helped.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What's the battery like?
A: Officially it lasts 18 hours. Personally I've found it pretty much lasts the day, and only during the first week did I find it go into "power saving mode" which means you can see the time but nothing else, and I was practically glued to it all day (as you can imagine). In short, you'll need to recharge it every night - just like you do with your iPhone.
Q: Will the watch work by itself?
A: No. You'll also need an iPhone 5, 5S, 5C or 6 to "pair" with the phone. A lot of the features (eg. sending texts or making phone calls or GPS features) are entirely dependent upon the iPhone.
Q: What's the difference between models?
A: There are three models and each come in two sizes. The "Sport" model is made of aluminium with a tough Ion-X glass face, the "Watch" model is made of stainless steel and a sapphire crystal face while the "Edition" is made of 22 Karat gold, again with a sapphire crystal face. The internals of all three are exactly the same, absolutely no difference in speed or features, and although some people say the "Watch" is heavier than the "Sport" it all depends upon which watch strap you pair it with.
Q: What's the warranty with the Watch?
A: As with all Apple products, you get 90 Days support and a 12 month warranty. You can extend this with AppleCare+ for up to two years which includes up to two incidents of accidental damage cover subject to a minimum fee.
Q: Can I mix and match the straps?
A: Yes. There's a huge number of additional straps available from Apple. No doubt there'll be cheaper 3rd party wrist straps available also.
Q: Is it waterproof?
A: Yes and No. Officially Apple say it's "Water Resistant - conformed to IPX7 standards". This means it will be fine in the rain. However, the IPX7 standard is an internationally agreed standard, and to pass Apple needs to have tested the watch under 1 meter of water for 30 minutes which sounds pretty waterproof to me. There's also lots of you tube videos demonstrating it working under water. Personally, I'd have no problems keeping it on in the shower or a fresh water pool, but I'd not wear it in the sea.
Q: Is it any good as a fitness tracker?
A: Yes, It includes an accelerometer to track your steps, and the GPS on your iPhone to trace the exact route. There's two health apps built in. Activity shows your daily progress towards exercise goals whereas workout is more detailed for tracking pace, time and calories burned during a gym session. Both apps sync back to the Health & Fitness Apps on your phone.
Q: Isn't the watch an extension of the iPhone
A: Yes. Pretty much everything you can do on the watch you can already do on the iPhone. Incoming mail notification, sending a message and making a phone calls are examples. However, it's great to be able to glance at your watch to see this without taking out your phone. It won't replace the iPhone, but works along side it. About the only thing you can do on the watch that the iPhone doesn't support is sending a "tap" to someones wrist or sending a "heart-beat".
Q: If my iPhone is out of juice, can I still use the watch?
A: Yes. You can still tell the time and use normal functions. You can also track fitness (sync afterwards), play music (there's 2Gb of onboard storage for music) and use Apple Pay to make purchases (provided you've already authenticated yourself.
Q: Can I use the watch with Apple Pay?
A: Yes. Once you've authenticated yourself, provided you don't take the watch off just swipe it in front of an Apple payment receiver.
Q: How does it work for left handed people?
A: Perfectly. When you pair you phone to your watch you have the option of indicating it's for your right or left hand. It flips the screen so you can have the "digital crown" in the right place for you. How very clever.