Apple Watch Review

I do enjoy gadgets and for some time I have been eyeing an Apple Watch. Recently a friend of mine pointed out a special at Target where a $499 watch was reduced to $399 with a $100 target gift card (meaning it effectively is $299, since it is easy to spend $100 on target for items you need around your house and groceries). At $299, I decided to “take the plunge” and it effectively is my XMAS gift to myself.

This is what the watch looks like in the box. The box is very long and it contains an extra watch band in case your band gets mangled from over-use. The watch bands also are replaceable – I picked the white one because it was the last watch available at the target that was walking distance from my condo.

Here’s what the watch looks like on your wrist. This is one of the more basic faces, with the time, the weather, calendar notifications, and the “universal” time which apparently is Cupertino. The multiple circle image is their sort of fitness tracker, and the red dot on the top means that I have notifications waiting.

It took me a little while to figure out how to use the watch, and I am still learning. At this point Apple basically includes no useful documentation – they just have a few pictorial pull-outs and then you figure out the rest by going to the web or watching videos on Youtube. When I turned on the watch it needed to be charged, which occurs when a magnetic disk is attached to the bottom of the watch face. It seems to take an hour or two to fully charge the watch. I also upgraded the watch to the version 2+ operating system which took a while (a few hours).

It is important to understand that the watch is of marginal use without your iPhone being nearby. Your watch is basically receiving all of its information and connectivity from your iPhone – it can still tell time and function as a fitness tracker, but it can’t do much else on its own.

What CAN you do with the watch? A lot. You can hear a quiet “ping” or feel a buzz on your wrist when you receive an important email or text message, or a notification from WSJ or other major news source. You can pay for Starbucks or use Apple Pay, and use it for Uber, directions, and a host of other tasks. You can text from your watch to contacts in your phone, although you can only use “canned” responses (such as “on my way” or anything else you want to program in). You can also receive directions through your watch.

I don’t use my phone to call very often but you can receive and make calls on your watch. The sound is surprisingly good and you are often more likely to know someone is calling when you feel your wrist buzzing than when your muffled iPhone is ringing in your bag. Others that I know use this option a lot and it helps them to avoid missing calls. Another key function is the calendar – if you keep your schedule up to date and set up notifications it can help keep you on track by buzzing your arm or pinging before upcoming events.

Another more subtle benefit is that it caused me to “clean up” my contacts and re-organize my email to be more efficient and only surface the “VIP’s” through notifications. The watch is organized to facilitate connections and you can help yourself by updating your contacts and your “canned” responses to emails and messages.

The watch has a “companion app” on your iPHone which allows you to control setup and functionality. You can choose to mirror your iPhone on your Apple Watch and as a default it will bring over all the apps on your iPhone that are enabled for the Apple Watch at the time you set it up for the first time.

So what’s not to like? Charging the watch every night is annoying. The watch often gets slow, especially when it is far away from the iPhone and you ask it to do something like check mail or messages (beyond reading what has already been downloaded). The watch can often “suck you in” to doing things that are far better accomplished on your iPhone, like reading email and responding to texts and reading articles. The watch face is small, so if you are attempting to utilize the various icons you often “fat finger” the wrong app.

I have a work phone and a personal phone. I set my Apple Watch to pair with my personal phone. Likely my experience with the watch would be different if it was tethered to my work phone since I receive 10x the messages on my work phone and my contacts are not as well organized. I was at a conference and an executive obviously had set up his Apple Watch with his work phone because he couldn’t go more than 10 seconds without checking his watch.

There will be a v2 of this watch coming out likely in the first half of 2016. It may be worth waiting that long, if you want to get a watch that likely has significant improvements. On the other hand, it is likely to cost more than $299, the current “floor” for Apple Watch sales today.

Cross posted at LITGM

15 thoughts on “Apple Watch Review”

  1. It’s an interesting product. It’s like a smart phone in that it’s a computer in the form of a familiar device with more-limited features. Google Glass had similar qualities. The phone-computer caught on, maybe the watch-computer will too. Tablets are sort of computers in the form of books. It will be interesting to see what comes next.

  2. I just can’t get over the mental association with the nerd calculator watches from the 80s.

    I had sweet Pulsar version myself back in the day, but I feel like these smart watches are going backwards now.

  3. I’ll keep my 50 year old mechanical watching, thanks. All it does is tell the time (reasonably accurately)

  4. I just got an iPhone )a used 5S) and was somewhat amazed that in setting up cities for the “time” app, my west coast city of a million or so was not on the extensive world list but Cupertino was.

    Still I have to say having my first Apple product, it is a thing of beauty (before it went into the ugly plastic case) – a beautiful industrial design. Brushed aluminum in “space gray”. They seem to go to a lot of effort making sure the product is appealing to the senses, in addition to its features.

    As for the watch, it seems to remind me of the gizmo found on the wrist of Keira Cameron, the “protector” from 2077 who found herself back in 2012 chasing her contemporary terrorists from the same (2077) future.

  5. I bought my technophobe wife a new Apple iPhone of the most basic design. Since our children don’t answer their phones or return calls, she can now text them. If she can get our grand daughter to teach her how to do it.

  6. Mike i couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about texting but am a convert now. As as aside my old flip phone was so easy that I would occasionally use it while driving – but a few attempts with the smart phone while driving to Bodega Bay and I gave it up – too dangerous with attention diverted too long a time….

  7. (too bad i can’t edit my posts) – but as to teaching your wife how to text Siri can do it – if the children are in the contacts file, just say “Siri text Jane Smith You don’t answer your phone so here is a text” – Siri prints it on the screen, asks you if it is ready to send and voila – it is gone…

  8. I don’t understand these things. They are all tied to a phone, in your pocket, which can do far more than the silly watch.

    I guess it’s some kind of fashion satement.

  9. It’s an attempt to sell stuff. If people buy it it will be improved and competitors will introduce their own wrist-computers. If people don’t buy it Apple will shift more investment to other product lines. Everything depends on whether customers find it useful enough to pay for. See how that works?

  10. Sometimes I think technology is introduced not with some idea as to usefulness but just because they can. Case in point: I am driving someone’s 2011 car in the parking lot, notice a little red LED in the door controls, and thinking it is a door ajar, open the door to slam it – the car literally locks the wheels – scares the !@#$%^ out of me.

    Then I am wondering if it does that at 45 mph in addition to 5 mph.

    Definitely not useful nor a safety feature IMO.

    Personally I think a watch should be functional as a watch and tell the time. But then perhaps i would have wondered about the folly of micro processors. Had a boss in the 80s who was an old mainframe guy – toy computers he called them. Nothing will ever come of them.

  11. “It’s an attempt to sell stuff. If people buy it it will be improved and competitors will introduce their own wrist-computers. If people don’t buy it Apple will shift more investment to other product lines. Everything depends on whether customers find it useful enough to pay for. See how that works?”

    I guess this is meant for me.

    I won’t use anything Apple makes. It’s for the herd and I’m not in one. As well the blatant theft of FreeBSD’s kernel for OSX was amusing but not something I’ll participate in. Poor ol FreeBSD thought the GPL was too far. M$ boosted their entire TCP IP stack and Apple took the kernel.

    Anyhoo the entire watch thing is pretty pointless, as far as I can tell. Apparently it’s a failure by any standards.

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