It’s finally here. The Apple Watch has arrived. After actively using the smartwatch for the past week, here are my thoughts on Apple’s latest gadget.
The Apple Watch is a pivotal product for the company that’s worth more than $735 billion. Not only is it Apple’s first new product in five years, but the watch also is the first major product released since the death of Apple’s legendary co-founder, Steve Jobs.
Apple promises the watch to be its most personal product yet. And I would agree. It is, after all, strapped to your wrist, so you tend to use it a decent amount of the time. But what exactly is the Apple Watch? That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out. And honestly, there is not a simple, straightforward answer.
First, the watch is offered in three models – each of which includes two different sizes. The Apple Watch Sport acts as Apple’s entry-level watch. Made from aluminum, the sport version is available in both 38 and 42 millimeters and features a wide selection of rubber bands (which are interchangeable). It starts at $349. Next is the Apple Watch,the “middle ground” between the entry sport and pricey versions. The Apple Watch is made from stainless steel and features the same specifications as its cheaper counterpart. The Apple Watch starts at $549. And last is the Apple Watch Edition. Made from 18-karat yellow or rose gold, the Edition starts at $10,000 and maxes out at $17,000!
The watch isn’t an entirely new platform. Instead, it seems to act like an extension of the iPhone. In fact, users are required to have an iPhone (5 or above) to pair with the watch. Without an iPhone, the Apple Watch is little more than a glorified time keeper. As a result, the watch seems to be a center for notifications. It does many of the functions my iPhone does. For instance, if I receive a text, that message is immediately routed to my wrist and I feel a brief vibration followed by a short chime. I can then easily view the notification by turning my wrist. Replying, however, is cumbersome because of the watch’s minute display. As such, the Apple Watch relies heavily on dictation. I must admit that dictation on the Apple Watch is far superior to the iPhone’s Siri dictation. I’m not sure if these two services are powered by separate technologies, but I’ve noticed greater accuracy on the watch. Nevertheless, the most immediate use of the Apple Watch is as a central hub for communications and notifications.
Getting started with the Apple Watch is a very intriguing process. To pair it with your iPhone, simply launch the new Apple Watch app (found on every iPhone running the latest version of iOS) and point the camera at the watch’s display. A black and blue moving circle will appear (this circle is encoded with important information the iPhone decodes). This process takes a few seconds and the pairing is complete. Then, the watch will proceed to download any additional updates and data before it is ready for use. This period takes up to 10 minutes, but it is a fairly seamless process.
Navigating the Apple Watch is a somewhat arduous task – at first. Apple employs three methods of interaction with the watch – multitouch (the same technology on the iPhone and iPad), the new “digital crown” and “force touch” (a new technology based on the amount of pressure on the display). Multitouch, like the iPhone, is relatively straightforward. However, the watch does not selectively use this technology. Rather, the watch utilizes a combination of all three. To turn on the watch, you must tap the digital screen, then press the digital crown to unlock it, and employ multitouch to interact with any apps. Force touch, while not immediately obvious, serves to display miscellaneous content such as changing the watch face. Unlike the iPhone, it takes time to get adjusted to and navigate the Apple Watch.
The watch also has several unique features. It collects pulse data – automatically measuring the wearer’s heart rate at different times throughout the day. I find this feature to be very intriguing and believe its applications could be endless. For instance, the watch might, one day, be used to monitor those with hypertension (high blood pressure) or those at risk of heart attacks. However, the functionality of this feature remains limited for now.. The watch also sports (no pun intended) an activity app that keeps active track of your movement throughout day. This feature has been extremely useful since it reminds me when I’ve been sitting too much by releasing a light vibration. Additionally, the activity app syncs with your iPhone, sending data (i.e., calories burned, miles walked, time spent exercising, etc). to iOS 8’s health app. The activity app also has a corresponding iPhone app that appears on your device once you have successfully paired the watch. This app gives you a detailed view of all your movement and activity beginning on the day you start wearing the device. The watch also offers badges to users who achieve or exceed daily activity goals.
Apple Pay on the watch is an incredible feature. For those of you who have used Apple Pay on the iPhone, you are well aware of the simplicity of the process. Apple Pay on the watch is no different and works like a charm.
I’m also excited about the potential applications for the Apple Watch in various fields. Apple’s website highlights some of them. For instance, the Cupertino giant has partnered with SPG hotels and resorts to turn the Apple Watch into a room key. Apple Watch users can simply approach their hotel door with the watch and viola!, the room opens. Additionally, Apple has partnered with Target and American Airlines to develop apps. The Target app allows users to quickly and efficiently look up items in the store. The American Airlines app turns the watch’s display into a notification hub for flight information. Users will receive notifications concerning boarding time, maps and baggage claim. Furthermore, in November, Apple released the WatchKit developer SDK (software development kit) to registered iOS developers. As a result, many developers have begun making apps for the watch. Expect to see a varied array of Apple Watch apps in the near future.
Apple also touts its glances features. By swiping up from the “lock/clock” screen, users can see quick views of various apps. For instance, if I wanted to briefly check my activity progress for today, I could simply swipe to view. Glances provide important, concise information that is easily accessible. I’ve found glances to be an invaluable aspect of the watch.
Battery life on the Apple Watch is not exceptional. It’s OK – at best. I’ve found that the watch tends to drain rather quickly when I’m using the display and find myself recharging each night. Charging the watch, however, is an absolute delight with inductive charging. Similar to the magnetic “mag safe” connector found on current MacBooks, the cord magnetically connects to the rear of the watch.
The watch face features a sapphire display. Sapphire, among the hardest gems on the planet, can only be scratched by diamond. In other words, it takes a lot to scratch the watch. I’ve watched online tests of people attempting to put a ding in the watch face with razors – to no avail. However, the watch is by no means invincible. The sapphire screen may not be easily scratched but it can be cracked. The watch is also water resistant – not waterproof – but it can undergo a fair share of water treatment. Internet video hosts have performed water tests by swimming with the watch and it has recovered well each time. However, Apple does not recommend submerging the watch.
Overall, I’ve enjoyed using the Apple Watch. It’s a useful accessory – especially for notifications. However, it is, at the end of the day, only an accessory. If you’re willing to drop $349 (at minimum) for the 38 mm, entry-level Sport model, it is worth the cost (but have fun getting your hands on one – currently it is only available online and shipping dates are into July for certain versions). However, it’s not worth the expense for those who aren’t planning to actively use it nor is it as essential as a phone. I hope Apple makes considerable changes to it in the next version with more refined and enhanced features.
Gregg Mojica is a junior at Canisius High School.