I, like most of the technology nerds of my ilk, arose dutifully at 2:55 a.m. on April 10th to pre-order the Apple Watch. Within 3 minutes I had procured a 38mm Apple Watch and a 42mm Apple Watch and I went back to sleep looking forward to the April 24th delivery date. I chose the Apple Watch instead of the Sport model, as the sapphire crystal should provide far superior scratch resistance. I own a Hamilton X-Wind with a sapphire crystal, and after wearing it heavily for over 10 years, there’s not a scratch on it. To me that benefit alone was worth the price difference between the Sport and Watch models.
The 38mm Apple Watch predictably arrived on launch day. As of this writing, the 42mm is due to arrive April 30th. I have some thoughts on why there’s been a delay that I’ll unpack later in this post. Having been able to spend far more time with the smaller watch than I might have otherwise. It gave me a great look into how easy it is to interact with the OS. And, given the form factor, any challenges that might arise from interacting with a smaller screen would be most acute with the 38mm size.
I made the decision to work the watch into my daily routine, and not load tons of apps onto it right from the get go. Since I wanted to get a good sense for things like battery life and overall responsiveness, trusting the watch to 3rd party apps that may or may not have been run on the actual hardware prior to launch seemed like a risky proposition. The apps I did load were ones that already had a use case inside my life or home.
Right out of the gate you notice how well Apple has integrated the watch into the iOS ecosystem. If you’re on your phone and a text comes through, the notification does not duplicate and appear on your watch. This may sound like a small thing, but it was one of my biggest gripes about the Pebble as any time a text would hit my phone, my wrist would buzz too. Replying to texts was super easy on the watch, with pre-selected replies available for simple responses, or dictation for more complex ones. I found the voice dictation feature to be much more accurate than any of my previous experiences with Siri. Not sure what Apple changed, but it was a vast improvement.
Similarly, phone calls are nicely integrated with the watch as well. You can answer calls directly from the watch. The sound isn’t great (small speaker and all) but people talking to me didn’t notice much change in call quality. What I found most useful about this feature is that if I couldn’t quite get to my phone when someone was calling, I could answer on my watch to start the conversation, and as soon as I woke my phone up the call would immediately transfer over to my iPhone. When Apple debut the continuity features with the last OSX release, they seemed like novelties. With the watch, they truly sing.
I’ve read a bunch of reviews about the watch being difficult to figure out software-wise, or overly complex to navigate. I didn’t find that to be the case. There certainly is a learning curve to understanding the pathways for your navigational options, but once you get the gist of it, the context usually remains consistent throughout whichever app you may be using. All in all, it’s be a delightful device to use.
By far the neatest feature of the Watch is the camera app, which acts as a remote control for your iPhone camera. The app allows users to take pictures without having to hold the phone, and gives you a live view into whatever your camera on the screen of the Watch. I’ve only played around with it a little, but my kids are dying to take selfies with it.
I have yet to thoroughly test the fitness features of the watch, but early reports are that it is one of the most accurate monitors on the market. I’ll be doing some more analysis on this soon, but as I’ve written in the past, the bar the competitors have set is so high you could trip over it.
One of the most common things I hear from people when talking about the watch is “I’ll just wait until the next version. I’m sure it will be slimmer, faster, and less expensive.” If you’re thinking this way as well, you may be correct, but a few observations make me wonder if that’s going to be the case with Apple Watch. For starters, most of the predictions about what may come next for the watch product line seem to be rooted in phone-based hypotheses. What I mean by that is that people tend to look at what Apple may do next with the watch based on how they rolled out the iPhone. This might be a tad misguided.
When Rolex, Tissot, Hamilton, or any other mid to high-end watchmaker introduces a new model, they don’t retire the old one. If you look on any of these manufacturers websites there are dozens of models in their lineups. I believe Apple will take a similar course. The Apple Watch style is very classy and understated and is much more elegant than the promotional photographs illustrate. It’s beautiful. If Apple does release a new Watch, it’s highly probable that it will be a addition to the lineup instead of a replacement.
Additionally, I’m not entirely sure that the next iteration of the Apple Watch will be thinner. When thinking about phones, this makes sense, but look around at the kinds of watches most people wear. They have a heft and chunk to them that makes them attractive. Apple may introduce a thinner model, but I don’t believe that would be as popular as the 30mm depth the watch currently maintains. When you wear the watch, it feels like it’s the right size. Apple spends a lot of time on form factors. I doubt this one will be altered significantly any time soon.
From a processing standpoint, it’s still too early to understand how powerful the S1 processor is in the watch. Of all the components that may be upgraded eventually, this is the most likely candidate. The current SDK only allows for ‘glances’ or small amounts of data to be passed to and from the watch and an iPhone. The spinning ‘wait’ icon you sometimes see in Apple Watch apps is caused by the wait for the data transfer over Bluetooth, not from a lack of power in the processor. The SDK for native apps is most likely going to be announced during WWDC this June, so we’re likely to know more then. After 7 days, I’ve found the S1 to be plenty peppy running Apple’s native applications.
The Bottom Line
If you are in any way into technology and have an iPhone, I’d recommend going to an Apple store and checking out the watch. After 7 days, I have no regrets about buying one. The watch is an ambitious endeavor from Apple and even in it’s infancy shows tremendous potential. If you can afford it, go for the steel/sapphire Apple Watch model as the scratch resistance of those materials is worth the extra cost.