When Apple opened up their website for pre-orders just after midnight, April 10th, both a friend of mine and I were waiting to order the Apple Watch. Using the new Apple Store iOS app, we both successfully ordered the Apple Watch Sport in Space Grey Aluminum, with the Ion-X Glass Retina Display and the Black Fluoroelastomer band.
By morning, I was regretting my order. Not because I was reconsidering the Apple Watch itself, but I really wanted a fancier version of the watch. So I cancelled my previous order, and placed a new order for the Apple Watch in Stainless Steel, with the Sapphire Crystal Retina Display and the Milanese Loop band. It cost almost double the Sport version, but I was getting a more stylish watch.
Of course, since it was now 24 hours later, my ship date was several weeks later than my previous order. Such is the demand for new products from Apple!
So after waiting a bit over five weeks for it to arrive, what do I think?
I like the watch very much. The styling is beautiful, the Milanese woven steel band is very comfortable to wear all day, the Retina display is gorgeous and easy to read, and the 42mm version I ordered doesn’t look too big on my average-sized male wrist.
Some friends have teased me by asking “Can it be used as a watch?”. The Apple Watch offers a half dozen watch faces, and keeps time within 50 milliseconds of the definitive global time standard, so “yes”, it is a real watch!
I love the integration with my iPhone 5S. The Apple Watch depends on having a Bluetooth connection to a late-model iPhone for much of it’s functionality. The iPhone supplies an Internet connection to the watch, and does the heavy lifting with the iOS apps on the phone supplying data and notifications for the watch to display. But it’s not just a dumb display device like other so-called “smart” watches. Even without the connection to the iPhone, the Apple Watch can play music, function as a full-featured watch, monitor your heart rate and keep track of workout activities, and remind you about appointments on your calendar.
I wanted to experience Apple’s famed ecosystem – how the watch is tied to the iPhone and online services. Since switching to Apple personal computer products a few years ago, I have appreciated the tight integration Apple always builds around their hardware – to always make it do more than their competitors’ products. With the Apple Watch, they have again pulled off the “it just works” concept beautifully. Despite being a new product, there is no need to wait for the Apple Watch to be useful. It does an amazing amount of stuff right now, right out of the box. Nothing extra to buy.
Initial setup of the watch only took a few minutes, but one of the steps was to install the apps on my iPhone which are already integrated with the watch. So things like Facebook, Photos, weather services, airlines and other travel services, news services, Evernote, and Skype simply appear on the watch as mini-versions of the full apps on the iPhone. I shut off a few of the apps I didn’t want on the watch, and configured the ones I do want, so there is good control. Of course, setting up all the gadgets on the watch to behave as you wish can take some time, but I found the default settings were pretty well spot-on.
After 24 hours, what features am I using the most?
Health and Workouts – I partially justified the cost of this watch in order to better measure my physical activity each day. The Apple Watch makes this very easy. When I take the dogs for a walk, I pop up the workout app on the watch, and start an “outdoor walk” session. When I am sitting at home and working on the computer for long periods, the watch pokes me in the wrist every hour to remind me to stand up and move around more. The Activity app on the watch shows me if I am meeting my target activity level as the day progresses. It even gives me little rewards when I meet my targets!
- Notifications – Appointments in my calendar pop up when reminders are set, which is an obvious use for a smart watch. Email titles pop up on the watch as they arrive on my iPhone, and my social media feeds now use the watch to keep me on top of what’s happening with my friends and associates.
- News, weather & other useful info – I have made use of online news consolidation services for awhile now, and I like seeing brief headlines popping up on the watch. Weather is another natural fit for displaying on a smart watch, and there are several ways to display that info on the Apple Watch – from brief to detailed. Astronomy is a passion of mine, so I was pleased to see the default watch face can display sunrise/sunset and moonrise/moonset, and there is even a dedicated Astronomy watch face!
- Maps – I was a cartographer before retiring, so maps are important to me. That said, I’m finding the maps on the Apple Watch inadequate. The screen is simply too small for the maps to be useful to me. Perhaps this will grow on me over time, but in the first 24 hours, I’m not too impressed.
What am I eager to try out?
I don’t know if I’m actually eager, but I know that using Siri voice commands with the Apple Watch is pretty well required in order to tap into the full power of having this smart watch on my wrist all the time. I’m not a big user of Siri on my iPhone, but I will try to use this feature more, because I think it will pay off.
I make few calls with my iPhone, but I’m looking forward to talking to my watch Dick Tracy style!! The Apple Watch has a decent microphone and speaker, so I expect to make use of it when it’s not convenient to haul out my iPhone to answer or place a call. It might make sense to use Siri to place calls now that I have the Apple Watch on my wrist. Using Siri to place calls never appealed to me when I had the iPhone in my hands, since I would find the numbers in my Contacts list to call.
Again, using Siri to send text messages isn’t something I have been used to, but I will give it a try on the Apple Watch to see if the accuracy makes it useful.
When I travel, I use my iPhone Calendar to remind me where I need to be, and also use it as a bedside travel clock. Setting alarms and timers, finding out what day and time it is back home or where I’m traveling to is also indispensable. It will be interesting to see how much of this functionality is also useful on the Apple Watch. I think it’s time to get a bedside stand for my new Apple Watch, and combine it with my iPhone.
I was prepared to return the Apple Watch within the 14 day return period if it turned out to be a real dog, but that’s not going to happen. I’m enjoying this new device, and finding it useful. The much-discussed battery life doesn’t appear to be an issue for me. I have only recharged it once (overnight), and at the end of the day it was still 60% charged after moderate use trying out all the new features the first day.
The Retina display screen is gorgeous, and very easy to read. As I get older, reading closeup is becoming more difficult, but the screen on the Apple Watch is great – both in sunlight and shade. I have found I need to take off sunglasses before reading fine detail on the screen in sunlight – a small compromise.
The Apple Watch is certainly a winner, as far as I’m concerned.