The Verdict: (for those who want the details, see below):
I’ve been wearing the new Apple Watch for a week now and find it to be a solid upgrade to the Pebble Steel I’ve been using since that was released. The Apple Watch feels more mature that Apple’s typical “version 1″ products, but it is lacking some basic features which will hopefully be added with software updates in the near future. The limited processing power is noticeable when opening most 3rd-party apps.
I also haven’t found any 3rd-party apps that are amazing. Other than using the watch for reminders, email notifications, checking the weather, and occasionally to check the time, there isn’t much I do on the watch. When I have a moment I may skim top stories on the news apps, but nearly everything else I have installed goes untouched.
For people who can consolidate a number of other devices, such as an older smartwatch and an activity tracker(s), the Apple Watch makes a nice upgrade and the cost can be offset by the sale of those other devices. For most, the cost will be prohibitive for something doesn’t add a lot of features beyond what people already have on their phone.
Score: 7 / 10 – Good, with hopes that the score will increase after future software updates
Here are the top benefits so far I’ve found with the Apple Watch:
- My phone stays in my pocket, or on my desk, most of the day
- I still pull the iPhone 6 Plus out to browse the web or send lengthy email replies, but it’s no longer in my hand most of the day. Given that the size of the 6 Plus is so large, the Apple Watch may be more appreciated by a 6 Plus user than a standard iPhone 6 users. For people tracking their steps, it is also nice not to have to have the phone on you all day.
- Activity and workout apps are very well done
- These are very simple and informative, and while some reviewers have complained about the gentle reminders to stand up and meet exercise goals, I find them welcomed, and you can easily turn them off.
- The notification system is very nice
- Notifications are easy to access, provide a good level of detail, and are easy to clear/manage.
- Deleting unneeded mails as they come in is something I’ve been wanting for a while now
- The Pebble didn’t support this, and it is great to be able to keep a cleaner inbox by deleting unimportant messages as they flow in right on the watch.
- The battery life is much better than I expected
- When Apple mentioned the battery would last 18 hours for most people, I was very worried. When it comes to using tech I don’t consider myself “most people” and feel I would use it a lot more than most. I put on the watch when I wake up and use it all day until I go to bed and generally have 30% or more battery life left. While the Pebble could go almost a week between charges, I don’t have a problem charging the watch daily while I sleep, I already do the same with the phone.
- Siri and voice dictation
- Speech to text on the watch seems to work better than on the iPhone. It picks up what I say very accurately. My only complaint is that it occasionally turns off while I am talking (see below).
- Poor 3rd-party app speed
- I don’t know if it is the processor or memory, or perhaps bad development by 3rd-parties who are just learning how to make Apple Watch apps, but apps are noticeably slow when loading most 3rd-party applications.
- Poor 3rd-party app functionality
- While this isn’t Apple’s fault, it is worth noting and is a challenge to 3rd-party developers. Even though there is definitely a limit to what can comfortably done from a device on your wrist, there is a lack of revolutionary or even exciting apps to use.
- I can now sell off my Pebble Steel, Fitbit, and a heart-rate monitor thanks to the features in the Apple Watch which makes the cost acceptable to me. If I wouldn’t have been able to do so the cost wouldn’t have been worth it even at the entry level price. I suspect the cost will drop eventually, early-adopters be warned!
- Why only 20 glances?
- While I rarely use the glances, my phone reminds me that I am at the max whenever I try to check out a new one. If the limit could be removed it would be a nice-to-have.
- Why can’t I delete a calendar item from the watch?
- This seems like it should be easy. I can delete emails, why not a calendar item I want to remove?
- Poor detection of a raised wrist
- The watch is “off” most of the time, until you raise your arm using a gesture to look at it. While it works fairly well, I find it often doesn’t pick up that motion, or the display goes off even as I continue to hold my arm that way. Hopefully as they collect data they can improve the activation/deactivation of the display. Having to hold my arm/wrist they way Apple wants it to be held to keep the watch activated can be uncomfortable at times.
- Limited email viewing
- Most emails these days are media-rich, with images and HTML formatting. On the watch these types on emails tell you to go to the phone to read them. While I can understand that scaling an image in an email may not be readable on the smaller watch display, I’d still prefer such a view as I most likely could still tell if the email is worth keeping to check later, and in most cases I could delete it right away.
- Why are the watch bands so expensive?
- Apple’s marketing and hype can use words like “stunning” and “luxurious” all they want, but the watch bands are far from revolutionary, nor is there anything about them that seems to justify the high prices. Hopefully we will see 3rd-party bands at reasonable prices soon.
- I’d like options for louder speaker volume and stronger feedback
- I do regularly miss notifications even though I have the volume and feedback levels at their highest. When in a quiet environment or not busy with a task I notice them, but if I’m focussed on doing something or there is background noise at a decent level I miss them. I can always to turn them down or off when I don’t want to be disturbed, but not being able to make them loud or noticeable enough can be a pain.
- Notifications don’t go to the watch if your phone is active/unlocked
- While this may be the way some people want to work, it would be nice to have a setting to send them to the watch even when the phone is in use. I may have my phone unlocked if I’m on a call or listening to music, but that doesn’t mean I’m looking at it so notifications can get missed.
- Also, why can’t I have notifications queue up when the watch is off/charging?
- The only time the watch isn’t on my wrist is when I’m sleeping, so I’m not sure if the notifications don’t come in due to it charging or just because it is off the wrist, but either way I’d like to be able to put it on in the morning and check anything I’ve missed from the watch, rather than needing to check the phone.
- More workout types would be nice
- While the Workout app has quite a few different activity types for tracking (indoor walk, outdoor walk, elliptical machine, rower, …) it isn’t clear how these differ, nor are there choices for many common exercise types like cardio.
- Activity / Workout community features
- One of the things I’ll miss about the Fitbit is the challenges you can have with friends. It helps motivate activity. Hopefully there will be more social/community options and challenges added in the future.
- Why can I set a reminder via Siri, and snooze or mark them as completed when they pop up, but not view them on the watch?
- There is no Reminders app, and Siri will tell you to use your phone to view them. This seems odd as quite a few 3rd-party apps have decent interfaces to manage reminders, you’d think Apple would extend it’s Reminders app to the watch.
Suggested 3rd-party Apps:
While none of these would be considered “killer apps”, here are the few I’d suggest checking out:
- Dark Sky
- This is better than the built-in Weather app for both the phone and watch, highly recommended
- News apps (WSJ, NY Times, CNN)
- Take your pick of preferred news source, but having it on the watch is a convenient way to skim top news stories without pulling out the phone. Most have a way to flag a story to read later from the phone if you see an article of interest.
- Phillips Hue
- If you have Hue lights, their phone app makes it easy to toggle your preset scenes or turn lights off from your wrist, although in the time it takes the app to load and respond you probably could have pulled out the phone and done it from there faster.
- If you use Mint for budget management the watch app is a nice companion. If you don’t use it, check it out, it’s free!
- Do Button
- If you use IFTTT, Do Button is nice, but similar to Hue, slow to load and it is potentially faster just to use the phone.
- While not a 3rd-party app, this one is worth a special mention. I just recently started using Passbook even though it has been around for a while. I’m not sure why it took my so long to see the value of it, and having on the watch is very nice.