I placed my order for an Apple Watch the day that Apple began accepting pre-orders (April 10), and last week finally received shipment. I ordered the 42 mm Apple Watch Sport in Space Gray aluminum with the black Sport Band.
The two-month wait was a mild form of torture, especially as I’d been reading countless articles by people who had already received theirs. The reviews and reactions have been mixed, but they only served to reinforce that I would have to make up my own mind.
Mixed reviews have been Apple’s history when releasing new products as far back as I can remember. For example, the original iPhone. Although it eventually became an iconic device that disrupted an entire industry, it received a similar variety of both positive and negative reviews when it was first released.
Will the Watch become such an iconic device? I’m not ready to answer that question, but here are some first impressions after having worn the Watch for a week.
My first impression was how large and heavy the shipping box was when I signed for the delivery. The oblong cardboard box was approximately 15 inches in length and weighed 2 or 3 pounds.
Apple is usually minimalist in it’s packaging, but I guess they wanted something different for the Watch, particularly the ability to lay the device with attached band flat in the interior box.
The interior box, in addition to the Watch, contained a similarly shaped poster-style Getting Started guide—folded of course—as well as a USB charging cable and plug.
In person, on person
After I ordered the 42mm version, I began to have some doubts about whether it would be too big and awkward looking. Various pictures on people’s wrists reinforced my doubts a bit, but when I received the Watch, I was pleasantly surprised how compact and—well—“just right” it looked. I was happy that I had not ordered the smaller 38mm version.
The Watch is truly a companion piece to the iPhone 6. The design aesthetic is the same: smooth, rounded surfaces, clean lines, subdued colors, and minimal controls.
The first thing one has to do is pair the Watch to the iPhone. I have an iPhone 6, but the Watch is also said to work with the iPhone 5S, as well.
The pairing process is actually pretty simple. I already had an Apple Watch app on my iPhone 6, courtesy of the iOS 8.3 update I had installed some weeks back. Basically, to begin the pairing process, you just take a picture of the Watch face with your iPhone, then off you go. It only took a minute or two to pair the devices.
The Sport Strap
The black Sport Strap on the Watch is smooth and comfortable, but it takes some effort getting it on and securing the Watch to my wrist. I think some of the other strap options that Apple provides—for example, the Milanese Loop—would be easier, but it’s a small issue and getting easier each day.
I read an article that some Watch users are getting rashes wearing the Sport Band, which is made of a custom fluoroelastomer, according to Apple. But so far, so good for me. The strap is smooth and relatively comfortable. I say “relatively” only because I haven’t worn a watch for years.
The Watch bands are said to be easy to remove. I haven’t tried removing my band yet, but I’m sure I’ll be exploring some of the other bands down the road. The bands from Apple are expensive. A leather band, for example, is $149. I might want to dress up the Watch for more formal occasions, but I think I’ll wait and see what accessory manufacturers come out with.
The Watch interface
Make no mistake, you will have to consult the documentation or online videos to figure out how to customize and otherwise make best use of the Watch. I’m still exploring, and so far have only used a few of its features on a regular basis.
I’ve been fairly dedicated to trying to reach at least 10,000 steps a day for some months now, and the Watch’s Activity app provides information at a glance and reminders that get me moving throughout the day.
The other features I’ve been using are the timers and stopwatch, which are easy to set, now that I’ve customized my Watch face to include those capabilities.
When I first paired the Watch with my iPhone, I was asked whether I wanted to sync all the iPhone apps onto my Watch. I selected the “Later” option, so still don’t have all the iPhone apps on my Watch yet. I figure I’ll add them as I need them, and download new ones that might be useful over time.
Notifications and messages
Right now, one of the notable apps for the Watch is Notifications. I have minimal notifications enabled on the Watch—just my calendar and reminders, as well as a few applications (the New York Times, for example).
Notifications are helpful without being obtrusive. For notifications, I suspect that if I had all my e-mail accounts set up for notifications, it could be extremely annoying. There are ways to tweak e-mail notifications so that you can get only the most important ones, but I’ve not messed with this yet. It’s still early.
Additionally, getting text messages on the Watch is a convenience, and Apple has done a nice job with providing some canned responses that let you complete the circle with a minimum of fuss.
It is super convenient to see notifications and messages without having to take my phone out of my pocket. This might seem like a minor thing, but there are numerous times that my hands are full or I’m otherwise hindered from taking out the phone. The Watch solves this problem nicely.
Clearly, Apple expects Watch users to make use of Siri, the built-in personal assistant, to provide voice commands.
For example, if I’m cooking a meal, I can say “Hey Siri, set a timer for 10 minutes” without touching the Watch. To create an item on my to-do list, I can say, “Hey Siri, remind me to call the insurance agent at 2 PM.”
To create an item on my calendar, I can say, “Hey Siri, I have a doctor’s appointment on Friday, June 19, at 3 PM.” You get the picture.
Siri works with the Maps app for getting directions, the Music app for playing a specific song or playlist, and the Workout app to start (and later stop) a particular type of workout—for example, 15 minutes on the elliptical machine.
I’ve noticed a few minor glitches with Siri. The virtual assistant doesn’t always hear you correctly, and in certain modes on the Watch, doesn’t seem to be available at all.
I haven’t quite figured that out yet, but for the most part, Siri works well.
There are something like 6000 apps already available for the Apple Watch. That is far and away the most apps available for any wearable device.
Some tech journalists have complained that third-party apps are less than optimal for the Watch paradigm and load very slowly. I’ve experienced this in a few cases, just tinkering around, but I want to withhold judgment for now.
Also, it’s important to note that apps on the Apple Watch are just getting started. At this year’s WWDC, Apple announced watchOS 2 and a Watch SDK (software developers kit). These should enable third-party developers to improve their existing apps and create new apps that will be more efficient, take advantage or more built-in functions, and run more quickly. We’ll see.
In the first week, after wearing the Watch for 15-plus hours a day, when I put the Watch on the charger at night, it still has about 50-60 percent remaining battery life. As I write this, I’ve had the Watch on my wrist for 7 hours and it has 81 percent battery life left.
Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, has stated that users will want to charge the Watch daily. By my experience, every other day might even work.
Given that the Watch is a fairly powerful, multi-function computer on your wrist, battery life is more than acceptable to me.
Apple Watch is a Version-1 device. It still has a few flaws, glitches, and annoyances, but on the whole, it is a really polished, functional, and pleasant-to-use device.
Although Apple will no doubt be improving the hardware design and internal components down the road, I suspect that the company will be supporting this V1 iteration for years to come.
That means early adopters will have new versions of the watchOS to look forward to, versions that that will add functionality, fix bugs, and continually improve the device. Not to mention a continuing stream of third-party apps, which will further enhance the experience.
Need it…or want it?
Jean-Louis Gassee, a former Apple vice president and frequent blogger wrote a wonderful piece on need versus want in the context of the Apple Watch.
Perhaps future software or hardware upgrades will make the Watch indispensable.
Right now, though, it’s a well-executed, attractive device that’s already adding value to my digital life.
I find that I’m pulling my iPhone out of my pocket a lot less, which is a good thing. And I’m looking forward to continuing to drill down and discover other functions that I’ll find useful, and other ways to maximize the functions that I’m already using.
At the very least, it should be an excellent adventure.