Let’s try to find out.
The iPhone 5-and-up-compatible smartwatch deals with three basic features: communications, notifications and fitness tracking. Then there are secondary things like Apple Pay, music storage (essentially like an iPod without a headphone jack), and third party apps.
And by the way, it also tells time and date.
There are 38 versions with different case materials, colors, sizes and bands, costing from $350 to $17,000. You can learn about the price of each version here.
The watch is beautifully crafted and does a wide variety of things. But, probably, trying to do almost everything in the first generation, Apple has left plenty to be desired and has put too much burden on the battery.
Let’s not forget, the Cupertino-based tech giant is just setting sail and has a long way to go. They’ve already released the first firmware update that improves activity tracking and reduces the lag caused when loading third-party apps.
In-depth Apple Watch Review
Just like most other smartwatches, the Apple watch has a color touch screen, which will bear most of your tapping and swiping. The screen is bright and responsive – full marks. But what’s unlike other watches, the Apple Watch has an elegant crown that, when pressed, takes you to the home screen from the watch face. It can also be used for navigation (at least in some apps) and as a replacement for pinch to zoom. You might tend to forget it at first, but once you get a hang of it, you’ll feel it really adds an interesting, new dimension to the whole interface. Let’s not forget about the second button just below the crown that fires up favorite contacts, or triggers Apple Pay with a double-click.
Another way to interact with your Apple Watch is the well-known assistant Siri. You can launch Siri by pressing and holding the digital crown. The watch has a great mic and a fairly good speaker. Yup, you can also use the watch to manage calls as long as it’s connected to your iPhone.
Apple has also included a bunch of customizable watch faces that let you tweak the interface and choose the info (or shortcuts to apps like calendar, weather etc.) you want to view on your current watch face.
All in all, the watch has a neat and tidy interface – a hallmark of Apple products. You’re presented different bits of info in various interesting ways. Notifications will pop on to the screen, just like they do on Android Wear and others – just swipe down to view the details. What makes Apple Watch unique is that it lets you deal with each notification separately.
Another interesting and powerful feature associated with Apple Watch’s interface is a feature called Glances. They are permanent little slides – somewhat like Google Now cards – that basically work like Widgets on iOS 8. To navigate through the interactive cards, you need to swipe up. Unfortunately, not all the apps are compatible with Glances.
Design and display
Apple has tried very hard to make the consumers think of the watch as a fine jeweler. But that sounds more like a stretch, even though the watch if very finely crafted and the gold versions cost as much as any expensive piece of jewelry.
The watch looks like a normal watch or a miniature old iPod Nano, until you take a closer look when seamless, perfect craftsmanship appears. The watch is a little chunky but not too big, especially the 38mm version – ideal for women or men with small wrists. Even the 42mm Apple Watch is nearly as thick and wide as the Pebble Steel. And it’s very comfortable on the wrist.
As for the design, Apple Watch offers more variety than any other watch on the planet. There are 38 different versions – from the $349 Sport with ion-X glass screen and fluorocarbon-based synthetic rubber band to the $17,000 Apple Watch Edition with 18-karat rose gold case and rose gray modern buckle
As for the screen, Apple has wisely chosen the OLED display. It’s bright enough to be read easily in most lighting conditions and yet kinder on the battery. The OLED screen draws less battery power by showing a dark always-on screen, and turns on the full display when you interact with it.
That’s why most of the Apple Watch faces are surrounded by deep black background. It also helps the colorful app icons and watch face element pop.
The 42mm version has 312 x 390 pixels while the 38mm watch has 272 x 340 pixels. Both have a decent pixel density. In fact, it offers the best colorful display than any other smartwatch for iPhone. Needless to say, it comes at the cost of a short battery life.
While the Apple Watch offers a variety of models that greatly differ in their appearance, under the hood, they are exactly the same. The watch has a S1 processor, tailor made by Apple for their prestigious smartwatch. It also features the “Taptic”, haptic engine, and sensors including accelerometer, gyro, heart-rate monitor.
It doesn’t have onboard GPS and instead uses your phone’s for navigation. The watch also has Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz Wi-Fi for connecting to your iPhone, headphones, or your wireless networks. The timepiece has a speaker and mic, but doesn’t have a headphone jack. So, you’ll need to buy a Bluetooth headset in case you want to enjoy music stored on the watch.
Charring and battery life
The biggest criticism the watch has received is for its paltry battery life, and rightly so.
For an average user, the watch is supposed to last eighteen hours on a single charge, which translates to one day. So be ready to charge it every night.
If you use it just as a timepiece and don’t use any of the smart features, it can stay alive for 48 hours. Alternately, you can stretch it to 24 hours if you use it sporadically and don’t tax the battery with phone calls and hear-rate monitor. Non-stop phone calls can drain out the battery in less than three hours, and playing music or using the heart-rate sensor for a little over six hours continuously will require a recharge.
When indie developers will release their apps that will make use of NFC, heart-rate monitor and other sensors, the battery life will drop even faster.
The inductive charging process requires a proprietary cable and a magnetic disc that you’ll pop the watch into. For a wire-free solution, Apple has combined inductive charger with their popular MagSafe magnet. It’s almost the same as the one found in Moto 360, though the two aren’t compatible. Unfortunately, the watch takes quite a while to charge. Even after staying on the charger for one hour, the battery level was around 36%.
While yet another proprietary cable to carry around is no good news, yet the charger and the process is much better than the one used in Pebble or in most Android Wear smartwatches.
Dust and water resistance
In short, Apple Watch is splash and water resistant, but not waterproof.
It has a strange rating of IPX7. That means that watch will survive an occasional splash but shouldn’t be worn while swimming. But the ‘X’ means that there is no certificate given for dust ingression.
This, however, doesn’t mean that watch has absolutely no dust resistance – it just hasn’t been tested and certified.
Apple Watch – Missing features/apps
Apple Watch is by the far the most feature-rich wrist-gizmo we’ve seen so far. Covering all the features is simply impossible, so let’s talk about the major ones. But before that, let’s talk about the notable features that are missing.
First and foremost feature that’s not included is advanced health monitoring. Since it’s primarily a fitness-first gadget, sensors to measure blood pressure and stress levels that were originally included in Apple’s plan, will be greatly missed by fitness freaks. And as mentioned earlier, the bad news for runners is that it lacks GPS as well. Now, these features are expected in the second version, most likely to be released next year.
The fitness oriented Apple Watch isn’t waterproof, but only water resistant, bummer. Another reason the iOS users would feel a twinge of envy for the Android users is that Google is making their smartwatches more and more independent, while Apple Watch must be tethered to an iPhone at all times. It also lacks a camera and 3G or 4G data connectivity. But it’s something that won’t probably be a deal breaker.
Again, despite so many apps, many analysts and tech gurus are moaning that there isn’t any killer app that could make the watch a must-have gadget. Maybe we’ll get such apps down the road… just maybe.
Features and apps
Again, communications, notifications and fitness tracking; these are the three areas where Apple has focused. But unfortunately none of these is superb enough to make you yearn to buy the watch. Yet, the features and apps of the Apple Watch are better than those found on most rival watches.
The best thing about the notifications is that each of them can be managed individually, just like you can do on your iPhone. Depending on what you need, however, you can also set them differently than the iPhone. While you might not be using Siri too often on your phone, having it on your wrist makes it more useful and you might find yourself talking a lot to your digital assistant.
Another cool feature of the watch is the Taptic, the haptic engine that taps your wrist in different ways to notify you about different alerts. Your mind will quickly process info based on the vibration patterns to let you know what kind of notification you have, even before looking at the screen. This could be the first big step towards merging digital info with human body.
Apple really boasts the accuracy of their smartwatch, but for an average user, that might not be a feature to die for. However, integration of the watch with your calendar and contacts, customizable watch faces, Complications and Glances are some cool features associated with timekeeping.
Apple Watch has a set of nice-to-have,(in other words superfluous) features where two users can share their heartbeat and sketches they drew on the watch, or just send a customized gentle tap.
The more impressive, though not perfect, feature of the Apple Watch is Health & Fitness. It’s almost on a par with the ones found in high-end fitness trackers such as Jawbone, Fitbit etc. It’s a fairly detailed system that lets you set goals, and view progress updates and workout summary. It has a built-in heart rate sensor and an accelerometer, but borrows iPhone’s GPS. So, from setting goals to personalized feedback, the watch is a potent personal trainer on your wrist.
Yet another interesting feature is Apple Pay. It lets you add more than one credit card and pay for shopping at select outlets. Though it sounds pretty fascinating but has quite a few downsides. First of all, its setup is slightly more complicated as compared to the setup on iPhone. Secondly, not many outlets accept Apple Pay. And last but not least, we’re not sure how safe it is, considering the shocking results of a recent research that shows how easily LG G Watch and Samsung Gear 2 Neo gave away personal data.
As for the built in apps, you’ll find a couple of new apps beside the standard iPhone apps (messages, phone, mail etc.). The new apps are Activity, Workout, Camera Remote, and Remote (for Apple TV). Since it’s a watch and not an iPhone, the familiar apps also work in slightly different ways. Siri, Music and Passbook are the only apps that make more sense on a watch, the rest are better suited for the bigger screen.
Just like Android Wear and Samsung watches, Apple Watch can also store up 2 GB music in the form of synced playlist. Thank goodness the sync process is pretty hassle-free and doesn’t require iTunes or Mac.
Then there are third party apps, and there are a lot of them: from Target to America Airlines to Instagram to Twitter to Evernote to CNN… the list goes on and on. Still, most of these apps feel and work better on the iPhone or iPad mainly because these apps work by cross-loading extension onto the watch and an app works on iPhone, so they take more time to execute. Though a firmware update has considerably reduced the lag, but it’s still there.
And you can just forget about all the third-party apps when your watch isn’t connected to your phone.
In short, the Apple Watch is the most ambitious, best crafted smartwatch so far, still it’s not a necessary gadget but just a trendy and stylish toy. It does a lot of things, but there’s hardly anything your phone can’t do. The watch isn’t too complicated, but there is a slight learning curve.
The high price of the watch makes it a tough proposition; suitable only for early adopters and geeks. But if you want to buy an Apple Watch, I’d recommend you should go for the 42 mm watch, because of slightly longer battery life and more useable area on the screen.