Apple Watch Review: Living with the most expensive smartwatch

Apple Watch hero

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Apple has a reputation for rolling out products that do less than competitors but do it better. With its first proper smartwatch, the company takes a different tack trying to do just as much and still doing it better.

Even if we are late to the Apple Watch review party, we wanted to make it special and also nail it right. No matter how much you feel about Apple, you have to admit the company makes beautiful hardware and software.

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So how does the Apple Watch compete? Is it a smartwatch for you? Or, will it be a market success? Let’s find out about this and more in this Apple Watch Review.


Apple Watch hardware crown

Apple Watch hardware sensorsEven the entry-level Sport version of this smartwatch, the attention to detail is evident in everything; from the narrowed digital crown, to the placement of the heart-rate sensors, to the seam between the cover glass and the aluminum composite body. The 81 gm of watch and band is solid, neither too light nor too heavy and the band itself whose material looks rubbery and stiff in some photos is actually comfortably soft and swapping it for another band is just a button push away.

Our watch Sport review unit came with two bands and sizes in the box and apple also sells additional styles at typical Apple prices. Also, included in the box is a charging pop with a simple design that attaches magnetically and charges via induction. That makes it similar to the inductive pedestal that ships with the Moto 360 smartwatch. Apple’s version isn’t quite as elegant in that it doesn’t stand the watch up, but at least its compact for travel.

And speaking of size, our review device is the 42 millimeter version of the Apple watch. Those with smaller wrists will appreciate that there’s a 38 millimeter version as well. Both feature a 1.32 inch high pixel density OLED display and all versions of the watch can be set up for either right or left-handed users. The watch is rated IP-X 7, meaning it can theoretically survive immersion in a meter of water for at least 30 minutes, though Apple doesn’t recommend this.

Apple Watch OS 1.0

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Driving the day-to-day experience is Watch OS 1.0, which is based on iOS and powered by Apple’s S1 processor. The feature set is where Apple goes the extra mile with the watch compared to much of its competition, but once you’ve paired it to your iPhone there’s awful lot you can do without taking your phone out of your pocket. And, a lot of it works very well.

[one_third]First and foremost among those is notifications. The watch is very good at knowing when you’re looking at it and when you’re not, and raising it after getting a notification will immediately display the alerts contents. If you miss that chance — or just one review notifications you’ve received — you can swipe down from the top of the watch face to view a list of them and dismiss them individually. [/one_third][two_third_last]Swiping up from the bottom of the screen gets you access to glances which range from miniaturized card versions of Apps like Apple health, calendar, Twitter and Instagram. To control functions like power management, heart-rate reading, media controls and the watches control panel. Here you can set the watch to silent or airplane mode and also ping your phone to make it ring out if you’ve misplaced it. You’ve also got more options for interaction with all this software than on any other SmartWatch. In addition to the usual touchscreen taps and swipes, the digital crown is here for scrolling and zooming so you can keep your finger clear of the display. There is also the new force touch technology which works just like it sounds. You press a little harder on the screen to access more options like changing the watch face. The faces Apple ships with out of the box fortunately very customizable. My favorite configuration tells me battery level, date, outside temperature, exercise activity level and of course the time all at a glance.[/two_third_last]

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Apple Watch Experience on iPhoneI’ve been using the Apple watch tethered to an iPhone 6 on and off for two weeks. And, in that time I’ve found more than a few reminders that this is very much a version one product. First, all those separate kinds of interactions make the watch more confusing than some of the competition. The digital crown is fun but it also feels underused, I would twist it while trying to scroll through glances for example, only to find that most of the time it does nothing. Also, you can use it to scroll through your favorite contacts but try selecting one of them by pressing the digital crown, and you will surprisingly be taken back to the watch face. I understand that Apple’s trying to keep its behavior consistent as a kind of home button of the watch, but there’s a whole another button that could do that.

Speaking of, it’s great to use that other side button as a shortcut to the friends list, but confining such a prominent control to such a limited purpose feels pod somehow.  Almost as odd as  sharing your heartbeat with another Apple watch user something I never got to do during my review period.

Apple Watch Experience with iPhone

[one_third] Some basic functions could also use some improvement. Every time you try a new app that requires specific permissions, you need to grant access on the phone first. Now, this is a frustrating speed bump. Also, you can reply by voice dictation to some alerts but not others and taking calls on the watch requires an almost totally silent room. So weak as the integrated speakerphone. This is one area that Samsung’s Gear S enjoys an edge admittedly at the cost of a much larger size. Get past those frustrations and there’s so much to like here. [/one_third][one_third]Thanks to the linear actuator that Apple calls the tactic engine, notifications really are a more gentle tap and rattling vibration. Voice dictation is an accurate and fast way to reply to text and Siri on the wrist is a big help when it comes to simple requests. Leaving the iPhone in my jeans, I successfully navigated a 4.7 km evening walk from Ntinda to Najjeera just by telling Syria to take me there. And, I also used it to track my exercise during he process. In both cases, it performed flawlessly. Even on my more sedentary days the reminders to get up and stand every hour or less annoying than encouraging thanks to the gentle tap and easy to read the exercise meter. [/one_third][one_third_last]Navigating the app launcher is much easier than it looks and Apple is off to a great start encouraging developers to build an app that also works on the watch. Though it must be said that you’ll often be waiting longer for an App to load on the watch than you would on the phone. You would want to charge the watch every night but even with lots of wrist navigation and heavy notification traffic my watch would usually have more than half a charge left at the end of the day. This came as a pleasant surprise to me considering its tiny battery. [/one_third_last]