Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Apple Watch Review

I do enjoy gadgets and for some time I have been eyeing an Apple Watch. Recently a friend of mine pointed out a special at Target where a $499 watch was reduced to $399 with a $100 target gift card (meaning it effectively is $299, since it is easy to spend $100 on target for items you need around your house and groceries). At $299, I decided to "take the plunge" and it effectively is my XMAS gift to myself.

This is what the watch looks like in the box. The box is very long and it contains an extra watch band in case your band gets mangled from over-use. The watch bands also are replaceable - I picked the white one because it was the last watch available at the target that was walking distance from my condo.

Here's what the watch looks like on your wrist. This is one of the more basic faces, with the time, the weather, calendar notifications, and the "universal" time which apparently is Cupertino. The multiple circle image is their sort of fitness tracker, and the red dot on the top means that I have notifications waiting.

It took me a little while to figure out how to use the watch, and I am still learning. At this point Apple basically includes no useful documentation - they just have a few pictorial pull-outs and then you figure out the rest by going to the web or watching videos on Youtube. When I turned on the watch it needed to be charged, which occurs when a magnetic disk is attached to the bottom of the watch face. It seems to take an hour or two to fully charge the watch. I also upgraded the watch to the version 2+ operating system which took a while (a few hours).

It is important to understand that the watch is of marginal use without your iPhone being nearby. Your watch is basically receiving all of its information and connectivity from your iPhone - it can still tell time and function as a fitness tracker, but it can't do much else on its own.

What CAN you do with the watch? A lot. You can hear a quiet "ping" or feel a buzz on your wrist when you receive an important email or text message, or a notification from WSJ or other major news source. You can pay for Starbucks or use Apple Pay, and use it for Uber, directions, and a host of other tasks. You can text from your watch to contacts in your phone, although you can only use "canned" responses (such as "on my way" or anything else you want to program in). You can also receive directions through your watch.

I don't use my phone to call very often but you can receive and make calls on your watch. The sound is surprisingly good and you are often more likely to know someone is calling when you feel your wrist buzzing than when your muffled iPhone is ringing in your bag. Others that I know use this option a lot and it helps them to avoid missing calls. Another key function is the calendar - if you keep your schedule up to date and set up notifications it can help keep you on track by buzzing your arm or pinging before upcoming events.

Another more subtle benefit is that it caused me to "clean up" my contacts and re-organize my email to be more efficient and only surface the "VIP's" through notifications. The watch is organized to facilitate connections and you can help yourself by updating your contacts and your "canned" responses to emails and messages.

The watch has a "companion app" on your iPHone which allows you to control setup and functionality. You can choose to mirror your iPhone on your Apple Watch and as a default it will bring over all the apps on your iPhone that are enabled for the Apple Watch at the time you set it up for the first time.

So what's not to like? Charging the watch every night is annoying. The watch often gets slow, especially when it is far away from the iPhone and you ask it to do something like check mail or messages (beyond reading what has already been downloaded). The watch can often "suck you in" to doing things that are far better accomplished on your iPhone, like reading email and responding to texts and reading articles. The watch face is small, so if you are attempting to utilize the various icons you often "fat finger" the wrong app.

I have a work phone and a personal phone. I set my Apple Watch to pair with my personal phone. Likely my experience with the watch would be different if it was tethered to my work phone since I receive 10x the messages on my work phone and my contacts are not as well organized. I was at a conference and an executive obviously had set up his Apple Watch with his work phone because he couldn't go more than 10 seconds without checking his watch.

There will be a v2 of this watch coming out likely in the first half of 2016. It may be worth waiting that long, if you want to get a watch that likely has significant improvements. On the other hand, it is likely to cost more than $299, the current "floor" for Apple Watch sales today.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

1 comment:

Dan from Madison said...

Meh. I am not seeing too much value in having this as a phone extension. I do see the value in catching a missed call but not much else. I stand by my prediction that this will go on your tech trash heap in under 90 days.