I’ve now spent over three months with my Apple Watch. My thoughts, in a nutshell: I like it, but I certainly can't recommend it for everyone due to its price. And, of the many Apple devices I own, if I had to give up one, it would be the first to go.
That said, I do like having a wristwatch. Perhaps I’m simply indoctrinated after a lifetime of wearing one, but I enjoy being able to tell what time without pulling my iPhone out of my pocket.
Of course, buying an Apple Watch just to tell time would be like buying a 5K iMac with Retina display just to check your email. In other words, a waste of money.
Also, let me say that there’s no way I’d spent $500 or more for a wristwatch. I wear my watch (Apple or otherwise) when I run, when I work out, when I’m doing yard work, etc. Which means it’s subjected to rain, sweat, dirt, and the occasional ding. I’m not going to have a super expensive piece of bling on my wrist exposed to such risks.
That’s why I have the 42mm Apple Watch Sport with blue sport band. Of course, at $399 (plus tax), that's expensive enough. And that's why I can't recommend Apple's smartwatch for everyone. For fitness buffs, those who will use the Apple Pay features, and for those who will constantly use it to interact with their iPhone (as well as those who simply must have the latest Apple gear), definitely buy it. If you don't fall into those categories, wait until the price comes down (and I think it will slowly come down).
As for me, I use my Sport Watch for, well, sports and exercise. It's extremely comfortable to wear. The band feels good on my arm even on a seven-mile run in August here in Tennessee, where's it's very hot and humid. On the other hand, when I'm soaked in sweat, the moisture on my fingers makes it hard to swipe the interface on the watch to change screens. Often it takes several swipes to see a new screen, which is more than a bit aggravating.
And, no, I can't use Siri because I don't take my iPhone with me when I run. You need your iPhone on and within range of your Watch for Siri to work; without the iPhone, Siri flashes its standard "Not Available" cry.
However, I found the Apple Watch’s interface easy to learn. The Digital Crown lets you easily scroll, zoom and navigate without blocking the display. The Retina display with Force Touch does, as Apple promised, sense the difference between a tap and a press, providing a way to access relevant controls. The all-new Taptic Engine discreetly delivers a gentle tap on the wrist whenever you receive a notification or message.
Besides sweat resistance, another thing that needs improvement is battery life. Designed to be worn throughout the day, the Apple Watch purportedly delivers up to 18-hour all-day battery life. I’ve found that generally to be true. However, one day when I did an extra long run (with the Workout app running), then used the same app to see how far I walked when mowing my lawn (I’m old school; I use a push mower), the energy level was down to 10% after eight hours.
Apparently, using the Workout app for an extremely lengthy period ate up battery life. Thankfully, the Watch has a nifty Power Reserve feature that lets you continue to tell time while preserving your battery life.
Despite my issues with sweat, the Apple Watch is a good exercise/fitness accessory. It provides detailed metrics for dedicated workout sessions for activities, such as running, walking, and cycling via the Workout app. With an accelerometer, a built-in heart rate sensor, GPS and Wi-Fi from your iPhone, as well as sensors for different types of motion, it provides a comprehensive picture of your daily activity and workouts.
The Activity app on an iPhone collects your activity and workout data from an Apple Watch, so you can see your history in greater detail. Apple’s smart watch uses this history to suggest personalized activity goals.
Any activity performed at the level of a brisk walk or above is considered exercise. The Apple Watch keeps track of how much you do each day, even when it’s not in a dedicated workout. You close the Exercise ring when you reach 30 minutes of exercise per day (which you don’t have to do all at once).
The Apple Watch senses when you stand and move just a bit, and gives you credit when you do. If you’ve been sitting for almost an hour (something I find myself doing too often in writing for AppleWorld.Today), it reminds you to get up. You close the Stand ring when you’ve stood up and moved a little for at least one minute in 12 different hours during the day.
For those of us who do have a dedicated workout, the watch provides important real-time stats. As a runner, I can check on my elapsed time, distance covered, calories burned, and how fast my pace is. You can do the same thing with cycling. Unfortunately, swimmers are out of luck since the Apple Watch isn’t waterproof.
The Workout app always shows your last and best workout for each activity type and goal. You can repeat it, increase it, or decrease it. Or you can choose a different goal based on distance, time, or how many calories you want to burn.
Another feature I really like is the custom heart rate sensor in Apple Watch, which detects your heart rate during workouts. You can track your heart rate at rest, during a workout, or right after a workout. This info helps determine your intensity level, and improves the accuracy of your active calorie burn measurements.
There are other fitness watches I’ve tested. However, none of them are as elegant at the Apple Watch.
What about the watch features of the Apple Watch? Since I do use the wearable gadget to tell time, I like the ability to personalize the Apple Watch face. I also take advantage of the ability to check upcoming calendar events. (You can set the Taptic Engine to alert you with a gentle tap so you won’t miss important notifications.)
However, there are many other features that I won’t use (though I’ve tested ’em and they work well). The Apple Watch enables you to send messages, read email and answer calls to your iPhone right from your wrist. However, if I have my iPhone with me, I find no need to use the smartwatch’s smaller screen for such activities. And if I don’t have my Apple smartphone with me, the features don’t work since they require a nearby iPhone.
I also have no desire for my Apple Watch to alert me when I have a phone call or email, especially the latter. I receive hundreds of emails each day, so my watch would be “gently tapping” me almost nonstop — and I might kill it.
You can also send a sketch, a tap or even the rhythm of your own heartbeat to others. If these features intrigue you, fantastic. They're a bit too cutesy for me.
You can also use your Apple Watch to make payments with Apple Pay, use Passbook to, for instance, board a plane, or ask Siri for turn-by-turn directions in Maps. These features all work fine, but, again, I find it more useful and practical to use my iPhone 6 Plus for such duties. You may feel otherwise.
My verdict: the Apple Watch is the first smart watch I’ve tested that I like enough to wear full time. And when watchOS 2 debuts, it will gain even more useful features.
However, if you’re not a dedicated wristwatch wearer, aren’t interested in its workout/exercise/fitness features, and don’t need to have every product Apple makes, this is a purchase you need to think through carefully.