In my Moto 360 V2 review I admitted to changing my mind a bit about smartwatches. My initial impression was that smartwatches were redundant and really not needed. I mean, I can do everything by pulling my phone out and more. Why would I need a smartwatch? So the single most convenient thing about a smartwatch is NOT having to pull your phone out to check notifications, reply to texts, answer calls, switch tracks on music, reply to emails, get directions, do a quick search and other assorted small tasks. These are the things that make a smartwatch useful, and this is my Apple Watch review. Is it worth the price?
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Apple prides itself on designing things they believe are beautiful and harmonious. You only need to watch one of their promo videos to feel the oozing self-praise. Apple does design some really nice hardware. The MacBook I’m typing on now is certainly a beautifully crafted device and the MacBook Pro sitting next to it is equally striking, but Apple really missed an opportunity here. Of course that is my opinion and beauty in design is in the eye of the beholder, still, the square rounded corner design doesn’t quite satisfy me (reminds me a bit of Apple’s icons). The Huawei Watch and Moto 360 V2 are much nicer looking than the Apple Watch and work (with limitations) on iOS.
Icon shape design aside the rest of the watch and its materials are high quality and well done. I was a bit nervous about the sport band, I thought it would be a cheap rubber band and collect dust like so many other rubber watch bands. The band is actually one of my favorite things about this watch. It never gets dirty and dusty, if you spill something on it it’s very easy to clean up and wipe off. The way Apple designed the latching system is pretty awesome as well, even though it is proprietary and won’t allow you to use regular watch bands like the Moto 360 V2 does. You’re stuck with Apple Watch specific bands and that is one thing Apple does well, create opportunity for third party (Apple specific) accessory makers.
On the right is the power button and digital crown which I thought would be gimmicky and useless but I found myself using it more because my fat sausage fingers obscured the screen. Around the back are the sensors for heart rate, step count and other data collecting measures. They look like they would be uncomfortable but there is glass covering the sensors and you don’t feel a thing at all. Overall the design is a mix of good and bad, there’s some nice stuff here for sure but I just wish they would have opted for a round face or even less of a square rounded corner design.
The display on the Apple Watch is bright and easy to read even in bright sunlight. It’s responsive and Force Touch works nicely here. There’s a plethora of things you can do with Force Touch from changing watch faces to setting alarms. I’ve found that the glass on the front is pretty tough, I have banged it against doors and counters by accident and haven’t had any scratches. Overall the screen works nicely, is easy to navigate, and works well in bright sunlight.
So let’s just start out by saying that Siri still sucks. I’m not sure what Apple is doing to improve it but Google Now and Cortana are much better options which you don’t have on the watch. Fifty percent of the time Siri doesn’t understand what I’m asking or dictates the wrong words into a text or email. It has gotten better since the early days but I still get frustrated with Siri.
Siri aside, watchOS is a great software experience paired with your iPhone. Everything worked pretty seamlessly with a few hiccups on third party apps, mostly waiting for the Apple Watch iPhone app to sync with the watch. There are many things you can do with the Apple Watch software, even play some games. I didn’t experiment with games as I think gaming on a tiny watch screen is ridiculous. Apple Pay is a nice touch as well, although I couldn’t use it during the review as my bank did not support Apple Pay until just a few days ago.
Overall the software worked perfectly the way I used it and I expected nothing less from Apple on that front. It is important to note that I did not experience the first version of watchOS as I didn’t get my Apple Watch until later. There are some Apple Watch reviews that had expressed some performance and software issues on the first release of watchOS.
Running on Apple’s S1 chip with 512MB RAM and 8GB of storage the watch had no issues running any of the apps installed. Notifications were seamless and scrolling was smooth. Force Touch worked well without any sort of hiccups or errors. Performance will depend largely on how you use your smartwatch, if you’re doing more intensive things you’ll see a hit but I’m still convinced that smartwatches are more for notifications and short replies at this point. Maybe somewhere in the near future there will be a deeper application but for now it’s a seconds saver.
Battery life is another one of those usage things, highly dependent on how you use your watch. The amount of notifications you choose to push to the watch will affect battery life as will playing games, making calls, and sending texts. I generally have notifications on for email, texts, phone, Google Hangouts, Facebook Pages and a few games on my iPhone. I found that the battery lasted through my whole day, 5am – 10pm, without needing to charge. Some days I would have 50% and some days 25% left it all depended on how much I used the watch. But I never dipped under 25% and that is some very good battery life.
OK, so is it worth it? If you have $349 and up of disposable income and are already living in the Apple ecosystem and really want to save a few seconds from pulling out your phone, then yes. Is it absolutely a necessity to buy an Apple Watch right now? No. It’s convenient, I will say that. I didn’t think a smartwatch would be convenient but I was wrong. The only problem though, is that the price tag isn’t really worth the very small convenience you’re gaining. My advice would be to wait for even version 3 of the Apple Watch to see where smartwatches are going because right now it’s all about the notifications and response time.
The Apple Watch is a great watch if you’re willing to shell out $349 to start, with prices going up from there. But at those prices, you’ll have to decide if saving a few extra seconds is worth the money. Our advice… wait a few years, even as far out as version 3 of the Apple Watch.
*We reviewed a retail version of the Apple Watch purchased by the reviewer.
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