Review: Apple Watch

On April 24th, Apple released the Apple Watch to the general public (celebrities have been spotted wearing them already). And on April 27th, I received my 42mm Apple Watch Sport in space grey with the black sports band. It is finally here! I was so excited as it has received so many great and positive reviews on https://www.spotthewatch.com, one of the websites I trust the most for smartwatches and luxury ones. Is it worth buying? Could it possibly be better than the best G-Shock watches I’ve had for the last 6 years? Please read on for answers.

Packaging

The Apple Watch came in via UPS and was shipped in a long, rectangular box that was pretty heavy (shipping slip said it was 1lb). Inside that box was Apple’s packaging, which was the same shape as the UPS box (only slightly smaller). This seemed like an odd shape for a box containing a watch. Inside Apple’s signature white packaging was a long, white, plastic box containing my watch. Under that was documentation and a slip of paper holding the extra band (to size the sport band for smaller wrists). Under all that was the charger and very long charge cord.
The box for the watch is pretty impressive itself.  It is very dense and the interior is molded for the watch to fix exactly. It’s a bit longer than the watch (when lying flat), which is why the packaging is so oddly shaped. You’ll want to keep this box to place your watch inside when you’re not using or charging it.
I’ve heard there is different packaging for each type of Apple Watch.
Here is an unboxing video of a similar watch to mine:

Setup

Setup is really easy. Once you have unboxed the watch, you can turn the watch on by holding down the button on the side of the watch. It takes about a minute to boot up. It will then ask you to choose a language. After that, you will be asked to load up the Apple Watch app on your iPhone. Now you select “start pairing” on both devices. You will be presented with a very unique style of QR code–a swirling orb. You will then use your iPhone’s camera to scan the code. After this, your phone will ask you various questions (like what wrist you will wear the watch on). It will then ask you if you want to install all the apps on your phone that support the Apple Watch. From here, it takes a couple of minutes to install the apps and setup your watch. Just sit back and enjoy the anticipation of using your Apple Watch.
I ran into an issue where the weather app and iStock apps would not load–kind of a problem since they can be set as complications on your watch face. After some forum searching, I found that the setup had messed up somehow, and that I would have to re-setup my watch. After the reset, these apps worked fine.

Design

I love the design of the entire watch package. The charger cord is a round disk that is magnetized on one side. It attaches to the watch on its underside. Once the watch gets close enough, the magnet self-attaches and the watch starts charging. This is a pretty ingenious design, but I can see how, with certain bands (the ones that can’t open up and allow the watch to lie flat), this would not be as easy. With my watch, I merely have to set it down on the charging disk. Super simple.
Apple Watches come in three varieties. The Apple Watch comes in stainless steal, and the Apple Watch Edition Comes in 18-karat gold. My watch (The Apple Watch Sport) comes in anodized aluminum. I cannot speak to the other two, as I have not seen them, but the aluminum on the Apple Watch Sport is amazing and looks exactly the same as the aluminum on the iPhone 5 and 6. Watch as Jony Ive describes the aluminum in my watch. I could listen to this guy talk for hours.
The glass on the Apple Watch Sport is called X-ION. It is not the Sapphire that is on the two more premium watches, but still offers great durability and will not scratch under normal use. Just don’t try to sand your watch as seen in the video below.
Under that glass is Apple’s signature Retina display. It looks amazing. Apple is using this flat look that it introduced on iOS a couple of years back, and it works well with this watch. Colors are rich and vibrant. The screen is bright and works well, even in bright light.
I did not think that I would like the square design of the Apple Watch, but Apple has pulled it off. The watch looks understated, and I love the rounded corners. Also, I love the addition of the digital crown wheel on the side of the watch. It gives it the look of a real watch.
The main thing you are going to see is the watch face. Apple has designed 9 watch faces for you to choose from. You can choose from analog watch faces, to digital watch faces, to things like weird solar position watch faces. You can even have a Mickey Mouse watch face. All these watch faces are well-designed and are fully customizable with colors and “complications.” If you own a watch, you probably have seen a complication–little things like the current month and day that is added to the watch face. But this being a smart watch, you can add a lot more than just month and day. You can really make this watch personal to you.

Usability

The Apple Watch control scheme is kind of confusing at first, but it does not take long before it becomes second nature (although I still sometimes hit the button on the side of the watch to try to go back to the watch face).
The watch has four methods of control. First is the gyro sensor. This will be your primary way of looking at your watch. The watch display is normally off. When you raise your wrist, the display wakes up to show you your watch face. Only a few times did the watch not sense this motion for me.
Second is the digital crown. It is the wheel on the side of the watch. You press it into the watch and it acts as a back/home button. Pressing it while on the watch face will take you to the apps screen. Double pressing will take you to the watch face. Holding this press in will activate Siri. You can also use this wheel as a means of scrolling/zooming.
Third is the button on the side of the watch. It is just below the digital crown. Pressing this button will send you to a list of your favorite contacts. Holding this button down will allow you to turn off or put the watch into hibernation. Double pressing this button will launch Apple Pay (not in Canada yet, so it does not work for me).
Lastly is the touch interface. While the display is on, you can swipe up from the bottom to see things called “glances.” These are widgets of apps on your watch that give you quick information that you want to see. Swiping down from the top allows you to see all the notifications that your watch has received. You can scroll through information with the touch screen (same as you would with the digital crown). Pressing firmly down on the screen will give you another action. Apple calls this “force touch.” Every app uses this differently. It is just another input to help you control the watch. You can use all of these controls to wake the watch display up. You do not always have to lift your wrist.
The digital crown is surprisingly easy to use–spun around with just one finger. I thought it would be stupid and hard to use, but I find myself using it a lot. I like that Apple has given the option to use either the digital crown or touch to scroll. I find I use a combination of both controls–touch to scroll quickly, and use the digital crown to get more precise. The digital crown is easily the most used button. As soon as you learn that, you will have mastered how to navigate around the watch.
As noted above, the only confusing button to use is the button below the crown. It looks like the power button on the iPhone. At first, I kept pressing this button, thinking it was the home button, but after a few hours of use, I stopped doing that. I rarely touch this button. Once Apple Pay comes to Canada, I’m sure I will use it a lot more.
You can use Apple Watch Dick Tracy-style. You can make calls from this watch via your phone. There is a speaker and microphone built into the watch. The speaker is very clear, and you don’t have to look stupid while using it. The microphone works great from wherever your hand is. You don’t even need to raise the watch to your face.
Notifications come to you as a tap on the wrist with Apple’s haptic feedback and a ding. When you get the notification, you lift your wrist and are presented with a quick glance at the notification with options to either delve deeper or dismiss. If you miss the instant the notification comes in, you just have to swipe down on the screen to see all missed notifications. When you first setup the phone, any app that supports notifications will be set to send notifications to your watch. Any unwanted notifications must individually set as “off” on the Apple Watch app on your iPhone. This is a bit clunky, and you can get bogged down with notifications if you don’t manage them, but this is really no different from your phone. The only difference is you are more aware of it. On the plus side, you will not receive any notifications to your watch if your iPhone is not locked.

Glances are exactly like widgets on an android phone. You swipe up from the bottom of the screen to get to them, then swipe side-to-side to look at them. You are presented with bit-sized information, provided by supported apps on your phone. Tapping on the glance will launch the associated app. The only problem is they do not update in the background. When you swipe to the glance you want to see, it has to load for a few seconds. My guess is that this is done to conserve battery. Adjusting what glances to see and what order to see them in is done in the Apple Watch App on your phone.
Apps are stored on your phone and can be seen when you press the digital crown in (while on the watch face). These apps are presented as circles in a honeycomb pattern. You can use your finger to drag around the screen to find apps and then tap on them to launch them. These circles are very small and even on the larger 42mm watch, I keep accidentally launching the wrong app. This is where it would not pay to have the smaller 38mm watch. There are not a lot of apps in the Apple Watch app store yet, but, this being Apple, I can see this changing rapidly.

You can change the setting on your watch at the very base level, but most of the time you will be using your iPhone to do so. This makes sense since the watch does not do much without the phone, and there is more room on the iPhone to help change these settings fast.
Another highly touted feature of the Apple Watch is the activity and workout apps. After a simple setup, the watch will begin collecting movement data and filling three rings on the activity app. These rings count calories burnt, minutes of active exercise, and number of times you stand (counted by how many times did you stand at least once in that hour). Besides this, it also keeps track of your heartbeat (supposed to be very accurate), steps taken, and movement (via GPS). It is the most accurate and comprehensive built-in fitness tracker of any smart watch out there.

These digital touch and new animated emoticons features that they wasted stage time on are just that: a waste. In order to use most of them, communication with someone else who owns an Apple Watch is required. Sending your heartbeat and real time drawings gets old quickly. The only thing I see worth using is the “tapping someone” feature. If my wife had an Apple Watch, we could discretely get each others’ attention just by selecting each other in the contacts list and tapping the screen so that they feel a tap on their wrist.
The Apple Watch is able to be submerged in 3 feet of water for 30 minutes. This has been tested and proven here, but Apple states that you can wear it while showering and washing your hands.
Now the big one: battery life. Apple states that you can get through an entire day (which they define as 18 hours). Makes sense, as you need to sleep at least 6 hours a day. Under my use, I get to 18 hours and still have 20 percent battery left. That should mean that the battery will get me 24 hours of use before a charge if I need it.
The big gripe I have with the watch has to do with the sports band. It is really hard to put on. Closing the clasp on this band takes a finger flexibility that I do not possess. I need my free hand and a leg to put the watch on. It’s going to get annoying.

Conclusion

I have seen a lot of reviews stating that this is not the watch people wanted, or that it is a good stepping stone to what a smart watch should be. I really do not know what people want from a smart watch or expect a smart watch should be. Are they expecting the smart watch to be powerful enough to replace the smart phone altogether? I got news for them: we are years, maybe even decades, from that, especially considering what we do on our smartphones.
The Apple Watch, for me, is the best way to own a smart watch. It is a device that takes my attention away from my phone. I don’t know about you, but when I get a notification on my phone, it’s the starting point to my spending the next 20 mins or so checking other things on my phone because it is turned on and sitting in my hand. I have already seen my time on my phone decrease because of my Apple Watch. I get a notification, and I deal with it on the watch. Then go back to what I was doing. It is freeing. I think Apple got the concept of the watch correct the first time. Sure, there are things that could be tweaked, but that can be done through firmware and software patches.
On to the big question: Is the Apple Watch worth buying? This depends. You need an iPhone 5 or newer to use the Apple Watch (sorry Android, Window, and Blackberry users). That does limit who can use an Apple Watch. At $350 ($450 in Canada) for the 38mm, the entry point is pretty expensive. Judging by the way things are slightly cramped on the 42mm, I would say the 38mm watch is not worth it. It is just too small. I have no idea why Apple made the smaller 38mm watch. As for the 42mm watch, I would say it is worth buying. If you have an iPhone and can stomach the price, the Apple Watch is for you.

Jonathan Klassen

Just a small city, Christian boy from the province of Saskatchewan in Canada. Go Riders Go! I have a wife (Andrea), a son (Ethan) and another one on the way.

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