Having used an Apple watch daily for a month, I thought I’d share my thoughts. Bear with me, it’s a long review (there’s a lot to cover), and it’s broken into sections so you can skip the bits you’re less interested in. If you just want the facts I’ve included a list of Frequently Asked Questions and the end.
Apple Watch Sports Silver 42mm Review
There are three models available in increasing cost – the “Sport”, the “Watch” and the 18-Karat gold “Edition”. All three have exactly the same electronics, come two sizes (38mm and 42mm), and additional watch straps are available. This particular model is the “Watch Sport” with the aluminium case and Ion-X glass face.
The “Sport” comes in anodised aluminium case in silver or space grey, and the face is Ion-X glass, which is tough, but not quite as scratch resistant as the impossibly hard sapphire crystal on the “Watch” or “Edition” face. It comes with what Apple describe as a “fluoroelastomer” watch strap which feels remarkably comfortable in daily use, and appears durable. It was also easy to slide out and replace by one of the many other straps available.
The more expensive “Watch” comes in cold forged stainless steel with a shiny chrome or a space black finish. It’s rumoured that steel is more likely to scratch than the aluminium sport model, so bear this in mind. The “Watch” and “Edition” also come with a matching steel magnetic charging tab.
The “Edition” is the mind-blowingly expensive gold model, but you’re essentially buying the exactly the same product, but made from gold.
Finally there’s not a great difference in weight. The “Sport” watches (with strap) vary between 62g-72g and the stainless steel “Watch” between 56g-105g depending upon size and watch strap selected. The heaviest is the 42mm “Watch” in the stainless steel link strap – it’s also the most expensive in this range.
First impressions are it’s a truly beautiful device, and much lighter and smaller than I’d expected. The display is bright and easily read – even in direct sun-light. The under-side has 4 glass circles with the heart rate monitor, and to the right you have the “digital crown” to zoom into photos or scroll through lists along with a second “side” button for quick access to your frequent contacts. The digital crown also acts as a “home” button, and the double-clicking the side button launches Apple Pay.
Apple say the watch is rated at “IPX7″ which is “water resistant” not “water proof”. It’s worth noting to gain this internationally agreed standard rating, they needed to test the watch under 1-3 meters of water for an extended period, but you’d need to check the small-print to check if you’re covered by warranty in the event of a failure. I certainly have no issue wearing this in the shower, but I wouldn’t taking it diving.
It’s also worth stating up front you’ll need an iPhone 5 or later to use the Apple Watch as many of the Apps are almost entirely dependent upon your iPhone.
Software and Watch Apps
The default screen displays the date and time, and can be customised to change colours, and add an array of additional snippets including your appointments, the local weather forecast, and your activity progress from the health app. You can also display the remaining battery life, and even the phases of the moon – good for werewolves I guess.
Tap the digital crown to list your Watch Apps, and they appear as a sequence of blobs on screen. You can scroll around the screen using your finger or zoom in with the digital crown, and I found it easy to use, and it works pretty intuitively.
My personal favorite Apps were City Mapper, Dark Sky and the Heath App, although I found the delays in launching some apps a little irritating. While many features are on the watch, most Apps are powered by the iPhone, and indeed you manage which apps appear from the “Watch” App on the phone. This is worth noting, as stated above, you’ll need at least an iPhone 5 or better to make use of the watch.
Notifications and Glances
A really great feature, when you get an notification (for example a text message arrives on your iPhone), you’ll get a light tap on your wrist to alert you. Cleverly, the watch face won’t light up unless you raise your wrist, at which point you can view which type of notification you have. If you keep looking, it displays the full information, and allows you to reply – suggesting options. You may find these taps too distracting, and you’ll need to decide which to leave on the phone, but it’s a great example of watch and iPhone working together.
“Glances” are another feature I loved.
Swipe up to reveal a set of custom selected “cards” with information which can include weather, traffic information or health (including calories burned, minutes of exercise etc). For example, if you live or work in London, New York, San Francisco or Montreal you can get real time public travel information on your iPhone (and now watch) directly from the CityMapper App. This works a treat, as you’ll be notified of delays on the London underground, without the need to fish out your phone.
The only drawback with “glances” is you don’t get the information right away as they don’t update in background, but are sent on-demand from the phone. This can be a bit frustrating as there’s an occasional delay, and you’ll get a “spinning wheel” while the information loads.
Finally, pull down from the top to reveal notifications including text messages, eMails and missed calls, but more about these later.
Initially disappointed at needing to recharge every day, I’ve certainly found no problem with battery life. The first 24 hours I used it constantly, but since then I’ve typically had 30-40% left every night despite pretty demanding use. I’m certainly happy to charge it every night, although it means you can’t track your sleeping patterns like you can with a FitBit. It’s also worth knowing, Apple state the 42mm has slightly better battery life – but I can’t find any confirmation of exactly how much.
Finally, I’m told it takes around 2.5 hours to fully recharge, and you’ll find a slight (around 10%) hit on your iPhone battery as it’s fired up when you use watch apps, but that’s not serious problem.
Messages and Phone calls
As stated above, when you receive a message or mail you have the option of sending a notification to your wrist, equally you can use your watch instead of the iPhone to message contacts. Press the side button to list your favourite contacts, and you can send them a text message, call them directly from the watch (via your iPhone), or send them a tap on the wrist if they too have an Apple watch.
You can also send a small drawing, an emoji or even your heartbeat, although I found these a bit of a gimmick.
The ability to send or reply to a text from a predetermined list of messages such as “I’m on the way” is very useful, and you can add your own message on the iPhone. Finally you can use Siri to dictate a message which can be sent as a text or an audio file, a nice touch.
Finally, you could place a call from your watch, although doing this in public might seem a bit strange. A bit too “Inspector Gadget” for me.
The Health App is a stand-out feature of the Watch, and the user interface is colourful and easy to navigate. I’ve previously owned a FitBit HR where you’re statistics are primarily available via an App on the iPhone, and it’s great to check all your stats including distance walked, steps, calories, standing time and heart rate direct from your wrist.
Like the other features, it complements rather than replace the iPhone, but does it beautifully. It motivates you to get up and walk about if you’ve been sitting around too long, and praises you as you reach your goals. I compared it to a chest monitor and the FitBit for heart rate and distance, and it seems pretty accurate. Combined with the other features it’s a great addition.
Being in the UK I can’t wait for Apple Pay to be launched, and when it does it’ll be a terrific additional feature. Essentially, double-clicking the side button launches Apple Pay, and once you’ve authenticated yourself once with your iPhone you swipe your watch against the terminal to pay. Provided you don’t take your watch off, it stays authenticated all day – another lovely touch.
A bit of Trivia
Finally, a bit of trivia. The Apple watch is incredibly accurate, and it uses “Coordinated Universal Time” to keep all watches exactly in sync. This means if two or more people have the “Micky Mouse” watch face – you’ll notice they’re all tapping their feet at exactly the same time. This will (eventually) become a great party trick – once these things becomes popular enough.
As stated above, it’s a beautifully designed accessory which compliments rather than replaces the iPhone. While it has much of the same features, you’ll find yourself glancing at your watch rather than fishing out your iPhone, although the health features are terrific. As with all Apple devices, it’s remarkably intuitive to use, and I’m still discovering additional touches.
All in all, I love it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What’s the battery like?
A: Officially it lasts 18 hours. Personally I’ve found it pretty much lasts the day, it will go into “power saving mode” as a last resort you can see the time but nothing else, and I was practically glued to it all day (as you can imagine). In short, you’ll need to recharge it every night – just like you do with your iPhone.
Q: Will the watch work by itself?
A: No. You’ll also need an iPhone 5, 5S, 5C or 6 to “pair” with the phone. A lot of the features (eg. sending texts or making phone calls or GPS features) are entirely dependent upon the iPhone.
Q: What’s the difference between models?
A: There are three models and each come in two sizes. The “Sport” model is made of aluminium with a tough Ion-X glass face, the “Watch” model is made of stainless steel and a sapphire crystal face while the “Edition” is made of 22 Karat gold, again with a sapphire crystal face. The internals of all three are exactly the same, absolutely no difference in speed or features, and although some people say the “Watch” is heavier than the “Sport” it all depends upon which watch strap you pair it with.
Q: What’s the warranty with the Watch?
A: As with all Apple products, you get 90 Days support and a 12 month warranty. You can extend this with AppleCare+ for up to two years which includes up to two incidents of accidental damage cover subject to a minimum fee.
Q: Can I mix and match the straps?
A: Yes. There’s a huge number of additional straps available from Apple. No doubt there’ll be cheaper 3rd party wrist straps available also.
Q: Is it waterproof?
A: Yes and No. Officially Apple say it’s “Water Resistant – conformed to IPX7 standards”. This means it will be fine in the rain. However, the IPX7 standard is an internationally agreed standard, and to pass Apple needs to have tested the watch under 1 meter of water for 30 minutes which sounds pretty waterproof to me. There’s also lots of you tube videos demonstrating it working under water. Personally, I’d have no problems keeping it on in the shower or a fresh water pool, but I’d not wear it in the sea.
Q: Is it any good as a fitness tracker?
A: Yes, It includes an accelerometer to track your steps, and the GPS on your iPhone to trace the exact route. There’s two health apps built in. Activity shows your daily progress towards exercise goals whereas workout is more detailed for tracking pace, time and calories burned during a gym session. Both apps sync back to the Health & Fitness Apps on your phone.
Q: Isn’t the watch an extension of the iPhone
A: Yes. Pretty much everything you can do on the watch you can already do on the iPhone. Incoming mail notification, sending a message and making a phone calls are examples. However, it’s great to be able to glance at your watch to see this without taking out your phone. It won’t replace the iPhone, but works along side it. About the only thing you can do on the watch that the iPhone doesn’t support is sending a “tap” to someone’s wrist or sending a “heart-beat”.
Q: If my iPhone is out of juice, can I still use the watch?
A: Yes. You can still tell the time and use normal functions. You can also track fitness (sync afterwards), play music (there’s 2Gb of onboard storage for music) and use Apple Pay to make purchases (provided you’ve already authenticated yourself.
Q: Can I use the watch with Apple Pay?
A: Yes. Once you’ve authenticated yourself, provided you don’t take the watch off just swipe it in front of an Apple payment receiver.
Q: How does it work for left handed people?
A: Perfectly. When you pair you phone to your watch you have the option of indicating it’s for your right or left hand. It flips the screen so you can have the “digital crown” in the right place for you. How very clever.
We gave the Apple Sports Watch