Apple’s media event on Tuesday revealed, in addition to interesting things about the new iPhones, “one more thing:” The Apple Watch. Like many others, I had been eagerly anticipating this smartwatch, hoping it would be the watch to replace my “dumb” one. Let’s take a look at what Apple has finally unveiled and whether it’s right for you.
It’s a pretty, classic, square-faced design
First, let’s talk about looks. If there’s anything Apple is known for, it’s design and attention to detail. Apple’s product photos are gorgeous, but the design — particularly the square face — left more than a few of us dissatisfied. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but something more outstanding perhaps (the Watch Edition cases crafted from 18-karat gold are the incredibly expensive exception).
Especially compared to the concept art (via Todd Hamilton):
(Some might prefer the Motorola 360 design.)
The Apple Watch does come in two sizes, though, and the smaller one might be more suited to women and small-wristed men. It also offers multiple colored bands and uses premium materials.
That “crown button” on the side for scrolling, zooming in, and getting back to the home screen, also looks handy. (Don’t worry, southpaws, there’s supposedly a setting to flip the screen for left-handed use.)
You’ll need an iPhone 5 or above to pair it
The Apple Watch is really an accessory for the iPhone — to bring real-time notifications for email, messages, and calls to your wrist; get directions; look up information via Siri; and track your fitness and health. There’s one catch, though: You’ll need an iPhone to fully use it. You can’t just go out running with your watch on and expect to have all your tracked information logged; the Apple Watch doesn’t have GPS built-in.
Android Wear, however (for example, the Motorola 360), also requires an Android phone to pair up with for the full experience. Both aren’t entirely useless if you leave the phone at home, but if you were hoping the Apple Watch could take the place of your iPhone entirely, that’s not the case.
Health and fitness apps might finally get us moving
The main reason I’ve been interested in smartwatches in general is for their fitness and health tracking capabilities. I want to know when and why I’m sleeping poorly. Dedicated fitness trackers like Jawbone and Fitbit already do this, but if you can combine that with a watch, why not?
Unfortunately, the tracking doesn’t work with the standalone Apple Watch. You need an iPhone, in which case, why not use the phone instead? The Apple Watch monitors your heartbeat, which could come be useful for people with heart conditions who have tech-savvy doctors. Also, you can send other Apple Watch users your heartbeat, but I’m not exactly sure about the everyday use case of that.
Quick information will be available on your wrist
The whole point of a smartwatch is to show you the most important information you want as you need it, and Apple Watch doesn’t disappoint in that regard. With “Glances,” you’ll be able to swipe up from the bottom of the watch to see smart information cards, like today’s weather or your next calendar event. Besides the health tracking, this is probably the biggest benefit for me of devices like this–you get traffic, weather, and other urgent information automatically without having to pull out your phone. It’s worth noting, though, that Android Wear’s Google Now feature does the same thing.
As for notifications, that could be a great feature of Apple Watch (along with other smartwatches), but it depends on the level of customization for those alerts. Your wrist vibrating every time someone tweets something? No thanks.
You can buy stuff by waving your wrist
Like magic. Well, like NFC technology that powers mobile payments (like swiping your card at a terminal or, now, tapping your iPhone to it) to pay for stuff. The Apple Watch’s new, incorporated Apple Pay technology means you don’t have to drag your wallet out to pay for things. This is the future, folks. Until the future allows us to swipe our unique fingerprints at checkout.
Expect to charge your watch daily
Apple was mum — noticeably mum — about battery life for the Apple Watch during the event. That means you shouldn’t expect too much. Reports are that you’ll have to charge the watch every night, but there’s a good chance the watch might not last even the full day, if previous first-generation Apple mobile products are any indication. Other smartwatches also require daily charging, but some (like the Pebble) last numerous days.
The price is high and the tech is new
Apple Watch is the company’s first major technological development since the iPad. I was going to say it would make smartwatches mainstream, the way the Macbook Air made Ultrabooks popular and the way the iPod put portable MP3 players on the map. At starting price of $349, though, and with all the issues above, it’s far from a mainstream device. This will undoubtedly help push smartwatch adoption forward, but so far, personally, the Apple Watch still looks like an early adopter product.
What do you think?