I admit it, when the Apple Watch was first announced I did not “get” the concept. I even wrote a blog about how I did not get it and would not buy one.
Soon after it occurred to me - “what if one of my many outstanding clients buys one and contacts me to help set it up and use it?” Ack, horrors - something Apple that I do not understand. This would not do and I immediately ordered an Apple Watch. It took about a month to receive it and, of course I studied up on it during that time.
I ordered the least expensive model that fit my wrist - a 42mm Space Gray Apple Watch Sport with a black band. $399. Yes, it is expensive, but I soon realized that compared to a regular watch or an equivalently priced iPad, it was much more useful to me. More on that later.
It took a while to get used to wearing a watch again. I have not worn one in about 7 years. Of course, the setup was super easy in Apple’s style and in no time it was on my wrist and working for me.
So, what does it do? Well, with the current Watch operating system (WatchOS 1) it is mostly an extension of my iPhone that specializes in notifications. It certainly does more than that and will do a whole lot more come fall when WatchOS 2 is released.
First, it is a watch, and a really good one. I can customize the watch face, choosing among 10 built-in faces, each one of which is customizable to my preferences, including color, features and details on the watch face. I can switch between faces anytime with 3 taps on the watch, for example, from digital to analog or from Micky Mouse to a sun-tracking graph with digital time. The time is synced from my iPhone which is synced from my cellular carrier which is synced with the atomic clock. It keeps perfect time.
Second, it is a device that alerts me - any alert my phone receives, the watch receives and alerts me with its “Taptic engine” This is a little device in the watch that alerts me by tapping my wrist. It feels just like someone tapping their finger on top of my wrist. These alerts include texts, emails, phone calls, alarms, timers and more. You may ask, “why not pull my phone out and look to see the alert?” Good question and the answer is - it is not always convenient to do that. For example, when washing dishes, doing yard work, taking a walk, when your phone is in another part of the house, when driving, etc. I find that I really, really like being alerted and don’t have to do anything to learn about the alert but just raise my wrist and look. No touching or clicking or tapping is necessary.
I can respond to texts on my wrist using built in smart responses or simply use dictation and dictate a response. I can make or receive phone calls on my watch, yes, just like Dick Tracy. I can set and dismiss alarms and reminders and timers right on my wrist.
Also, the watch has apps. For now, these apps actually run on my phone and broadcast their interface to my watch, but this fall the watch will actually be able to run its own apps. A few apps I have used and really like are:
- Weather - on the watch face it tells me the current temperature outside and tapping that reveals the entire Weather app on my wrist - the weather for the rest of the day and the weekly forecast - and for all of the cities I have on the app on my iPhone!
- Alaska Airlines boarding passes - I can pull up a boarding pass 2-D bar code on my watch and use it to go through security at the airport - leaving my iPhone in my bag!
- Remote for the excellent iPhone camera. You can not only control the camera shutter remotely but you can see what the iPhone camera sees right on the watch!
- Maps - set a navigation route on my iPhone and the watch will tell me the distance to the next turn, which direction to turn, how many miles left and the ETA. The best feature of this, though is that the watch taps me just before a turn - double taps for left, triple taps for right. I don’t even have to look at the phone or the watch to navigate!
- Music - control the music playing on my iPhone (no matter what it is - Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora or Podcasts). I can stop, play, next, previous and control the volume right from my wrist!
- Timer - set a timer on the watch to countdown a preset time. I use this for cooking a grilling a lot!
- Remote - control my Apple TV or my Mac’s iTunes from my wrist.
- iGrill - see the temp of the food that is cooking on my grill.
- Starbucks - pay for coffee from my wrist.
- Apple Pay - pay for items at retail stores directly from my wrist with no need to take out my iPhone or my wallet!
- Siri - she is fully functional on the watch and it works great for all the things she does (which is lot).
The watch is also a pretty decent health monitor! It tracks and reports on your daily activity - steps, calories burned, exercise minutes and it reminds you to stand for at least 1 minute per hour. The watch tracks your heart rate every 10 minutes during the day. You can also check your pulse whenever you want and during an actual workout the watch tracks your heart rate very frequently.
When the watch was first introduced there was a lot of flap about the short battery life. I, and many people, have found that the battery lasts for a long day of heavy use with no problems. Most days I wear the watch from 7:30 in the morning to 11:00 at night, use it a lot and the battery ends the day with about 40% battery left. It charges with a clever magnetic charger. I put it on the charger before bed and it is ready for another day. No issues whatsoever.
I highly recommend you look through Apple’s excellent Apple Watch website to learn all about it: https://www.apple.com/watch/
So, overall, this little gadget is really, really handy. Is it a must-have item like an iPhone? No, not really, but that does not mean it is not useful and fun. It certainly is! Yes, it is a little expensive, but compared to an iPad for about the same price, I would take the watch over the iPad any day. Of course, this is not really a fair comparison because I am not a huge iPad fan; I would much rather have my 11” MacBook Air…but that is for another blog.