Why a review?
If you've read my "about me" page you know we're invaded by Apple products at home and the moment the Apple Watch was announced I knew we'd end up having one (or two). As much as I like reading thoughtfully about potential purchases I started to feel overwhelmed by the amount of extensive reviews and articles about the watch that were quickly available in the web. At the same time it's already a fact that every time Apple launches a new product it attracts so much attention and extreme kind of testings that I usually have mixed feelings in terms what finally believing or not. I've learnt over time that the best reviews are the ones you do and experience yourself, this is valid for the Apple Watch and any other product, especially in photography world. There's also so many friends who ask me the typical question about "what is this thing doing?" that I thought it'd be helpful to write something.
Since the Apple Watch brings new ways of communicating with other users it was the perfect excuse for us to get two of them, one for me and another for my wife. She chose a 38mm Apple Watch Sport Edition white and I went for the 42mm Watch Edition made of solid steel. Two different versions with the same functionalities. At this point I can tell you I'll probably end up with the Sport version since I think it'll be better for my sport activities but the metal version feels way better in terms of perceived quality and the feeling I get when touching the sapphire screen is slightly more pleasant, kind of softer.
Using it and mindset
After a couple of weeks with the watch I want to share some of my own experiences in real life that you get in everyday use. Paring it and get it started it's as piece of cake as you'd imagine if you're used to Apple products, 5 minutes and you're good to go after a very nicely designed process of "decrypting" the initial image that appears on the screen. Congratulations to Apple team about this short but well thought animation, those small details are just Apple essence. After that we started to customise some aspects of the watch, especially the set of notifications that we decided were relevant enough to have the watch drawing our attention when they'd take place. In my case I have decided to get notifications about: calls, messages (personal ones, not from the groups I participate), emails, calendar events, reminders, alarms and the activity tracking related events. This selection has worked out for me quite well so far and even though might decide to adapt it to future needs it makes sense to get out of my radar screen things like: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr,.... Which are not that urgent usually and I think that checking them up in the iPhone or iPad offer me a much better experience, especially because of the screen size. I'll elaborate a bit more about how I feel the watch adds value in the whole ecosystem of Apple devices. I wear the Apple Watch all the time and the possible initial battery doubts are more than solved since it lasts easily the whole day with 1h workout included under the described configuration. It's important to highlight the mindset I've had during these first testing days: I've tried to forget that I'm wearing it, not forcing too much its use but "letting" it assist me, make my life easier if you will, in a very natural way. To illustrate this mindset with one example: I can make or take calls with the watch and it actually works great but whenever I had my iPhone with me I tried to use it because call experience it's just going to be better, why forcing it? In the other hand, when I naturally found myself in situations where it added value to attend those calls (both hands busy or iPhone charging somewhere else...) it was great having that possibility from my wrist!
Is it comfortable?
It feels great on my wrist and I actually enjoy wearing it very much. After a few days you get more and more integrated with it to a point that it starts to be another extension of your personal style. I'm for example enjoying myself to change the screen text colour to match my outfit or mood. Same story with the great feature of being able to change straps, I'll definitely look for other additional options to personalise the watch further that way.
Is it any useful?
YES, it is without any doubt. You get a beautifully designed device that works very well as promised by Apple. If you're someone who likes watches, enjoys being part of the always risky "early adopters" group, you're tired of having to take your iPhone too many times out of your pocket or simply looking forward to have a daily activity monitoring assistant. If you meet most of those points you're going to find real value in the Apple Watch. I think that those individuals who didn't like or are still not fully decided to buy one (regardless they can actually afford it or not) are lot of times looking for a device that could be used as a substitute of their iPhones and I feel that's a wrong approach to the watch. The fact that it's expensive should not confuse you about its real nature: it's a complement, an accessory, period. It's not replacing your iPhone, it's complementing it, and very nicely by the way. It tries to do some things (most of them already existing in the iPhone) in a more organic, instantaneous, simple and easy way. Here's one example: Siri already existed in the iPhone and I actually tried to use it at a certain extent but unless I have the iPhone out my pocket or I have the headphones on, it's a bit of a pain having to look for those specific requests. The experience of getting the Apple Watch close to me with a twist of my wrist and just saying something like: "Hey Siri, tell my wife that I'm out of the office and will arrive in 20 minutes" is just much better, and more importantly it makes sense, it's convenient, easy and handy. There are plenty of situations like the one I just described: Reminders for instance, is another good example. I already used Siri for those in the iPhone but again, isn't just much easier to use the fantastic small assistant of our wrist to record those? I've felt it does those kind of things very well, and I have a more pleasant experience that before. If you've read that Siri is actually much faster and responsive than with the iPhone I can fully confirm this as well, it works seamlessly, good job Apple! I want to be clear also to anybody reading this review that this is not a perfect device (which one is it anyway?) and it is very much improvable in the coming future but it does a few things very well for being a first released version of it. At the same time I have big hopes in the developer community for the coming fall, I'm sure they'll surprise us with new uses that I couldn't imagine in the first place.
Final Pros and Cons
- Fantastic design
- I have to look into my iPhone fewer times a day (50% less at least I'd say) which is great
- Love the use of Siri in the watch, much closer as a real assistant than the experience of interacting via iPhone
- It performs as promised by Apple, and I think this is worth highlighting
- I'm becoming more aware of my daily activity in a very simple and effortless way. No pedometers or devices that get lost, forgotten or are a pain to use/sync. The Apple Watch tracks your activity in a very efficient and complete way, great motivation to keep it up!
- I love receiving my wife's hear rate as silly as it sounds, it feels much more personal than a standard emoticon :-)
- You need your iPhone to be with you (or in bluetooth distance range) to have the Apple Watch operating for more than just giving you the time and counting steps. In reality I can think about very few situations I'd actually like leaving home without my iPhone since I find it very useful to have for lot of reasons but it'd be great to have that possibility in the future and I'm sure it'll come naturally as an option.
- Some functionalities are still not fully available like replying to emails or being able to view your current reminders. These things will come with time but are missed by me at the moment.
- There's been some panic in a lot of companies or existing iPhone apps which felt that they had to quickly be available with a watch version, but I've seen useless replications of their apps, miniaturised or poorly simplified variants of them. Most of current developers and companies need to think this much better, with a mindset of "how can I make something that adds value to be done in a watch", complementing perhaps their actual offer in the iPhone.
- It's costly and Apple has not made AppleCare available in all countries, like in Spain. This is a bit of an issue for a device that is 100% of the time exposed to potential accidents.
Anyway, let's enjoy it as much as possible and I recommend it to anybody thinking about it, especially if you're planning to use all its functionalities related to the effortless activity tracking. Please leave any comments or share your experience with it so far, I'll be curious to hear from you.