Apple unveiled the Apple Watch last year and everyone has been anticipating the launch of the device. Several months later, on April 24, the Apple Watch finally launched to consumers, two weeks after preorders began. The new wearable from Apple ranges in price from $449 (CAD) to $22,000 (CAD) and is the company’s first new major product category in five years.
After ordering the Apple Watch (42mm Sport with white band) on April 11, I received an estimated shipping time of June. To my surprise, I received the device one week ago, only a few days after launch. It seems as though Apple has done a good job keeping up with demand. Before I get into the review, let’s quickly go over my unboxing experience.
The Apple Watch Sport comes in a long rectangular box, while the stainless steel Apple Watch and the 18-karat gold Apple Watch Edition come in a more traditional square box.
The first item in the box is the Apple Watch, which comes in its own plastic case with soft padding on the inside to protect the device. The plastic case can be used for travel or storage.
Apple also includes a quick start guide, charging cable, and power adapter in the box. If you order a device that comes with the fluoroelastomer band, you will also find a third watch band piece within the instructions. The third piece for the 42mm watches is a small/medium band and the default band that is pre-installed is the medium/large band. The 38mm watches come with the small/medium band piece installed and the medium/large band is in the box.
Setting up the Apple Watch is a very simple process. After turning on the Apple Watch, the device will prompt you to scan the company’s fancy version of a QR code using the Apple Watch app on your iPhone.
After answering a few questions, the Apple Watch will begin syncing with your iPhone, a process which does take several minutes; after the device finishes syncing, the Apple Watch is ready to use.
Given that the device is a watch, the main purpose is to display the time. Apple offers ten different watch face styles on the device, which each offer their own unique look. Several watch faces offer more information than others.
Each one of the watch faces can be customized to a certain extent by force touching on the display (this brings up other options in other applications as well). For example, the colour of the text or watch hands can be changed to match your personal taste. The watch faces each have various components with various pieces of information. Users have the option to change each of these fields, which can include information like battery percentage, weather, calendar events, date, activity goal ring, alarm, stopwatch, timer, or a world clock.
Apple has taken a step forward with the watch faces on the wearable device because they are allowing a level of customization that they never have before. Hopefully the level of customization moves over to iOS in the near future.
Other than telling the time, the most valuable feature of the device for most people will be the ability to receive and deal with notifications. The Taptic Engine on the Apple Watch will vibrate when you receive a notification and you also have the option of hearing an audible sound.
During their media event, Apple said the Taptic Engine makes it feel like someone is tapping your wrist when you receive a notification. Even though the Taptic Engine does a fantastic job and it allows only you to be notified, it is still only a vibration like the one on your iPhone. The only difference is that the vibration of the Apple Watch is more subtle.
Apple allows you to adjust the intensity of the vibration from the settings, along with the volume level of the audible notification sounds.
Glances on the Apple Watch can be accessed by swiping up from the bottom of the screen when you are in the clock app. The new feature on the Apple Watch allows you to see quick glances of information from various apps.
The standard views in Glances are for quick settings, battery information, activity, calendar, maps, stock, weather, music, and heart rate. Any additional apps you install may also included Glances.
Glances can be customized using the Apple Watch app on your iPhone. Personally I recommend removing all Glances that you don’t use, keeping it as minimal as possible. The purpose of the feature is to get information quickly, however, if too many of your apps are in Glances you will be scrolling back and forth trying to find them, which defeats the purpose.
Activity and Workout
Now let’s discuss the feature of the Apple Watch that I enjoy the most. Apple built the device with a strong presence of health and fitness experts, hiring health professionals to help build the Apple Watch. The amount of work they put into the Activity and Workout apps definitely shows.
The device uses your personal information (age, height, gender, and weight) to calculate a variety of metrics for your workouts and daily activity. When you first launch the Activity app you will be prompted to set your daily calorie goal.
The Activity app monitors your daily fitness statistics, including calories, active minutes, and standing minutes. The first tab of the Activity app displays a ring with each category. If you scroll down on the main screen of the Activity app using the Digital Crown or the touch screen you will see statistics, including active calories, total steps, and total distance.
The Move section (the red ring) gives you metrics about calories burned towards your daily goal. The Exercise section (the yellow ring) lets you keep track of the number of active minutes (with the intensity of at least a brisk walk) per day, with a daily globally recommended goal of 30 minutes. Lastly, the Stand section (the blue ring) allows you to monitor each hour of the day that you stand for at least one minute.
It is recommended that you stand for at least one minute in every hour of the day that you are awake. The Apple Watch even reminds you towards the end of an hour if you haven’t stood up for at least one minute. Even though some may find this feature annoying, it is a step in the right direction to lead a healthier, more active lifestyle.
It is nice to be able to see a visualization of your daily fitness metrics on your wrist. With future software updates I believe that the user interface of the app will improve, alongside its functionality.
The Workout app allows you to track specific workouts, including outdoor run, indoor run, outdoor walk, indoor walk, outdoor cycle, indoor cycle, elliptical, rower, and stair stepper. After selecting a workout, the user is prompted to select a workout goal.
For outdoor activities, you have the option of setting your goal based on calories burned, time, or distance. For the outdoor walk/run, the Apple Watch did a fantastic job of measuring various metrics and keeping you motivated to reach your goal. The majority of the time, I took the Apple Watch for a run without an iPhone and it was still able to track all the metrics with precision.
If you want to calibrate your Apple Watch to ensure that you get the best metrics for your own stride, check out our how-to article at this link. After calibrating the Apple Watch the results changed slightly, however, the device is accurate right out of the box.
For indoor activities, you have the option of setting your goal based on calories burned or time. The Apple Watch performed well when tracking indoor activities. At the end of your workout, the device offers you an easy-to-read summary. As you continue working out, you will start earning rewards as you pass your goals.
I compared the heart rate monitor on the Apple Watch with the heart rate monitor found on any elliptical or treadmill and a chest strap heart rate monitor. The Apple Watch gave exactly the same measurements as a professional chest strap heart rate monitor and the sensors found on the elliptical. In all my tests the heart rate measurements across all three devices were never off my more than 3 BPM (beats per minute).
The Apple Watch performed incredibly well when compared to a classic pedometer. The steps taken at the end of each workout were identical and the calories burned on both devices were close. The Apple Watch has my personal information, including weight, height, and age, which leads me to believe that the Apple Watch is more accurate than the classic pedometer.
Overall, the health and fitness features on the Apple Watch are my personal favourite part of the device. The ability to gather all this useful information and have it displayed in a graphical interface on your wrist is wonderful. I’m excited to see what Apple does in future software updates to the device.
Hopefully the company brings the option to track various sporting activities like soccer and tennis. It would also be nice to have the ability to view previous workout metrics directly on the Apple Watch.
Phone, Messages, Mail
The Phone app on the Apple Watch works exactly like its iPhone counterpart. The app allows you to view your favourite contacts, recent calls, your entire contact list, and access your voicemail. In order to make a call, you can find the contact in your list and tap their name to initiate the call. The device also allows you to make a call using Siri.
If you receive a call, you may answer the call on your Apple Watch or on your iPhone. Both the iPhone and Apple Watch will notify you of the call, assuming you have Apple Watch phone notifications turned on.
For the type of device, the call quality on the Apple Watch is pretty good. In my tests, the person on the receiving end always says the call quality is crystal clear. Speaker quality on the Apple Watch isn’t that great, however, for a quick call it is more than enough. My phone tests have been conducted in relatively quiet environments.
Messages and Mail allow you to read your messages directly on your Apple Watch and you have the option to reply using voice dictation. For the most part, voice dictation on the Apple Watch worked well. If you have long emails to send, I wouldn’t recommend using the Apple Watch because if it doesn’t hear you correctly, you have to dictate the whole email again.
The benefit of the Apple Watch for messages and email is to receive the notification on your wrist. This allows you to quickly check the content of the message and decide whether or not you have to reply immediately, which eliminates the need to constantly check your phone.
Calendar, Reminders, Alarm
The Calendar app on the Apple Watch comes in very handy when you have a lot of events planned during the day. You can view your events on your watch face (if you’ve included it), in Glances, and in the Calendar app itself.
All calendar events created on your iPhone will automatically be displayed on your Apple Watch. The device also allows you to use Siri to create new calendar events, which will also be synced to the Calendar app on your iPhone.
Users can also use Siri to create reminders, however, these reminders do not appear on the Apple Watch. The reminders that you create are only viewable from the Reminders app on your iPhone. I would like to see Apple include a Reminders app on the Apple Watch.
Apple allows you to create and set an alarm on the Apple Watch very easily. You can do this within the Alarm app on the wearable device or using Siri. The alarm can be a sound and/or vibration using the Taptic Engine. If you want to wake up without any audible noise, the Apple Watch’s Taptic Engine does a fantastic job. If you are charging your Apple Watch at night you have the option of an audible alarm which works, but it can be a bit to quite if you are a heavy sleeper (even at the max volume).
Siri on the Apple Watch can be activated by pressing and holding the Digital Crown or by saying, “Hey Siri” when the display is on. Siri’s performance on the Apple Watch has been consistent and reliable (apart from the few minor glitches).
Siri on the Apple Watch seems to be better than Siri on the iPhone. Queries made on the Apple Watch take longer to load, but that’s because the device is using your iPhone to get the information. However, voice-to-text on the Apple Watch seems to be a lot more reliable and consistent.
Hopefully Apple will build Siri in with the Apple Watch in the future so that it can be used without being paired to an iPhone. Of course this would require an internet connection, however, Apple Watch has its own Wi-Fi chip that could be taken advantage of in a future software update.
As usual the Apple Watch is another product from Apple with top-notch design. Jony Ive and his design team did a great job of designing the watch and the watch bands. The Apple Watch Sport comes in an all aluminium finish with an Ion-X glass display.
The Sports version of the device comes with a fluoroelastomer band (a fancy term for plastic). Contrary to many plastic/rubber watch bands, the ones on the Apple Watch don’t feel cheap at all. They are built to be soft and comfortable on the wrist. The bands are very easily interchangeable and they are simple to re-install.
The OLED display on the device offers good viewing angles and stunning outdoor performance. Most other smartwatches (and most smartphones) that I’ve tried aren’t readable in direct sunlight, however, the Apple Watch Sport is still legible even in the brightest environments.
The Digital Crown on the device works a lot better than I expected. Using the Digital Crown to zoom in and out works a lot better than pinching to zoom on a small display. The Digital Crown also acts as a home button, task switcher, and allows you to activate Siri.
The back of the device features the heart rate sensor in addition to the wireless charging mechanism. The included wireless charging cable allows you to easily charge the Apple Watch. The charger attaches and aligns with the wireless charging mechanism using magnets (like MagSafe), which fully charges the watch in less than two hours.
Apple appears to be using a similar technology to the Qi wireless charging standard because the Apple Watch will charge on some Qi-enabled charging docks. In my tests, I was able to get Apple Watch to show the charge screen with a TYLT VU Qi charger, albeit very briefly.
The number one question on most people’s minds about the Apple Watch is about battery life. The battery life on the Apple Watch isn’t as bad as most people predicted. I can easily get through a whole day (12 hours) on a single charge and I will still have 40 percent or more at the end of the day.
I have tweaked the settings of the Apple Watch to match my personal needs, which does help increase the amount of battery life you get. I don’t have all of the notifications from my iPhone appearing on the watch; only the ones that I feel are the most important.
After spending five minutes tweaking the settings, I can now end a day with 50 percent battery life or more. Theoretically, if you spend enough time changing the settings you can probably get through two full days without charging your Apple Watch. However, I don’t recommend this. Since you charge your phone every night, there should be no issue charging your watch every night as well.
Surprisingly tracking a workout using the Apple Watch doesn’t use up a lot of battery, which is good for those who are active everyday. Overall, I’m pleased with the Apple Watch’s battery life but I believe Apple could make the device last two or three days on one charge with future hardware and software updates.
Overall, the Apple Watch is a great device. The Apple Watch is definitely not a necessity for anyone, but more of an accessory for those who use an iPhone. It definitely will make a lot of people’s lives a lot easier; early adopters and Apple fans have most likely have one on their wrist already as they’re reading this.
Here are my pros and cons of the device:
|– Decent battery life||– Limited functionality|
|– Great display||– Minor performance issues with third-party apps|
|– Great design||– More expensive than other smartwatches|
|– Easy to setup|
Should you purchase an Apple Watch? Well, I can’t give a direct answer to that because it depends on you. If you are an early adopter or a developer I do recommend the Apple Watch. If you are an average consumer, it’s not a necessity (that’s the case for most products) but it is definitely a great purchase if you can justify the cost. If you find yourself into the new wearable trend then the Apple Watch is the best choice for iOS users.
I suspect that the majority of consumers will wait until the company releases the next generation of the device. The trend for wearable devices is definitely gaining traction and I look forward to seeing the future of these devices both as a developer and consumer.