The Apple Watch
You probably know by now that Apple has released their version of the smart watch. Is it a game-changer?
Dear and detailed
The Apple Watch (not called the iWatch for reasons unknown) is, to be sure a gorgeous piece of tech. Although the device is a couple of years (fashionably?) late to the smartwatch game, it is also arguably the best looking of the bunch. From a distance, the understated design is not that remarkable. It's something to be noticed casually, rather than an eye-catcher. Like most of their products, the quality of the piece doesn't become apparent until one examines it up-close to see the fine machining and premium build-quality.
Presently, there are two sizes, one 42mm and one 38mm, which is a particularly good idea since every single one of the Android Wear watches we've tried thus far have looked absolutely huge on small wrists. The 38mm variant was the first watch that didn't look silly on our female staff's wrists, for example. This sort of forward, all-inclusive thinking is a great step towards making tech more accessible and attractive for women, which is needed in an industry dominated by male-centric tech.
Preference vs Priority
While the battery life of the watch wasn't that impressive (less than 300 mAh, it turns out), it did get us through the day, and once we had sorted out our priority notifications, the watch was somewhat more useful, and not quite as bothersome. It did highlight how very many notifications we received during the day. Having the information at arms-length had us looking at our wrists at times when it was probably not a good idea to look at your watch, especially when talking to people, which is rude, or driving, which is dangerous.
Navigation was a bit less intuitive than we have seen in the past, requiring both screen swipes and also turning of the digital crown to scroll. It was something we got used to quickly however, and the convention of using the crown for scrolling makes sense to reserve swipe up and down for various other functions. Also introduced is "force touch" which is a hard press for extra functionality. There are various remote-toys so you can socialise and play with other Watch users using the "Taptic Engine", such as tapping out a message to friends, or sharing your heartbeat… a novelty that wears out after the first share, and is honestly a bit creepy in most situations.
It did have us looking at how much exercise we get, in the from the simple Activity App which features a Move, Exercise, and Stand readout, which makes use of the array of digital sensors on the watch to estimate how many calories you burn, as well as automatically setting goals for you, which was both convenient and fun, making the watch a great fitness device. We also enjoyed the freedom of being able to play music from the watch to bluetooth headphones without having to keep it paired to the iPhone, making it on-par with Android wear's similar "Offline music" functionality.
It's not all chocolate and roses though, as we did find that most of the Apps had to manually load data to the watch from the phone, which may save battery life in terms of background data sync, but we did notice staring at that spinning loading wheel a bit more than we would like. The novelty of having apps on our wrists, was marred by the fact that often it was faster to take out the iPhone and use it instead with it's larger screen and better app experience. This is the first generation of this product however, so we expect in the future these kinks will be ironed out a bit more.
At this point we are restricted the watch to 9 pre-programmed watch faces. This is probably the most severe limitation of the device, and is presently closed to development of new watch faces. For a device marketed as "the most personal device yet", it indeed has almost no customisation options. Although the 9 watch faces were not unpleasant, we struggled to find one that we liked enough to use all the time. Android Wear by comparison supports 3rd-party watch app development across the board, providing a complete SDK for it, and even supports apps that can be used to match the watch face to your clothing, which is an enviable thing for a fashion accessory and something iPhone users will have to wait for.
In the mean time, a small degree of customisation is available in the form of "complications" which are the little touch-widgets you can choose to add to your chosen watch face, which include things like moon phases, at-a-glance stock tickers, etc.
As far as real-world advantages, for women (or men) who wear pocketless clothing, the watch has the added advantage of having notifications and being able to take calls from your wrist without carrying around you phone, which may be in a purse or gym bag, etc.
Oh yea, THAT guy...
Taking calls on wrist was a nice feature for around the house, but in an office situation, it was either too loud for a speakerphone, or disruptive to the peace and quiet of the working space. You become "that guy" who uses speakerphone for no good reason, subjecting co-workers to your call-conversation, and potentially embarrassing the person calling by sod-casting them live throughout the office space. The option was handy at times, however and for private use, was quite pleasant, and reminiscent of the Galaxy Gear Smartwatches from Samsung with the same feature.
Changing the world?
Is the Watch a game-changer? Well... not really, at least not yet. The question is, do we need a game-changer in the form of a watch-accessory for your phone? The answer at this point is "probably not". This will in no way prevent you from enjoying this watch as we have.
Watch this space!
To add some much-needed customisability to the Apple Watch without spending a fortune, we offer a series of smart and stylish alternative watch bands for your new high-end gadget. The highlights of our collection include genuine leather bands, for both the 42mm and 38mm