Ok so everyone knows I have and love Apple everything, so you might think that my review of the Apple Watch will be biased. Well, you’ll be surprised..
I’ve had the Apple Watch for four days now. I spend this part of the year in the South of France, which just happened to be one of the parts of the world Apple were shipping to first. The wi-fi network at our villa crashed the morning of the 24th, courtesy of Orange cellular and wi-fi providers. Apparently it wasn’t just us, but the whole of the Luberon Valley.
We went for lunch down the road and upon our return the courier was standing by, with the package.
Good Lord, I thought – it’s all happening.
Evidently it wasn’t – as you’re pretty screwed these days if you want to play with any Apple product (upon opening) without internet access. Although – to be fair – the Apple Watch has more to do with pairing to the phone, rather than the actual internet. That wasn’t really the issue for me. The issue for me was getting out the Instagram to show-off that I was the first in South Africa with an Apple Watch (people that hate me will agree that I’m a class-A prick).
So I took a pic of me with the watch and now I had no wi-fi to upload it to Instagram. My French phone (an iPhone 4S) had one bar of signal on edge.
EDGE? Come now.
I guess that is one of the perils of this side of Menerbes – the signal is not – how you say.. tres bon.
No problem, I thought, I will risk the R128/MB Vodacom data charge (still?) and just do it on my SA phone. I turned on Cellular data on my SA phone and got one bar 3G. Oh, God.
I tried 16 times to upload that goddamn photo from both phones – standing on my tippy-toes on the balcony – well oiled from lunch.
Eventually it went through and I texted the 2ov team to blast it through the wires – to our readers and beyond to SA in general – thus staking our claim.
And then it began – my journey with the Apple Watch. I setup the face I liked – the ‘chronograph’ look and feel and started tinkering.
The face, by the way, is not just about the time and look and feel. Different faces have different capabilities. You can swap out the little notification symbols in the corners, eg. you might want stock prices or a moon icon showing the phases of the moon, but I might rather have a battery life indicator. The Mickey Mouse face, for example, allows you to include your next appointment at the bottom. But the choronograph face only allows you to show the time of your next appointment in one of the corners. Which is fine – you just have to click it to get more detail.
There is definitely a focus on health when setting up, as the interface asks all sorts of questions about your weight and age and height etc. as it puts together the algorithms that will decide if your daily movements are sufficient to stay alive – or to be a healthy individual. A lot of this is done through your phone. In a way the phone has become the desktop, and the watch is what your iPhone is to your Mac. All the navigation and systems to do with how your watch operates, is done through the watch app on your iPhone (I’m rolling with the iPhone 6 *cough* 128GB *cough*).
Now, four days later, I can definitely say I’m enjoying it. Functionality was one thing, but working out the role it would play – good or bad – was what I was interested in. Given that its the first model Apple Watch and things only get better over time, I didn’t want to invest heavily in it.
So I went for the base model – the ‘Sport’ series. I liked the white as it really ‘pops’ – kidding. I chose white because it’s more Apple, I guess. The price was around $350. All the Watch ‘brains’ are the same. ie. as you spend more on the Apple Watch, you’re getting better straps and metals – not a better or more powerful machine. Now we all know there are the $10,000+ Apple Watches (the ‘Edition‘), but even a jump into the middle category – with stainless steel casing and wide range of straps – rockets you into the $600 to $1,000 price range.
I’m not going to get into the packaging or the display – because we’ve been down that road. It’s all quite obviously brilliant – as always. There’s a million websites and images on the net you can see to confirm that. One thing to note – it comes with a spare strap – but only the one side (with the holes). Which makes sense. How many times does the other side break, traditionally speaking? Clever, Apple..
I enjoy the subtle ‘haptics‘ – the taps you feel on your wrist when there is a notification. You can adjust them and add sound if you want. I’ve turned most of them on as I learn which ones suit me and which ones I will turn off later.
Easily the most impressive are the message notifications, as these are the most interactive. I’m notified if I receive a text message or imessage and can reply using voice – that will then be sent either as voice or text – transcribed by the operating system for easy reading on the other side.
A lot of the notifications you receive aren’t interactive – example BBC and CNN merely tell you the headlines and you can’t read further. But I guess that’s what this is all about – giving you a glance at what’s going on and you can decide what you want to follow up on (on your phone) or not. I’m obviously a bit of a news nut, so that works for me.
Emails come through as well and you can only read them – not reply. Which is fine. Again, it’s about learning where the watch fits in. Writing emails on your watch doesn’t make sense really – but quick texts or Whatsapp messages do.
Whatsapp clearly have some work to do as you are only told what new messages you have – ie. who they are from and/or the group name. But not the actual message. Nor can you reply. I reckon when they get that sorted – so you can read and reply (in text or voice), which is easily my fave form of comms these days (voice message on Whatsapp) – they will kill.
It seems all apps have the capability to just work with the Apple Watch in this way – but they need to get their geeks grafting to make something more of it.
If you use Slack for business, it operates the same as messages. I get told if there is a new comment and I can respond – but only for direct messsages. You can’t jump between message groups and send new messages.
I made a phone call and let me tell you – it works perfectly. Finally, we’re there – a-la Knight Rider! I don’t take many calls and only answer unknown numbers if I need someone to unleash on. But I might just answer more of them so I can feel like I’m in the Bourne Identity (the original, obviously). Speaking of which, I found an Apple Watch spy game, which let’s you instruct a spy who is ‘in the field.’ It needs some work, but in time I’m sure they will make some epic spy games that let you indulge your inner Bond, as you receive random messages throughout the week. Imagine excusing yourself from a meeting as your colleagues overhear you speaking into your watch, “no Vincenko, go directly to the safe house and wait for further instructions.’
I’ve messed around with Siri and it works nicely. If you lift your wrist the time shows (my settings hide the time until I lift my wrist) and you can say “Hey, Siri” which will wake up Apple’s personal assistant. I’ve been using that to write messages. I go, “Hey, Siri, send a message to Sam,.” And the message app comes up, ready for dictation.
I didn’t think I would, but I’ve been getting into the health side of it, actually reviewing my daily achievements and increasing my daily goals for calorie burn etc. It’s quite fun.
Regarding running with the watch, I went on a 5km run the other day and it didn’t need my phone to come with on the journey. It measured the distance, time per kilometer, heart rate etc. I did some research and I found out that you can synch music playlists to your watch from your phone. Then you just need to get a pair of wireless bluetooth headphones and you can run with music, wirelessly. That’s pretty cool.
Some other notes:
And that’s it for now. All in all, this is not a gimmick – it makes sense. I have received countless notifications which have saved me from either missing them on my phone, or realising I don’t have to follow-up on my phone. It’s useful and it works. And with time – as the apps get more and more advanced, it’s going to become indispensable. And yes, I know we were fine before it came along. But I guess that’s what people said when emails came along to replace the fax 😉
Seth Rotherham presents on ENCA’s Tech Report on Thursday’s at 21h30
(DSTV channel 403) and repeated throughout the week.
For all Apple products and accessories,
we recommend you visit our parter, Digicape
Click here to watch Seth’s recent interview with Ruda Landman
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