The Apple Watch has been out for a little over a month now and supply seems to be finally starting to meet demand but is it what everyone had hoped for? How are they holding up to everyday use? These questions and more are what we shall address today with this 42mm Apple Sport in space gray that has been out in the wild now since the release of the most hyped smart watch to date. Were you lucky enough to get your hands on one? If not continue reading below to find out how this smart watch power house holds up against the growing market that is wearables.
After staying up all hours of the night to pre order one of the first Apple Watches we finally received one the afternoon of April 24th. It was delivered inside a brown cardboard package who’s shape struck a striking resemblance to the (much nicer) white apple box you’ve been so accustom to receiving along with your Apple products.
With a knife the plastic wrap was easily removed along the bottom where the two halves meet and before you know it we were pulling out the contents. The very first thing to come out was the watch itself, encased inside a high quality plastic case that is obviously meant to protect your investment while it is not on your wrist. Although the more expensive versions of Apple’s timepiece come with a case that doubles as a charging station, the sport versions lack this feature. Most would think the same case across the board would be cheaper, but there is obviously a different agenda here.
Under the watch itself is a fancy cardboard insert that houses the instructions and documentation and also the third part of the watch band system meant for re sizing in case it doesn’t fit well. All of this pulls out from the side which is a nice touch instead of having it just flap open. Last but not least at the very bottom you have your Inductive charging cable and power adapter. Set up was easy and typical of Apple’s style so before before you could get angry at it it was on the wrist and ready to be forgotten. That is, until…
The taptic engine goes off for the first time. It is definitely a different feeling than you’re standard vibration you’ve so surely become accustomed to in today’s technology filled world and if you skipped the Apple appointment to try one of these in store the sensation just might startle you.
The first notification received on this watch was a text message. A simple swipe down from the clock screen reveals the message again once it has passed. From there you can reply, or dismiss. Replies can be done by dictation and sent as either audio or converted to text, or just send one of the predetermined static responses. The notification sound, and tap are the same for every notification you might receive at this time. It is rather odd why Apple would not ship this product with the ability to change tones which has always been present on the Iphone.
Hopefully A later software update will fix this annoyance although the first update did not. Never the less a quick glance at your wrist will tell you just what has alerted your attention. This key piece of new technology is also why the smart watch has been so scarce. That is because of the two manufacturers for this device only one showed no signs of breaking down and it was noticed late in the game. The company whose taptic engines showed no failures had to pick up the slack and double production as the other other was dropped. All in all the taptic engine is a nice step away from outdated technology that we first remember seeing in Nintendo’s Rumblepak in the 90’s.
Force touch is another new technology that debuted in the Cupertino technology firm’s first step into wearables. It is achieved by the placement of a new sensor under the touch screen that can tell when you press harder on the display than a normal gesture. This is used extensively in various option menus, third party programs and even to switch or customize your current watch face.
There are ten different watch faces with more to be hopefully added soon. Some are quite girly, while others a little too simple but there are a few that hit the mark that we regularly find ourselves switching between. Modular, utility and astronomy are our favorites. All but four offer what Apple has dubbed complications which can be used to display prudent information such as stocks or weather with promise of opening up these spots to third party applications in the near future.
Colors can be changed through use of the digital crown for the entirety of some faces while other it may only change second hand. This makes it easy to match your watch with a particular article of clothing or mood. Others cannot be changed at all. No word yet on whether developers will be able to produce third party watch faces in the future although Apple might have a corner on the market if they keep all the cards in their hand and it could produce a viable revenue stream that would be otherwise not there.
What will inevitably be the heart and sole of this new device is the apps that people create for it. The Apple Watch was launched with over 3000 apps available in the store but has quickly rose to over 5000 in just a month’s time. A lot of these try to cram too many features or controls into such a little screen and others seem to have got it right. It will indeed take time to find a happy median.
Some notable apps were missing at launch and still are at the time of this article. These would mainly include Facebook, and eBay. Both were promised at launch but are still no where to be found. Facebook states it is evaluating whether or not a watch app is viable or needed and eBay claims it is hard at work on theirs.
An important thing to note is that currently only Apple’s first party apps run natively on the device, while all others have to do all their processing on your Iphone and then displaying the results on the watch. This causes many apps to seem slow especially because the UI is loaded before the watch parses the phone for the data. Apple has said with the release of their next SDK they will allow at least some features of apps to be handled on the wearable itself. This also means if you plan or going running as we do and do not take your phone just about the only thing it will do is track fitness. If you own a pair of bluetooth headphones you may also listen to music through the two gigabytes of dedicated music storage though we have not tested this feature.
The interface is intuitive and natural feeling, at least the mechanical part. The digital crown feels fluid and responds well, and the contact button below it is easy to reach. One feature we hope for is the ability to customize it’s purpose because it just doesn’t get used very much. Maybe a frequented app or macro command instead? We have our fingers crossed but not holding our breathe.
The software side is a big step away from the grid pattern that has been used on iOS devices since the debut of the original Iphone in 2007. Although you can rearrange the “blob” of apps into different shapes using the watch app on the Iphone when your panning through them it is very easy to get lost and lose your direction. We are undecided on how we feel about it at this time and are weary of rumors that the phone is going to be using it as well.
The glances feature is nice, with just a swipe up to see common app data that you may want but it quickly gets less useful the more apps you have to swipe through to get to the one you want and a lot of times it is just easier to find the app through other means. Siri is spotty and sometimes will not process your verbal commands and even though you know it isn’t, you still must wait for her to figure out she doesn’t know what she is doing. Longer pauses help than you would typically use when speaking to her on the Iphone.
The heart rate sensors on the bottom are accurate, and are paired with deactivated blood oxygen level sensors that Apple claimed were not reliable enough to use currently but maybe we will see them come to life in a software update.
Gyroscope sensor usually turns the watch face on when you turn your arm slightly to look at the face, but not always. On rare occasions it has taken three shakes of the wrist but that is hardly the case.
The microphone works well, better than the speaker and don’t plan on making any secret agent calls in crowded areas because you won’t hear anything. At your desk or on the couch is completely fathomable and happens a lot. It is a nice feature that will hopefully get better in future generations of the device.
One of the biggest fears in Apple fan’s heads was battery life. Apple had claimed seventeen hours of battery life on a single charge and that freaked people out. Quotes of Pebble battery life and other flew around the forums and questions like why can’t an Apple Watch compare? This watch can’t last 7 days or more because it uses a retina screen and not an e-paper one and has far more on it’s plate. That being said I find that this watch has never been below 60% after over 15 hours of use. If you plan on using this as an Ipad replacement you might be in trouble. On another note your productivity is basically going to stop. Take this device for what it is. It is offering to provide you with the freedom to eat dinner with your family without taking your phone out. To let you read that text while your occupied or even show you the time.
In over a month the Apple Watch Sport has not gotten a single scratch on the display nor the housing. It has held up better than we expected especially due to the scratchgate situation people who opted for the stainless steel version are going through. The sport band has started to get shiny in places where it rubs on itself through none of these places are visible. The Apple Watch is a useful device but is probably still somewhat of a novelty. As time goes on we think wearables will become more of a necessity with the addition of missing features such as GPS. Overall we think it is safe to saw Apple nailed it with this one.