Unlike other times, when I am usually a first-day buyer of Apple gadgets, I waited a few months before picking up an Apple watch. It was right about the time when analysts were reporting that Apple Watch sales were down by 90 per cent since launch, and that it was a flop. I still went ahead and bought one, because of fairly good early adopter reviews; I’d also misplaced my Jawbone Up. After a fortnight of using my 38mm Space Grey Apple Watch Sports, here is what you should know:
1. It has a steep learning curve
There are so many video tutorials out there by now that if you have an average comfort level with technology, it won’t be as difficult to set up for use as initial reviewers made it out to be. Here are a few things to watch out for – learn how to tap, swipe and make other actions to interact with your watch; take control of your notifications by turning off stuff you absolutely don’t want on your watch; increase the intensity of the haptics in the watch’s settings, to allow yourself time to adjust to these gentle taps on your wrist; learn how to switch battery to power saving mode when running out of juice. YouTube is full of walkthroughs and specific how-to videos.
2. It will reduce the need to pull out your phone
It became a part of my routine very quickly, and I needed to pull my phone out of my handbag or pocket less and less. I wasn’t missing calls because I couldn’t hear my phone vibrate in my handbag, and I was able to respond to urgent text messages without stopping my run outdoors.
3. It is stylish
If you are the vintage-Rolex toting kind of person, then you are probably not even interested in this, but for rest of the world, the Apple watch is the most stylish smartwatch on the market. From the understated Apple Watch Sports that I bought to the 18-karat rose gold case Edition, Apple has something that meets your lifestyle. It’s good looking enough to fight off any competition from most mid-market watches, and it brings way more to your wrist than a regular watch does.
4. Battery life is a mixed bag
Apple claims that the watch will run for 18 hours on a charge, and that’s almost correct. Unless I am doing heavy duty fitness tracking, the watch lasts for a full day and is ready to be charged by the time I go to bed. For some reviewers, a watch that needs charging every night is a deal breaker, but not for me. I very quickly got into the routine of putting the watch to charge next to my iPhone.
However, it’s the iPhone battery that is taking the real hit. Before the watch, I would not need to charge my iPhone 6 till bed time, but all that Bluetooth communication between the phone and watch is straining my iPhone’s battery life.
5. It’s all about notifications
This is the heart and soul of the watch. You will soon realise that you are no longer missing important messages or meetings; you will respond more efficiently and yet be a better dinner companion. Responding to messages is a breeze, as the watch can predict what you want to say from the context of your message and from the ways you most often respond. And if your hands are busy, all you do is speak into the watch and Siri translates your speech into text – pretty accurately, too.
Apple’s fancy-schmancy Taptic Engine is another way to say that a component inside the watch taps you on the wrist whenever you receive an alert or notification, or press down on the display. It really does feel like a tap, which is very different from a vibration. Once you get used to the taps, you will never want a ring tone again in your life, because ring tones deserve to die anyway.
6. Receiving calls
Dick Tracy or Dork Tracy? If you get the drift, you know what it feels like to receive a phone call on the watch. Why would you want to take a call on the watch and publicly broadcast it? A Bluetooth headset is an answer, but it’s dorky again.
7. The Apps ecosystem is immature
Apple launched the watch with thousands of apps that either work as standalone services or as an extension of existing iPhone apps – but standalone apps are a waste of time. Loading those takes forever, and you might as well pull out your phone instead. This is the downside of being an early adopter. However, I do use Twitter, WhatsApp, Evernote, Instagram and Nike+running. Expect all these apps to get better, since they were developed even before the watch was released. It may be a while before we get the truly breakthrough apps that take advantage of what the watch offers as a platform.
8. It’s a great fitness tracker
Since the Apple Watch was replacing my Jawbone UP, fitness monitoring was a very important feature for me. Given the number of fitness trackers and smartwatches in the market, Apple had to get it right. The watch gives you a complete picture of your all-day activity using the three rings of the Activity app, which show your daily progress and also give you real-time stats, including heart rate readings, for a variety of the most popular workouts. Along with its accelerometer, it uses GPS on your iPhone to more accurately measure distance and speed during runs, which means you need to take your phone on the run.
While the heart readings from the Apple Watch are not as accurate as my Polar heart rate monitor, I am happy to get rid of the chest strap for the convenience of wrist based heart rate tracking. If you are a serious runner and heart rate training is very important to your game, then you’d better stick to your chest straps.
My favorite app for nutrition tracking is MyFitnessPal, but it doesn’t allow me to log food intake through the phone yet. I did try out Lark, though. You can speak into the watch to log meals and Lark will give you instant feedback about it. It also keeps an eye on all your food, sleep and exercise trends, and it then texts you with the easiest ways for you to lose weight and get fitter.
9. You can actually send the sound of your heartbeat to others
Terms like `heartbeat away’, `my beating heart` and `my heart beats for you’ acquire whole new meanings and possibilities as a result. I can assure you, however, that it is creepy listening to someone else’s heartbeat. You will be blocked if you send yours to me.
10. This is the future
The Apple Watch is the future of wearables. It may have started off as an extension of the iPhone, and as a very compelling accessory that has already reduced the face time that my phone gets from me. But in no time, the watch will be a platform in itself. As the internet of things grows, the watch will not just talk to your phone but also to the gadgets in your home, at work, in your car, in shops and restaurants. It will be that thing that triggers sensors and devices around you. In the future ecosystem of interconnected devices, the watch will be the key. It will be central to how we interact with both the digital and physical worlds around us.
So don’t give me your estimated sales figures for Apple. No one knows how the Apple Watch is really selling, unless Apple decides to release the numbers – and they won’t, because industry analysts love flogging Apple over unrealistic estimates. I don’t think it really matters how many watches Apple sells this year. They have clearly obliterated the competition with their first iteration. The watch is the right step to the future – the future of communication, the internet of things, home automation and artificial intelligence. This is our future, and the Apple Watch will be right in the middle of it.