- Editor Rating
- Rated 3.5 stars
- Very Good
- Apple Watch
- Reviewed by:
- Published on:
- Last modified:
- Cosmetic AppealEditor: 70%
- Design & Build QualityEditor: 80%
- FeaturesEditor: 70%
- FunctionEditor: 60%
- Value For The PriceEditor: 60%
The Apple Watch is the company’s first attempt in the wearable tech market.
Under the leadership of Steve Jobs, Apple quickly revolutionized the tech world with the introduction of the iPhone. Moving forward eight years and over 700M units sold, the company has just released their next innovation in technology simply dubbed the Apple Watch. While it is not the first smartwatch on to hit the market, it is one of the most in-demand options due to its innovative design and integration with iOS features like Healthkit and Apple Pay.
A Rundown On Apple Watch Versions
When Apple first released the full details on their smartwatch, many were taken back by the dramatic price difference between the entry-level and high-end models. If you weren’t aware already, the Apple Watch is sold in three primary variants starting at $349 and ranging all the way up to a staggering $17,000 for the most expensive Gold version.
First things first, do realize that the only difference between the $349 Apple Sport and the $17,000 Gold Apple Watch Edition is purely cosmetic with better build materials and watch band choices that warrant the increase in price. When it comes down to it, every Apple Watch will harness the same performance and function regardless of the model’s price tag.
Here is a brief explanation of the three versions that are all offered in both a 38mm or 42mm form-factor:
Apple Watch Sport ($349-$399)
The Sport model is the cheapest of the bunch selling for $349 for the 38mm body and $399 for the 42mm body. The available bands that can be purchased with the Sport model are less appealing than the more high-end models with your choice a fluoroelastomer band offered in five vibrant colors. Due to price and availability, I ended up ordering a 42mm black on black Sport model just minutes after pre-orders opened on the Apple website and this is the sample that I’ll have reference for evaluation purposes throughout this review.
Apple Watch ($549-$1,099)
In the middle of the road is the Apple Watch which is the same as the lower-priced Sport model although it has an improved 316L stainless steel casing, rugged Sapphire crystal display and a slew of watch band options. The base 38mm model sells for $549 with a sport band and the highest-end model is the 42mm in Space Black Stainless Steel coupled with a Space Black Stainless Steel band with a price tag of just under $1,100.
Apple Watch Edition ($10,000-$17,000)
If you have a lot of disposable income and want something rather exclusive, there is the Apple Watch Edition, which is more of a status symbol than anything practical. The device’s casing is comprised of a special 18-karat gold alloy that is appealing to the eye while maintaining twice the durability of standard gold. As you’d expect, you get the same Sapphire crystal display as the mid-range Apple Watch along with your choice of both Sport or leather buckled bands.
AppleCare Plan Pricing
As for most Apple products, you can purchase AppleCare as a way to ensure the device will be able functional for an extended period. With the company’s emphasis on smaller and more technologically advanced designs, I’ve always found the AppleCare plans to be a worthwhile expense should you expect to hold onto the device for more than a year.
I was able to snag an AppleCare plan on my Apple Watch Sport for just $49 although the price increases substantially as you move up the tiers. The standard Apple Watch’s plan sells for $79, and the Apple Watch Edition’s AppleCare will run you a steep $1,500. If you order an Apple Watch and iPhone at the same time, you can also purchase a combination AppleCare plan which will offer the bundle the two plans into a single plan although without any discount in pricing, it doesn’t provide much incentive.
The design team at Apple have always had a primary emphasis on creating products that focus on both form and function. From a cosmetic standpoint, the Apple Watch offers an eye-catching design in small yet practical package with sleek round edging. It isn’t my favorite looking smartwatch model on the market, (I prefer the hardware of the Moto 360) although it captures the essence of an Apple design and is undoubtedly an elegant device.
Unlike the Pebble Time, this wrist-worn device harnesses both touchscreen capabilities as well as two physical buttons located on the right side of the display. On the top is the “digital crown”, which can be both pushed in to initiate a function as well as scrolled to provide up and down movements. Underneath the digital crown, is a more recessed rectangular button that only offers a single action. Both of these buttons are responsive with a tactile feel when pressed with a satisfying “click”, most relatable to the sleep/wake button on an iPhone.
With a PPI density of 280, the Watch surpasses that of rivals like the Moto 360 who only offers a PPI of 205. The display is bright and vibrant with excellent color representation. The brightness is adjustable (helps to salvage battery life) and when at max brightness is still relatively easy to read the screen in direct sunlight. On the negative side, the screen is realistically pretty small for those with poor eyesight as the text can only be magnified so much on such a small display. The Sport’s display is prone to showing fingerprints rather easily which requires the occasional wipe with a microfiber cloth to retain its sheen.
On the back of the device, there are four different sensors used to communicate the user with the Watch. This is where it will detect movements (like the turn of the wrist to view the watch face) as well as calculate your heart rate. Charging the Apple Watch is done here without the need to plug into a port like a traditional Apple device as the included charging cable magnetically sticks to the bottom of the Watch and beings refilling the internal battery once a connection is made.
Even with the low-end models, the device offers a premium feel throughout all components including the wristband and follows suit with the same quality that you’d expect when buying any other Apple product. While the Sport model doesn’t offer great lengths of durability when it comes to its casing or screen materials, it is sufficient for average use as long as you are careful to not accidentally ding or drop the device since it wouldn’t take much to damage these components.
Removing the watch band simply requires a press of a button on each side of the back of the device which will allow the bands to slide out from the Watch’s chassis. This type of design offers the ability for third-party wristbands which are already starting to show up on the market and in crowdfunding campaigns on KickStarter or Indiegogo. Someone even discovered a hidden charging port found where the watchband attaches thus making the potential of a band that offers an integrated battery backup.
Fit & Feel
Straight out of the box, the M/L band that came on the watch felt awkward on my wrist as I couldn’t find the precise tension that I felt was comfortable. I was able to solve this problem by switching to the smaller S/M band included in the product packaging that allowed me to dial in a precise fit without feeling too tight or allowing any wobble.
In terms of size and weight, the Apple Watch is slightly smaller and lighter than the Armani watch that I usually wear while still maintaining a premium feel on the wrist. The band has given me no skin irritation thus far, and the device doesn’t have any visible wear despite being worn daily for more than a month.
If you are a guy (even with small wrists), I’d highly recommend opting for the larger 42mm model over the 38mm. It is a better fit on most male wrists and looks much less awkward when worn compared to its smaller 38mm sibling. As for any prospective female buyers, the choice will depend on your preference. I know a few women who opted for the larger 42mm model whereas some feel that it is too large for their comfort. I’d recommend trying each model on in person at an Apple Store if anyone is really torn as to which size to buy.
When it comes to wearable technology, there is often concern involving public perception as there was a lot of negativity from the outside community with a product like Google Glass. Fortunately, most of those issues has to do with the invasion of privacy (recording without notice), so the Apple Watch doesn’t fall into any of those concerns.
Since I’ve been wearing my Apple Watch in public, I have found most of my peers/strangers oblivious to the fact that I’m wearing the device and that is something I find appealing. Unlike when I wore my Google Glass, I’m not automatically singled out in a crowd and I can reap the benefits of the device without drawing unwanted attention.
In a situation where a stranger or friend has noticed my Apple Watch, they typically can’t resist asking about it and whether I like it so be prepared to have it be an object of discussion at least for the first few months while there are not a lot of them out in public.
Native & Third-Party App Support
Just like your iPhone or iPad comes with native applications that ship with the device, the Apple Watch follow suit. These include your standard choices like Weather, Stocks, Phone, Camera, Calendar, Music, Messages, Mail, Maps, and Settings. Running these native apps, the experience is rather seamless as the Watch is utilizing its own resources to execute the applications.
However, this efficiency and performance differs greatly it comes to the growing list of third-party applications that can be downloaded to extended to the Watch via the Apple Watch app. The reason for this is how third-party applications are executed in comparison to their native counterparts.
Instead of running the third-party apps through the Watch’s resources, at this time the applications are processed on your iPhone and then streamed to the Watch resulting in sluggish performance especially when opening or navigating these apps. The third-party app library is somewhat scarce, and even if you do find a companion Watch app, it is often buggy or not all that practical.
As of the recent WWDC 2015, Apple has announced the extension of native support for third-party apps in WatchOS 2 although this won’t be offered to the public until Fall so we will just have to wait to experience its benefits.
Customization (Or Lack There Of)
Smartwatch running Android Wear are utilizing an open-source operating system, so they have the ability to customize their watch faces and interface to a rather substantial degree. Apple Watch users on the other hand are pretty locked down at least at this point in time only leaving the ability to choose between ten different watch faces and edit small variables within them like color or data attributes.
At WWDC, Apple announced greater customization options for watchOS 2 with the ability to add images from your Photos app as watch face backgrounds as well as time-lapse watch faces that show iconic locations around the world shot over a 24 hour period. Unfortunately, this new firmware won’t be available until Fall, so anyone buying the device before them is stuck into this rather locked-down software until then.
Notifications are the backbone to real-world use for a wearable like this and are really the driving force behind making a purchase like this from my perspective. Being able to lift my wrist and quickly glance at a new text message or email rather than pulling out my phone is both convenient and even safer in certain situations like when I’m driving, cycling or running.
Since receiving notifications on my Watch, I’ve become less dependent on my iPhone, and this has indirectly removed me from the constant habit of checking my phone every couple of minutes. The use of the taptic engine for notifications is brilliant as it triggers enough force to get my attention while remaining virtually silent to anyone around you even those in close vicinity.
Notifications can be mirrored from your iPhone’s preferences or individually adjusted on an app by app basis though the Apple Watch iOS companion application.
Since the Apple Watch connects to your phone via Bluetooth, it also can be used for receiving or making phone calls. While this type of thing can be done, I am not a fan of the built-in speaker for the Apple Watch as I find it too quiet even when there isn’t a lot of background noise around you. For this reason, I stick to my iPhone for making calls 99% of the time although it is possible to take a call via the Watch if you had your hands full.
Accessories like the Fitbit Flex or Jawbone UP 2 have been increasingly popular with consumers as they offer in-depth insight into your activity levels and other relevant health information. With Apple’s innovative HealthKit platform, the Apple Watch integrates directly providing more detailed and accurate tracking of your activity level throughout the day.
In its current state, the Apple Watch remains one of the most accurate ways of tracking your fitness goals (thanks to the array of innovative sensors) although it software element is somewhat lacking when compared to some of the third-party fitness applications currently on the market.
As seen above, I’ve been using my Watch on my daily ten mile bike rides to view real-time updates such as my ride time, speed, distance, average speed and calorie count. I did have to pay an extra $5 for the Cyclometer “Elite” version which offered support for the Apple Watch companion app. I’ve experienced some random bugs here with stats not updating or buttons being unresponsive via the Watch app although overall my experience has been positive with great convenience added to my rides that just aren’t possible without the use of a wearable like the Apple Watch.
While an integrated camera on a smartwatch isn’t a practical concept, certain competitors have still included one in the past. Apple didn’t bother to add any camera hardware within the Watch although you can utilize the Camera app from your phone.
This gives you a slightly delayed view of what your iPhone camera is seeing as well as a shutter release and 3-second delay shutter button. This is great for those touristy visits where you want to be in front of the camera, but don’t have anyone to take the picture for you as you can frame your shot via the iWatch screen, click the 3s delay and strike a pose.
With any wearable tech, battery life is always a concern and the poor battery life in the Google Glass was one of its large downfalls from my experience. The first few days I ended up having the Watch die before the day was over although this was simply because I was overusing my new “toy” and thus draining the battery at a much higher rate than average use. Fortunately, throughout regular use the Watch can supply me with at least a day and a half of use on a single charge. Charging the device couldn’t be much easier with the magnetic power cord that sits my bedside nightstand.
Apple’s first endeavor in the wearable market was much like their original iPhone, not the smoothest though full of potential. The device is meant to be a companion to your smartphone (not a replacement) and with this I think Apple has executed well on this concept.
Owning an Apple Watch has added great convenience to my life and made me less reliant on the need to constantly check my phone, an obnoxious habit that I (and many others) have become a victim of in this high-tech world.
Despite my positive experience with the Watch, I still wouldn’t consider it is a must-have accessory nor is the purchase warranted for all type of consumers. However, if you have enough disposable income and don’t mind dealing with the various bugs and inconsistencies found in a first generation product like this, the Apple Watch is a wearable device to consider.