WEARABLES

Apple Watch

December 16, 2016

This smartwatch has many advantages, including a wealth of functions and versatility. Yet its battery life is one glaringly obvious liability.

Overview

The Apple Watch is far more than just a basic fitness tracker, although it does a pretty good job of helping you stay active and keeping tabs on the results. Once you pair up the smartwatch with your iPhone, it does just about everything your phone can do. 

The Apple Watch lets you:

• Read and respond to emails

• Answer your phone and send texts

• Pay for purchases at restaurants and shops via Apple Pay 

• See the weather forecast

• Get driving directions

• Get notified of upcoming appointments on your calendar

• Connect you with your social media accounts 

And these are just a fraction of the features it offers. Oh, and lest you forgot that this high-tech device is a smartwatch, it will show you the time in both analog and digital displays.

You need to have your phone relatively close by to take full advantage of your Apple Watch. The watch has a Bluetooth range of only about 30 to 50 feet, but it can connect to your phone via Wi-Fi as far as the signal reaches. If your phone is nowhere nearby, you can still access certain features — like tracking workouts, listening to music, and making purchases with Apple Pay — straight from your watch.

 

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Design

The watch comes in two sizes: 38 mm and 42 mm. It has a large rectangular face with a clear and easy-to-read display. The face is still relatively small compared to your iPhone, which will require you to slip on your reading glasses if your close vision isn’t what it used to be. The miniature buttons can also be hard to manipulate without error if you have adult-sized fingers.

Comfort and wearability

So much functionality requires a larger face than most fitness trackers, and a thicker, sturdier strap to support it. The watch can feel somewhat heavy on your arm, especially while you sleep. Another sacrifice of the thick silicone band is breathability. During an intense workout, expect sweat to collect under the strap.

The Apple Watch can also feel cumbersome when you sleep with it, and right now there’s little reason to wear it to bed. Though you can track sleep using a third-party app like Sleep++, the short battery life makes sleep tracking inadvisable, unless you’ve set aside time to charge the phone in the morning.

Fashion

You can customize the Apple Watch to fit your personal style — and budget. The Series 1 Apple Watch comes with an aluminum case and a silicone sport band in a variety of colors. With Series 2, Apple has increased the options. The case comes in aluminum, stainless steel, or ceramic, with the choice of a sport, woven nylon, leather, stainless steel, or Nike sport band. If you’re willing to splurge, you can go for the ultra luxurious Hermés leather-strapped version, which starts at just under $1,200.

Apps 

When you sync up the Apple Watch with your iPhone, you'll have access to most of the same apps that are on your phone. With thousands of compatible apps available in the App Store, you can do virtually anything from your watch. Call an Uber, order lunch, or turn off the lights in your home. You'll also get shortcuts to social media apps like Twitter and Facebook, and access to Yelp, CNN, and other online publications you follow. Though the watch doesn’t come equipped with its own camera, you can control your phone’s camera through it, making selfies much less cumbersome to take.

 

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Email, IM, and notifications

Never miss a call or text when you’re at the gym or otherwise away from your phone. You can read and respond to texts and emails straight from your Apple Watch, just as you would on your phone. Because typing is difficult on the small face, the watch has streamlined the process by giving you a list of set responses (“Let me get back to you,” “You’re welcome,” “Got it, thanks,” “I’ll take a look in a bit.”). Or, you can dictate your message using the microphone icon. You can also take calls straight through your watch — a handy feature if your phone is in another room. 

Music player 

Your watch gives you access to a full music library. Store and play music directly from the Apple Watch (it holds one playlist), or sync it up with all of your iPhone playlists when the phone is within range.

Social sharing

If you’ve had a particularly productive workout, show off to friends and family through the Activity app. Send your progress via email, text message, or social media. You’ll first need to compile a contact list, and then rub in your latest fitness success with an easy tap of the “Sharing” button. 

Battery life

Apple Watch has many advantages, including a wealth of functions and versatility. Yet its battery life is one glaringly obvious liability. The company claims a life of 18 hours. Expect to recharge on a daily basis — more often if you rely on your watch pretty heavily throughout the day. Cutting back on the number of notifications you receive and putting the watch into Power Reserve mode can help you get more life out of each charge.

Maps and GPS navigation 

The Apple Watch can help guide you to your destination. In addition to the watch’s built-in map, you can download Google Maps or whichever other navigation app you prefer.

Fitness tracking

Once you get through the dizzying number of apps and features this watch offers, it’s easy to forget that it’s a fitness tracker, too. The Apple Watch tracks your movements throughout the day, and it reminds you when you’re not moving enough. The Series 2 has a built-in GPS and heart rate sensor. It’s also water-resistant down to 50 meters, in case swimming is your preferred activity.

The watch features a three-ringed activity tracker: The stand ring sends you a gentle reminder if you’ve been in the seated position for too long. The Exercise ring tracks the amount of “brisk exercise” you get each day, which it bases on your heart rate and movement. And the Move ring lets you know how many calories you’ve burned toward your daily goal. 

All the data collected from your workouts, along with your heart rate and sleep, goes into a health app that gives you a snapshot of your progress. If you don’t like the watch’s built-in apps, you can customize your Apple Watch with one of many other compatible fitness apps. 

Software ease-of-use

Given that this is an Apple product, it obviously won’t work with a PC. You’ll need an iPhone 5 or later and the latest version of iOS to use it. Provided you have the right phone, the Apple Watch will pair seamlessly with it, and give you access to just about every feature that’s on your phone.

 

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Updated:  

December 16, 2016