Smart watches try and be extensions or appendages to the smartphone and end up being only as smart as the phone with hardly any existence of their own. The Apple Watch tries to be different. It is both an extension and an appendage, while still harbouring some standalone ambitions. It is a smartband with some ability to give data on fitness and health. It is also a style statement and the most personal device Apple has ever made. Here is what I thought after a week with the watch.
The Apple Watch has many variants priced R30,990 onwards coming in two sizes depending on the watch face of 38 mm and 42 mm. My review unit is a 42 mm watch with a box price of R60,990, thanks to the different build and leather strap. In a market like India this is clearly a luxury product and since it works only with an Apple iPhone, the cost of ownership for those not on the iOS ecosystem is high.
Buying a watch, easily the most personal gadget on a person, is no easy purchase decision. And that is why Apple is offering so much choice and customisation. Their new offering, the Apple Watch with its metal body and leather straps is stylish and out of the box, but you can also change its looks everyday if you want to.
At the core of the Apple Watch is the ability to customise everything. There is everything here from a simple watchface, to digital and even a Mickey hand watch (one of which I incidentally owned as kid). But what I loved was the time lapses that show how a certain city looks at that point of time. Plus, there is a new concept called Time Shift that shows you what’s going to happen ahead in the day and this could be the weather, your calendar or even a reminder.
Another neat feature in my books. And while the watch face has touch, what really powers these features is the watch crown which lets you scroll through stuff and navigate easily. Apple says they added this feature so that people don’t end up covering the screen while trying to make changes. I can only nod in agreement.
Fitness is a key feature in the Apple Watch. The activity app on the watch has three key components: calorie count, exercise and standing. The last is something no other tracker keeps an eye on and is an interesting additional data point to the entire quantified self movement. You can set your goals and strive to achieve them. If you are lagging the watch will prod you once in a while, asking you to stand for a bit or take a small walk.The watch also keeps a tab on heartbeat and logs it every few minutes.
Where the Apple Watch is ahead of the game is in its ability to give you the fitness app you are used to. Endomondo, Nike Fuel, RunKeeper, you name it and the App Store has it. However, I am not convinced the form factor renders itself for use as a fitness tracker.
Calling and texting
Yes, you can use the Apple Watch to take or make a call. Again, not something new. There are smart watches with built in SIM that are made to do this so that everyone in the room starts looking at you. They still look at you, even with the Apple Watch. However, Cupertino has made this a bit less awkward by improving the speaker as well as the mic. This means you don’t need to hold your arm like a phone to get closer to the watch. But use this only with a Bluetooth headphone, unless you have conversations you want everyone to hear.
The Apple Watch is not just about calling. It can do text as well, and in wonderful new ways. Of course, any new SMS or WhatsApp message can pop up on the watch face too—if you have given it access. But you don’t need to type out a reply and there is not even the option to, which is good. So when you get a message, you use stock options like ‘Will call back’ to reply. The cool thing here is the option to send the reply as a voice message too.
There is one more, really new, way to communicate using the watch and that is called digital touch. It works only between two people with Apple Watches and is primarily a way to send doodles from one watch face to the other. You can also press two fingers on the watch face and transfer your heartbeat to another person. How romantic.
Apps & Siri
All the smartwatches I have used before have had a bunch of apps you could download to the device. Apple, on the other hand, has a full ecosystem that you can tap into—that is about 17,000 apps on last count. Then there is Siri. I had to activate Hey Siri to get the watch to respond to my queries. It works quite well when there is not much ambient noise.
So, the Apple Watch is in my books the best smartwatch out there and maybe the only complete watch-first app ecosystem. It is a great invest for people who are already devotees to the Apple world, as it improves your productivity, and subservience to tech giant. It is also a great pick for people who are fascinated by watches and want to add another, digital, dial to their collection. This is certainly not one for the masses and I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple launch has no frills version in the near future. Till the Apple Watch will stay the pinnacle of personalised tech luxury.
Estimated street price: Rs 30,990+