I have been thinking about this move for several months now. Although I have been a Pebble Watch user for a couple of years now I started wanting more out of my smartwatch and after researching various options I decided to put my hard earned cash down on an Apple Watch and bought the Black Sport Edition. After all I am a sporty kind of guy.
One thing Apple does have going for it is – is that setting up their products are extremely easy, and this smart watch is no different. You actually do most of the programming on your phone. Pairing it with the iPhone is super easy as well. You are guided through the setup on deciding on the layout and how you want the apps to appear. There is even a way to make sure all your favorite apps are grouped together so that they are easy to get to.
You can customize the face of your watch to be pretty much anything – an actual watch face that shows weather or if there is a full moon or you can have a picture background and plenty of other things too. Guess which one I chose from the below options which are out of the box!
You can set up favorites that are the same as on your phone, but you can also add people that have an Apple Watch so that you can send them your heartbeat sketches & little taps throughout the day.
With a button dedicated to accessing your best friends there is a strong emphasis on who you talking and sharing your experience with others on a regular basis. You can have several circles of 12 friends and categorize these circles into groups like, friends, family and work mates.
Press the Friends button at any point wherever you are and you’ll be whisked into a screen that looks like an old fashioned phone dallier. The center dial gives you a picture (where available) of your chosen friend, while the smaller surrounding circles give you each friend’s initials. Using the digital crown to highlight them and then your finger to select them specifically, you can then either opt to call them, text them, or if they’ve also got an Apple Watch send them a special emoji only reserved for Apple Watch owners.
The dedicated Apple Watch messages, called Digital Touches, come in two forms: emoji, or special screen interactions from you either tapping, drawing, or (if you are feeling overly special) your heartbeat.
One of the key ways to interact with the Apple Watch is through Glances.
These are best seen as shortcuts to an app that allow you to quickly see what’s happening. Swiping up from the bottom of the watch face reveals your Glances, with left and right swipes then cycling through them accordingly.
You can manage which Glances you can see via the Apple Watch app for iPhone – and it’s only from here you can determine whether or not a Glance is active or not. The app is also the hub where you’ll find apps that work with theApple Watch from its own store to save you having to randomly hunt them down in the main Apple App store.
By default Apple offers a number of Glances, such as your next calendar appointment, how much battery you have left, your heart rate, or activating Airplane Mode for both Watch and iPhone.
Of course the key to any smartwatch success is how well it handles notifications. As I noted I have used a Pebble watch for over two years and their approach was to bludgeon you into submission with everything more or less mirrored from your phone.
Apple’s take is very different and it took me a few hours to understand what they were doing – and once I got the hang of it – I appreciate their take. Notifications on the watch depends largely on what you are doing at the time with either your watch or your iPhone. What you are doing will affect on what happens with the notifications and how they are received. The idea is that if you are looking at your phone you will not get an unnecessary alerts on the Watch seconds later.
This is great because when using the Watch you do not want to be constantly interrupted with notifications blocking the screen.
A swipe down from the top of the watch face gets the full list of notifications with the ability to close them one by one or to clear them all via a long press on the screen.
If you’ve read a notification on your phone it will disappear from the watch, while those you do click on will either open the app they are from or let you delve a little deeper by, for example, viewing more text before then opening the app in full.
With this model for example if you have been staring at your phone, or using it as a personal hotspot, you are not bothered by the Watch at all. As I said this took a little getting used to for me. On my first day, I thought email notifications were not working, when in reality I just had just been on the phone a lot, and therefore it was not displaying those watch-based notifications.
For text messages the Apple Watch allows you to reply to them either with a series of suggested one word replies, or by dictating via Siri as either text or voice message.
All of this also – I am sure – helps to preserve previous battery life because the watch is not constantly displaying notifications when not needed.
Phone on A Wrist
Before I had a Pebble I used a Galaxy Gear for a bit. The feature I really missed when I moved to the Pebble was the ability to take or make calls from my smartwatch. The Apple Watch brings this feature back. Just like Dick Tracy you can talk to your Watch. There are even times when you are actively encouraged to do so.
At any time you can press the digital crown or raise your wrist and ask it via a question, with the answer spat back out. You can also use Siri to open apps, ask for the weather, load Glances or start a text: “Text Frances” or “Open the camera app”, for example.
For messages that means you can dictate your replies straight from the watch and this is one of the better features.
Taking a call is, as you might imagine, a little awkward. You’ll look like you are performing some sort of dance as you jostle the watch between your mouth and your ear. When in the car, however, one hand on the steering wheel, it is just about okay.
The other issue here is that speaker is lackluster but if you need to take a call and can’t find your phone because it’s in a bag or another room it does offer a solution.
Battery & Charging
My impression from what I have read was that the battery life here was terrible, but over the couple of days I have used it I have been pleasantly surprised.
During the few days I have used is there has always been some charge left at the end of the day, and if you are only using it for notifications you reportedly will get two days from a single charge. Also I have found that recharging takes minutes rather than hours which means I will want to get a second cable for my office.
The Apple Watch is charged via a dedicated magnetic clip that snaps onto the back of the watch unit. This magnetic charging cable uses Apple’s MagSafe technology with inductive charging, which is a completely sealed system free of exposed contacts. I have also found that it is very forgiving for alignment too. You simply hold the connector near the back of the watch and the magnets cause it to snap into place automatically. This is another huge improvement over how the Pebble Watch charges.
After only a couple of days of use I have grown quite used to wearing it and adopted to how notifications work. The battery like is better then expected and many of the apps that you already have on your iPhone port over to the watch just fine really making this a nice extension of your smartphone. Even my Denver Broncos 365 app is now available to me – even when I have lost sight of my smartphone and what more could I need!