Or, more specifically, on my wrist. I confess that I was an Apple Watch skeptic; I don’t wear a watch, and I didn’t really feel the need to start, since my iPhone does a perfectly capable job of keeping the time, and I always have it on me. But every time Apple would demo the watch during one of their presentations, I’d find myself oohing and aahing. Then I’d go back to wondering what I’d possibly need it for.
Anyway, I have one now, and here’s what I have to say: I love it, and I look forward to putting it on my wrist each day. Maybe the novelty will wear off, but for the time being, it’s fun. And I haven’t even gotten to know it well yet. But I’ve already paid for a taxi ride to the airport with Apple Pay, and I was able to check in at the TSA checkpoint with my boarding pass graphic in Passbook. I didn’t need to take out anything; no piece of paper, no iPhone.
That’s pretty much the deal with the watch; I’m actually pulling out my phone much less. I can unobtrusively receive a text message, and send a quick response; I can check how my fantasy baseball team is doing (very important); I can get an address of a place, with a map and navigation; I can cancel a dinner reservation. All pretty easily. All without taking my phone from my pocket. That might not sound like a big deal, but I’m actually finding it great.
The best way to think about the Apple Watch is that it it’s like a really tiny satellite version of your phone that you’re wearing, rather than carrying. In fact, 95% of what it does requires that your phone be in near proximity. Which makes it sound stupid, but it really isn’t. It’s a more convenient way to use your phone; it doesn’t replace your phone.
The Apple Watch comes in a dizzying array of versions, in two face sizes, and face, body, and wristband materials ranging from $349 to well over $15,000. Functionally they all do exactly the same thing, except that the larger one (available at all price points) has a little more screen real estate and battery life. I cheaped out because I figured that what’s available today will be like the first iPhone or first iPad, which is to say substantially improved upon and possibly obsolete in a year or two. With that said, I’m pleased at how high-quality even the cheap “Sport” version feels; mine’s all-black, and it’s pleasing to wear and look at.
The Apple Watch is customized by using the Apple Watch app on your iPhone. You don’t download separate apps for the watch; any app for the watch has to have an app on your iPhone. Any apps that have a “watch version” will automatically have that installed to the watch without your doing anything; if you don’t want it there, you can disable it using the app. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of watch apps that showed up, though also overwhelmed by them; they appear as a hexagonally arranged sea of circles, without any text, so you have to recognize the icon of the app you want to use and remember where it is. My brother asked if it wouldn’t just be easier to have a list of app names, and it probably would. At least, I’d like to have that option to switch to, just as I like having the option of using Spotlight to find an iPhone app hidden inside some folder. But I’m not holding my breath.
The apps themselves are hit and miss in terms of their comprehensiveness and utility. All of them at least convey some information. For example, the United app doesn’t do much, but I was able to get my flight status in about five seconds, and that was in and of itself valuable.
There’s a whole bunch of fitness tracking and motivating features of the watch, but I figured I’ve burned enough calories poking at the screen and twiddling the “digital crown” for now. I’ll explore these more in time.
There are certainly imperfections about the Apple Watch, and in many ways it feels like a 1.0 (or, as of a couple of days ago, 1.0.1) product. One of the most compelling features about a software watch is that the face could display literally anything; but Apple has not made it possible for developers to create alternative faces, so, at least for now, you’re stuck with the ten that Apple gives you, with whatever limited customizability they offer. Also, some of the more “intimate” features of the watch are, in fact, “cheesy,” such as the animated valentines and happy faces that might embarrass Hallmark. I’d like to see Apple open up these animated messages to third-party developers as well, so that if you want to find just the right thing to express yourself, you can. There are also missing features; it’s great that you can respond to messages, but it’d be nice to save common responses so you don’t have to say them and hope Siri nails it each time out. Also, why can’t you respond to email?
But these are all things that will improve; Apple had to get the watch out the door, and I’d say I’m pleasantly surprised with how much I’m already using something that seemed optional to the point of being frivolous. It’s really pretty impressive. And eventually developers will come up with some really compelling uses for the watch, and I’m looking forward to seeing what evolves over the next year.
Should you get one? I can’t really answer that. I like mine, but I also know that the next one will be slimmer and faster and have longer battery and have a camera, because that’s just the way these things go. If you’re at all considering it, I’d certainly suggest going to an Apple Store (but, for the sake of your sanity, not the one on 5th Avenue) and checking out the various wristbands and colors and things. I also think it’s easier to consider to if you don’t currently wear a watch, as opposed to displacing a watch that you already own.
And, one more thing: the really killer app is that I can find out the time without having to take out my phone. And I’m not joking, either.