Apple Watch Review
Interface and Functionality
Embodying the foundational qualities of iOS, the interface very much mimics the operation of its smartphone counterpart – simplicity is delivered with great pride.
Running a variation of Apple’s iOS, the Apple Watch dives right in with a comprehensive user interface that’s powerful right from the onset . Okay, to a certain degree, even veteran iPhone users will still need some adjustment getting used to the software, but it’s something that can be achieved in about a day. For those unfamiliar with iOS, obviously, the experience might seem a little bit overwhelming – more so when interacting with the UI can sometimes be done in multiple ways (digital crown, touch, and voice).
Simplicity, that’s the core foundation of Apple’s experiences – whether it’s the Apple TV or the iPhone, having a simplified experience is what they’re always after. Pressing either of the physical buttons on the Apple Watch, or rotating our wrist so that we see the display, the first thing we’re greeted to is the watch face homescreen, which of course, can be changed and customized to fit your liking. From conventional ones that merely show the time, to utility centric ones that provide weather and calendar information, and even the animation style of Mickey’s tapping foot, there’s a decent amount of options to choose from.
Pressing on the digital crown from within the clock face homescreen transports us into the apps tray, which resembles an almost honeycomb-like layout. Of course, moving around can be done by swiping on the screen – while rotating the digital crown allows us to zoom in/out for a more precise look at the collection of apps. As we’ve said previously, pressing on the digital crown also acts as the back function, but a long press gets us access to Siri.
Yes, we can long press at any time to get Siri’s attention, but she can also be summoned by speaking “hey Siri” at any time when the screen is on – it won’t work if it’s locked or the screen is off. Just like what we get from Siri on the iPhone, we’re able to accomplish a handful of tasks. From asking what’s the weather condition, getting directions to a destination, and even answering trivia questions, Siri works rather well in being a useful personal digital assistant on our wrist – though, she doesn’t speak, so it’s more about the visuals here.
Swiping up from the clock face homescreen reveals a feature called Glances. As its name implies, they’re best described as a collection of mini apps/widgets that are arranged in a carousel. The important ones like the connectivity options, battery capacity, and fitness overview are there from the start, but in addition to them, we can set it up to show third party apps. Specifically, we can set the Twitter app to show recent tweets from friends – or go between radio stations with Pandora. Now, as much as we appreciate these Glances, it would’ve been more beneficial if they were accessible at any time – not just from the watch style homescreen.
Not surprisingly, the notifications system follows the same procedure as other mobile devices – where they pop in as they arrive. However, if we want to access them afterwards, they can only be seen by swiping down from the homescreen. Indeed, this implementation is discrete, but it’s also deep as well, because for most of them, we can make actionable choices – like replying to text messages. When multiple notifications arrive, however, it becomes a bit overwhelming because there’s no way to clear all of them simultaneously.
Almost every smartwatch is capable of handling all organizer functions, so it’s no surprise that the Apple Watch can do the same. Whether it’s the calendar, stock, or timer apps, they all function in the manner we expect – though, it’s just a matter of getting adjusted to interacting with them through such a tiny-sized screen.
Using the Phone app, we can use the Apple Watch to get in touch with our contacts through other unconventional means. With the aid of the Apple Watch’s Digital Touch feature, we can send finger paintings, taps, and an animated emoji to other people in our phonebook that are using an Apple Watch too. Even better, for that personal touch, we can send our heartbeat to them – where the Taptic Engine inside of the watch, a linear actuator, delivers a human touch of providing haptic feedback. It’s cool, though with relatively limited use.
No folks, you’re not going to text by typing using the tips of your fingers on some sort of on-screen keyboard – that’s just not practical, of course. Instead, when it comes to replying or composing messages, the Apple Watch provides some common phrases and emojis to choose from, but the best result is relying on Siri to compose the message for us. In our experience, the dictation is pretty spot on!
Alternatively, there’s the mail app that displays all our emails in one universal inbox. Unfortunately, it can’t be broken down or separated into their individual accounts – nor is there a way to respond or reply, so you’ll need to do all of that through your iPhone.
Slowly and steadily, we’re seeing many more retailers offering Apple Pay as a form of payment. And of course, the Apple Watch aims to streamline the process of paying for goods and services even easier. Looking through the apps tray, there’s an icon for Passbook, which not only allows us to access the existing set of cards in our catalog, like the Starbucks one that displays our scannable membership number, but also the credit card we’d like to use for payment. Well, it needs to be set up again, even if it’s activated and working on our iPhone.
Health and Fitness
In addition to being a versatile companion that offers us some of the basic functions of our iPhone, the Apple Watch is also a motivator with its health and fitness services. First, let’s talk about the Activity App, which is also a separate app that’s installed on our iPhone apart from the standard Apple Watch app. Talk about simplicity again! The Activity app is a simple and effective tool that visualizes our activity through the day by representing data through the ‘move’ ring. Gathering the data from the Apple Watch’s sensors, it’s able to tell us how frequently we’re moving, the amount of time spent on exercising, and the total time we’ve spent standing up.
It’s really ingenious, as the Move Ring visualizes our progress, but the data s further dissected by swiping down to see the information represented in a graph bar. Better yet, there’s a motivational aspect where various achievements can be unlocked based on our progress. And finally, too, if we’re not moving as much as the Apple Watch would like us to be, it’ll nudge us with a notification to stand up and move.
Aside from the Activity app, there’s a dedicated Workout app too that’s recommended for the more physically active user. With it, we can select what particular type of workout we’re going to be doing, whether it’s an indoor or outdoor run, so it can be set in the proper mode to achieve the best and most accurate measurements – like our distance covered, pace, amount of calories burned, and heart rate levels. Honestly, though, we find it to be a bit basic in its current iteration, but we imagine that it’ll be expanded more down the road. It’s no Fitbit app yet, but it’s a starting point nonetheless.
Processor and Memory
From swipes, taps, presses, opening apps, and much more, it’s nice to see that fluid performance that we all experience with Apple’s products.
Dealing with a finite amount of precious real-estate, the Apple S1 chip is touted by the company as an engineering marvel due to the fact that they’re able to put an entire computer system into a such a small chip – that consists of the memory, storage, application processor, wireless radios, and sensors.
Superficially, the Apple Watch performs much like the gamut of Apple’s device portfolio – buttery smooth with simple operations. There’s no arguing about its smoothness navigating and running apps, but we’ve experienced, on a handful of occasions, just a little bit of delay. It’s not bad to the point of stopping us dead in our tracks, but still noticeable enough to the eye. In comparing it with some Android Wear watches, we’ll certainly say it exhibits a similar performance to some of the more notable, high-end models.
Billed as having 8GB of internal storage, that tally translates to 6.2GB out of the box – where up to 2GB of it can be allocated to music, while another 75MB can be put aside for photos.
Internet and Connectivity
Sorry folks, as much as some users may like to surf the web on the Apple Watch, it’s not something that it offers. Well, that makes perfect sense to us, mainly because it’d be a nightmare trying to navigate web pages on such a tiny screen.
Since this is an extension for the iPhone, rather than being a dedicated thing like the Samsung Gear S or upcoming LG Urbane LTE, the Apple Watch needs to be tethered to an iPhone to gain its full usability. While it does have Wi-Fi support, the Apple Watch relies on its Bluetooth 4.0 LE connection as its primary means of connectivity to our iPhone. Therefore, not only are we able to receive text messages through the Apple Watch, but we can also handle phone calls too. From what we’ve experienced, the connection is maintained up to as much as 30 feet before being severed.