Apple Watch Review

Camera

The Apple Watch acts as your iPhone’s viewfinder, so that shots can be framed perfectly.

Looking into the apps tray, there’s obviously an icon with a camera on it – yet, there’s no physical camera on the Apple Watch itself. Well folks, the Apple Watch merely acts as a remote shutter for your iPhone’s camera. Not only do we see the viewfinder through the Apple Watch, but we can take a snapshot at a moment’s notice by pressing on the corresponding button on-screen. It’s not something new, as many Android Wear watches offer this too, but it’s nice that touch focus and burst mode controls are offered.

Naturally, we can achieve some slick compositions with the help of the Apple Watch – like better selfies, just because that enables us to use the rear camera for the occasion. Once a snapshot is taken, it’s transferred and then accessible through the iPhone’s photo gallery app.

Multimedia


After choosing what folder in your iPhone you want to associate with the Photos App on the Apple Watch, content will start to appear in your standard grid-like layout. At first, it might be tough trying to discern them, but using the digital crown to smoothly zoom allows us to better visualize them. Viewing and zooming are basically the extent of the app’s function, so don’t expect to be doing any sharing.

If you happen to own an Apple TV, you can make good use out of the Apple Watch’s remote app. Either that, or go to your computer that’s running iTunes and associate it with that too – so you can control what’s playing in your library or iTunes Radio.

With the Music app, however, it not only acts as a remote too, but it’s a full functioning app that permits us to select a song that’s stored in our iPhone’s catalog. In staying true to the platform’s foundations, the Music app boasts a simple interface that breaks the categories down to artists, albums, songs, and playlist. Not only can we select something, but once it’s playing, we’re given music controls and volume adjustment.

Even though it’s probably capable of doing it, video playback isn’t something we’d think as being practical for the Apple Watch. Well, it seems like Apple certainly agrees – leaving that experience with the iPhone instead.

Call Quality

Love that we can handle phone calls, dislike that it’s a trying experience at times.

It’s been done before, a long time ago in fact by other smartwatches like the original Samsung Galaxy Gear, but the Apple Watch, too, is enabled for handling phone calls. Just as you’d imagine, we can initiate phone calls using the Phone app.

As much as we admire having this feature, it’s something you’ll only be using effectively in quiet conditions. Due to the weak output of its internal speaker, voices are easily subdued by background noise and disturbances. On the other end of the line, our callers struggle to make out our voices, which could be due to how close or far away the microphone is from our mouth. Sure, there’s a cool factor lifting our wrist near our mouth to handle phone calls, but at times it can be a meddling experience.

Battery

It’s average, just enough to get us through a day – and that’s all.

From what we’ve seen with most smartwatches, a typical result is a single-day of usage from a full charge – with few models exceeding that. The Apple Watch, much like the many notable Android Wear smartwatches floating around, produces a typical one-day of battery in our experience with its 205 mAh battery. By the end of the day, it’s typically running under the 15% mark, which is still commendable, but nothing spectacular.

Although inductive charging isn’t new, Apple packs in an inductive magnetic charger with the Apple Watch, which latches onto the charging disc with the help of magnets. No doubt it’s secure and whatnot, but it’s just another charger we’ll need to remember bringing if we go away. Nevertheless, we find it better than the handful of detached, proprietary chargers.

Conclusion


Almost hard to believe, the modern day smartwatch category has been around for quite some time – fostered by companies such as Pebble and Samsung with the Galaxy Gear a few years back, only to be expanded even further by the handful of Android Wear smartwatches the last year. In all of that time, we have yet to still see one clear smartwatch worthy enough to earn the prestigious honor of being a necessity, rather than being merely a want product. Some have come close to perfecting the current formula, like the Moto 360 and LG G Watch R, but there has yet to be a clear winner in the space.

So, where does the Apple Watch fit into all of this? First, we can’t neglect to talk about its pricing, which starts at $349 for the base 38mm model of the Apple Watch Sport. Already, even without any upgrades to the band or anything else, that’s one expensive price point that makes the $250 and below priced Android Wear smartwatches considerably more affordable. There’s a deliberate reason why it’s priced so much. It’s mainly because they’ve developed and employed some new technologies that make for one clever interaction, and it also helps that the software experience is already at a good depth from the onset.

Aesthetically, we’re not totally won over by its design, despite the fact that there are models with more premium finishes and bands – it’s still a bit too conventional for our taste. Quite frankly, it doesn’t have the futuristic appeal of the Moto 360, or the elegance of comparable smartwatches like the Asus ZenWatch and LG Watch Urbane. For what it’s worth, though, it's still a stylish piece of accessory, plus we can't deny the fact that it has been designed with an efficient, unisex style in mind.

Functionally, like we said earlier, the Apple Watch is in a good position out of the gate. For starters, there’s a decent support for third-party apps, Siri’s voice activation is spot on, and the ability to handle phone conversations gives it great depth. And it helps too that iOS users can adjust to the platform’s operation in just a matter of a day, so there’s no complications regarding its use.

Ultimately, though, this is still a want more than a need. Yes, it’s a useful thing to use when it’s just not appropriate or comfortable to be using your phone, but it’s still just an extension – where its usability hinges on support not only from Apple, but from app developers as well. It’s a good first try, better than most others, but we can visualize something extraordinarily better with version 2.0.

Software version of the review unit: 1.0



Update: You can now read our Apple Watch Series 2 review!

Pros

  • Highly personalizable design
  • Phenomenal vibrancy with the screen
  • Smooth operation with the Digital crown
  • Good depth with the software experience from the start

Cons

  • A lot more expensive than most other smartwatches
  • Tough to use for phone calls

PhoneArena Rating:

8.0

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