Smartwatches try and be extensions of the smartphone and end up being only as smart as the phone, without any independent existence of their own. The Apple Watch harbours more ambitions. It makes a style statement, functions as a smartband with some ability to give data on fitness and health and is the most personal device Apple has ever made. Here is what I thought after a week with the watch:
Priced at Rs 30,990 onwards, it comes in two sizes, depending on the watch face size (38mm or 42mm). My review unit is a 42 mm watch with a box price of Rs 60,990, thanks to the different build and leather strap. In a market like India, this is a luxury product and since it works only with an Apple iPhone, the cost of ownership for those not on the iOS ecosystem is very high.
The Apple Watch with its metal body and leather straps is stylish, but you can also change its look every day. At its core is the ability to customise everything from a simple watchface, to digital and even a Mickey hand watch. But what I really loved was the timelapses that show how a certain city looks at that point of time.
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Want to read a longer review? Checkout out our long-form Apple watch review
Another neat feature is a new concept called Time Shift that shows you what’s going to happen ahead in the day. This could be the weather, your calendar or even a reminder. While the watch face responds to touch, what powers these features is the watch crown which lets you scroll and navigate easily. Apple says they added this feature so that people don’t end up covering the screen while trying to make changes.
Fitness is a key feature. 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. If you are lagging behind your targets, the watch will prod you once in a while, asking you to stand for a bit or take a small walk. It also keeps tab on your 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 useful as a fitness tracker.
Calling and Texting
Yes, you can use the Apple Watch to take or make a call. It’s not something new, but Cupertino has improved 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 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 if you have given it access. But you don’t need to type out a reply and there is not even the option to. When you get a message, you use stock options like “Will call back” to reply. For those who want to say more, there is a voice reply option which then converts it to text with great accuracy, despite our Indian accents. You have the option to send the reply as a voice message too, just be sure the person you are sending this to is equipped to receive it.
There is one more new way to communicate 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 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. Otherwise, it hears you wrong or does not hear you at all. However, in a car this is a good feature to start a call or to open an app.
This is the best smartwatch out there and maybe, the only complete watch-first app ecosystem. It is a great investment for people who are devotees of the Apple world, as it improves productivity, fitness and, of course, subservience to the tech giant. It is also a great pick for those fascinated by watches and want to add another digital dial to their collection. This is not for the masses and I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple launches a no-frills version in the near future. Till then, the Apple Watch will stay the pinnacle of personalised tech luxury.