I have had the Apple Watch for three months now and thought I might share the experience. In reviewing the Apple watch I have not actually read other reviews and thoughts below are based on my own experiences as a moderate to heavy user of the watch over the period. My main inspiration to buying the Apple Watch were the health monitoring capabilities.
Specifications: Retina display with Force Touch, Digital Crown, Heart rate sensor, accelerometer and gyroscope, Ambient light sensor, Speaker and microphone, Wi‑Fi (802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz), Bluetooth 4.0, Up to 18 hours of battery life, Water resistant.
Price: Yet to launch in India
iPhone 6 needed to pair with Apple Watch
Primary use – Health
So this was my primary reason for buying the Apple Watch — heart rate monitoring, activity monitoring and calorie burn targeting, all without having to use a website. It does all of these things really well, but it a different way of calculating calories compared to my Wahoo heart rate monitor. With the Apple Watch I seem to be burning fewer calories for the same amount of input. There could be many reasons for that, but in general seems to show less than other devices I have used. Apple Watch does break calories into “active rate” and “rest rate” and this might be why it returns a lower calorie value. If you add the two then you start getting closer to the numbers other monitors, such as the Wahoo chest monitor (which I have been using).
I usually set a time or calorie burn target before I start the workout, or just go for an open session without any goals. It gives me alerts as when I hit half of the set target and when I complete the target and also with an option to save my workout. The watch allows the user to record different sets of activities, indoor and outdoor cycling, indoor and outdoor walking, indoor and outdoor running, rowing, elliptical, stair stepper and other (calibrated at a brisk walking pace).
I tend to sweat a lot and a major concern was how that would affect the performance of the watch, i.e. heart rate monitoring. So I far I have not had any problems and it is certainly more comfortable than wearing a chest strap.
Needs more work
The challenge with using it as a pedometer is that it gives a lot of false positives. I recently went on a day trip and the watch had recorded about 2 km of walking by the end of the 250km drive to Agra, without any walking. The bumps on the roads seem to count as a heel strike similar to walking. So beware, I am sure in future versions they might be able to use arm swing or some such other motion to calibrate with heel strike to reduce the number of false positives.
As a cyclist I have not been able to find an app that takes heart rate as a continuous input so that I can monitor cadence from my bike and plot that against my heart rate to see how I am performing over time. This is the price you pay for being an early adopter.
The messaging and notification through the taptic engine (basically feels like your watch is tapping your wrist) notifications systems is rather neat. The problem is I have been lazy and have not configured the apps that I do not wish to receive notification from. For example, some apps give lots of unnecessary notifications or advertisements and these end up being taps on your wrists. So make the effort of going into your Apple Watch app on the iPhone and turning off unnecessary notifications.
From a behavioural perspective people are generally more sensitive to you looking at your watch as a result of a notification than they are if a phone rings. Looking at the watch suggests you are bored and you have other things to do. So beware! This can be a real trap, especially if you are meeting people and wanting to create an impression. I suggest if you cannot ignore taptic notifications, then you put your watch on silent mode before going into meetings. In the early days of using the watch I used to frequently look at all the alerts and the impression from family and friends was that I was in a rush to get somewhere else.
Dick Tracy mode
As a kid I always enjoyed watching Dick Tracy cartoons. The detective had a watch with which he could make phone calls, and every cartoon started and finished with Dick Tracy making a call on this watch phone. I too have have taken a couple of phone calls from my phone using the watch, oddly enough when exercising on a stationary bike. The voice quality was good and the other side could hear me and I didn’t have to stop and pick up my phone. This is a pretty cool feature, but how often you would seriously use it is questionable.
The messaging from the watch is quite useful and the watch presents a preset range of responses. So I reply with the most appropriate one, usually something like OK or Cool or Great or Thanks.
This is good enough when your are sitting in a meeting or on an exercise bike or snoozing on a Sunday afternoon. You can of course choose to ignore the messages, but that would be a step too far in this age of instant responses.
There is a Siri capability on the watch as well, to dictate messages, but I found that dictation didn’t really work all that well for me.
The watch is not small , but it does not get in the way either. For the features it offers, I think it is pretty cool and the finish is beautiful. I also feel looks are very subjective, so the best thing to do is to get out there, feel the watch and judge it for yourself.
The battery lasts two days in my experience. But a 40-minute workout will drain about 15-20 per cent of battery life and this is acceptable from my perspective. I do think turning off Bluetooth and going in airport mode is a good idea when not exercising. This will certainly extend battery life but you also lose the notification features.
The bands are pretty neat, they seem to be made of silicone and are easy to take out and put back. There is a spare band in the box. There is a chance that the band will loosen over time and eventually tear. The bands have not given me any trouble so far. The silver sports watch came with a white band as default, but I wanted something a little more conservative in appearance and went for black. As usual, Apple dictates what should go with what.
I think the Apple Watch is good from a motivation perspective, as I want to see that calorie dial go all the way around to the target burn rate. The other thing is the compact nature of the presentation of information that I have on my watchface — time, activity data, calendar notifications, dates and also one other timezone where I have family.
Do I think it is worth the investment?
Yes, I do.
Do I think it is a good heart rate monitor that meets the requirements of someone wanting to train using it?
Acceptable, but not where it should be. But it will be very good when there are apps that allow realtime streaming of heart rate data coupled with data streams from other sensors, such as cadence and power monitors.
As of writing this, I watched a WWDC 2015 video that seems to suggest one can stream heart rate data from WatchOS 2. Perhaps it is just a matter of time before developers take advantage of this capability.
For you developers out there here’s the link.
*Amit works in the environmental sector and is at present based in New Delhi. He has a degree in computer science from University of Tasmania and an MBA from National University of Singapore.
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