The wearable market is still in its infancy and Apple is here to make their presence known in the category and their design choices a precedent. The watch borrows design cues from Apple’s lineage, the bulbous edge is a throwback to the original metal-backed iPhone and the magnetic watch band clasp is reminiscent of snapping home an iPad case cover, but the real innovation found in the Apple Watch comes from the way it performs, not how it looks.
Possibly the best example of this is the transition you’ll feel when the iWatch goes from novelty on your wrist to the unnoticed companion it’s really meant to be. Use it as a conversation starter if you want—it certainly works as one—but the most valuable aspect of the Apple Watch comes from its uses as a discrete notifier, a tracker of daily activities and a gateway to personal assistance.
After the quick, idiot-proof setup, some thoughtful input on how we wanted the watch to look and act were required. The watch defaults with an analog face and notification options that are identical to what’s already on your phone. Neither of those were acceptable for us and we immediately exercised the variety of options to make important changes. Our watch face of choice was a digital display of the time where glances at the date, local temperature, activity progress and upcoming events were also immediately accessible. Similarly, ringtones were turned off in favor of quiet-but-forceful rumbles to notify us of incoming messages, phone calls or social media outpourings.
It didn’t take long before messages were rolling in and the Apple Watch proved to be a more private way of reading them than an iPhone itself. Just raising the watch reliably turns on the notification screen and pausing in that position will roll it over to the message. Pre-canned responses are at the ready (and can be customized too) or a tap will initiate Siri’s voice dictation which works exceptionally well.
Siri, who feels like a neglected redheaded stepchild on our iPhone at this point, brings a lot of newfound value to the Apple Watch, proving even more useful on the wearable platform than in our experience on iPhones. The same wrist-raise that activates the watch’s screen also readies Siri for your commands. From there, reminders can be set, messages can be sent, phone calls can be made (you can actually go full Dick Tracy and have a conversation on the watch thanks to the built-in speaker and mic) and navigating through any of the apps can be done at will.
Outside of the heavy emphasis on communication that Apple baked into the watch, there’s also the obligatory health trackers that are commonplace in all wearable devices of late. Heart-rate tracking, calorie counter, and several other health metrics come together with workout routines, notifications and alarms to help encourage you to meet daily activity goals. All the info is easily viewed at a glance on the watch or, for a more in-depth analysis, you can look at your data history stored on the paired iPhone to find patterns and means of improvement in your daily routine.
Battery life is surprisingly good, lasting more than enough to get you through the day (just last night we put it on charge before bed and noticed 35% battery life remaining after a full day of use) and the magnetic charging stand is a (mostly) elegant alternative to physically plugging it into a lightning cable like we do with iPhones and iPads. Built-in storage provides more than enough memory to load up a workout playlist independently of an iPhone and frees up the Apple Watch’s bluetooth to pair with a wireless headset during a run. Similarly, native Apple Pay on the watch will work without an iPhone so you can leave your wallet behind and not be stranded penniless.
Simply put, this is the best wearable ever brought to market. Take Apple’s legendary design, the good looks of the watch itself and easily interchangeable bands that can dress the watch up or ready it for a session of intense sweating, this is the first truly compelling wearable out there. Given the popularity—it’s still sold out almost everywhere—we expect Apple to continue improving on this excellent formula down the line. So maybe hold off on dropping $17,000 for the 18-karat Edition, because you’ll just have to do it all over again when the Apple Watch 2 inevitably debuts.