First of all, I'll start with an apology. This is more a jumble of thoughts, comments and opinions, and may not make the most coherent or consistent read. I may even contradict myself at points, but that's nothing new.
Apple are the last of the main players to the smartwatch arena. We keep being told that wearables are the future by press, analysts and the companies themselves. Apple decided to cast a long shadow over the rest of the industry by taking its time to release the Apple Watch. It also took the extraordinary step of launching it more than 6 months before release just to take the wind of Google's sails with its launch of Android Wear last summer. It was a rather cynical attempt to stop people buying Android Wear products over the last few months of 2014, and wait for the Apple Watch.
The one key thing Apple's hype machine did achieve though was to raise awareness of smartwatches. My Mum wants an Apple Watch, but doesn't seem to know why, and I'm still not sure if I do either. As far as I can tell, the primary function of a smartwatch is to provide you with the time and notifications. Naturally, there are secondary functions such as fitness and other potentially useful things such as easy payments, and security devices to open doors etc.
If you want to have a quick gander at every email, message, tweet, like etc without having to pick up your phone, then this might be for you. Then again, if you don't give a monkey's uncle about checking your notifications on your phone, then smartwatches probably aren't for you either. I must admit that I'm somewhere in the middle, and I'll try to go into my experiences at some point during this article.
I'll try going through my experiences in some sort of chronological order, but I may well stray, or go off in complete tangents.
The first thing I noticed was that the Apple Watch is packaged differently, according to what model you buy. The Sport comes in a long thin plastic box, whilst the Watch comes in a box more akin to conventional watches, although both do have their own take. The feeling when opening either will be familiar to anyone who's owned Apple products before. There's something pornographic about unpackaging an Apple product. Other companies have tried to replicate the experience, but Apple remains the king of geek porn.
Both watches are attractive, but the Sport looks and feels more like a well made conventional tech product, whilst the Watch looks and feels like a genuine piece of jewellery. I can't comment on the Edition, as my credit card doesn't stretch that far! I would however expect a chorus of 'Hallelujah's' and a mandatory cheer, whoop and slap on the back from an Apple sales assistant when opening the box. This leads me to my first thought. Are you wearing a piece of tech or a piece of jewellery? There's a definite divide here. It's a question of form or function being most important to you. How conscious are you of your appearance etc? If all you care about is the tech, then buy a Sport.
Getting back to the unboxing, you also find a long (2 metre) charging cable and a plug in each box. I wondered about why I got such a long cable, but then slowly came to realise that this is meant for a bedside table, rather than attached to your laptop. Naturally, the distance from the plug socket to a good place on your bedside table may be further, especially if you want to cable hidden away nicely. In that way, it's a real shame Apple hasn't adopted wireless charging for the Watch. It's not much effort to plonk the watch on the charger and feel it magnetically click into place, but wireless charging would be, well, a future feature I guess.
A special shout out should go to the plug, for not being the standard 3 pin plug in the UK, but one which is flickable. Obviously, Apple did this to reduce packaging size, but it'd be nice if all detachable plugs came this way.
As for the set up process, I won't go into it much as there's an excellent guide on how to set up your watch (I almost wrote phone!) here. http://www.theverge.com/2015/4/24/8489459/apple-watch-how-to-pair-setup-pay-bluetooth-contacts I must however comment on how sexy the QR globe is when setting up. It's hypnotic. It's really beautiful. I mean it. I love it and wish it was a watch face.
It takes about an hour to set up and sync. I allowed it to sync all my apps automatically, but I deleted most of them quite quickly. I'll go into the reasons later. Whilst set up is a relative Apple like experience, I did find it veering into bad Android type patterns when completing my set up. I was having to delve into a variety of menus/ options etc switching things on and off. Very un-Apple and I saw Jonny Ive's halo slip fractionally. Speaking of switching things on/off. If you haven't turned off audio notifications from your watch within minutes of setting it up, I don't want to talk to you. You're obviously as annoying as the constant pings emitted from your wrist. Why Apple have this switched on by default is beyond me. Did I see Ive's halo slip a bit further?
I'm guessing not many people have had more than one Watch to this point, but it's good to report that if you migrate from one Watch to another, set up is painless and a very quick and easy process. One real shame is that I couldn't pair more than one Watch with my iPhone, and it wouldn't pair with an iPad.
Sticking with notifications for a minute, I do have my concerns. Whilst it's easy to swipe down whenever you see a red dot at the top of your screen (which is lovely, even in daylight by the way), I find it really annoying that you might be doing something on your watch, when a notification comes in and overrides what you're doing and you can't ignore it until you dismiss it. Speaking of which, whilst a smartwatch is good at giving you notifications, what happens when you get lots of them either from an overactive Twitter feed or a very noisy WhatsApp group? Whilst you can tweak your Twitter notifications, it's all or nothing with WhatsApp and really quite annoying. Also on the subject of annoying, I personally find email notifications pointless, firstly it will only show you text, and no HTML, but also I find smartwatches pointless as scrolling down a long message, whether an email or anything else, a painful experience.
I've discovered I'm using the Watch wrong. I hardly use the dial / crown. It's too fiddly for my liking, and I use my finger to scroll along the screen. The crown is basically reduced to one of two buttons for me to press.
What does work however is the Taptic Engine. It does have to be turned up to maximum, but it does do the job nicely in telling you to look at the Watch either for a notification, reminder or letting me know I've got a call when my phone is on silent.
What also works really well is Siri. A long press of the crown brings Siri up and I found myself regularly using it to either launch apps or give commands, especially when driving. I also found it good for having phone conversations whilst driving. Obviously, I wouldn't do that whilst walking down the street, in case I get thrown into a padded cell, or someone eavesdrops into my secret plans for world domination. (Ha! Ha! Ha!)
Speaking of which. I was obviously lifting my left hand wrongly until now. I'm definitely in the camp which is annoyed by the watch face not being on all the time. To add insult to injury, I found that when I lifted the watch to look at it, it didn't always automatically flick on. So I either had to give the screen a long touch, or repeatedly flick my wrist in a way that some people might think was waving obscene gestures at them. I can see that halo slipping further as Jonny makes us look like a bunch of w**kers.
That reminds me! Watch faces. There aren't many of them, and they're not as personalised as I'd like either. It's really annoying that Apple won't let third party watch faces as the animated ones of jelly fish or butterflies really only shout "Hey! I've got an Apple Watch everyone!" They've got no other real purpose.
Battery life on the Watch is well beyond my expectations. It never went below 50% remaining no matter what I did, and how long the day. On the flip side though, I did find the iPhone took a serious hit, of at least 20% a day. To top it all off, since using a Watch in conjunction with my iPhone, I often find that the phone's screen often doesn't switch off, and remains on for no apparent reason; draining the battery further unless I actively press the power button on the phone. Whilst the battery will never let you down if you're out for the whole day. It does mean that you do have to carry an extra charging cable (2 metres remember) if you're away overnight.
Before I get to the software, I thought I'd mention the bands. The Milanese Loop is lovely to look at, but then again, my everyday watch has the same design. It did seem fiddly at first putting it on, but I got used to it within a few days and it was very comfortable and infinitely adjustable thanks to it's magnetic strap. What I didn't like though was thanks to it's magnetic strap, I was having to tighten it again every hour or two as my muscle flexing seemed to loosen the strap. I've never had to do with this with a watch before. Conversely, whilst the Sport band was a bit fiddly to put on, I also found it less comfortable (although not uncomfortable) and it kept emphasising to me how hairy my arms are. It did this by either tugging on my hairs when putting the watch on and tucking away the strap, or by just slipping under my hairs and highlighting them in a peculiar fashion. It made me think that I needed to shave my wrists!
Before I forget, I also found that I kept accidentally taking screen shots of the clock whilst going about my daily business. I only found out when looking at the photo gallery on my phone. Not sure how I managed it, especially as other people say it's hard to do deliberately.
Software! I finally made it this far. (And thank you too if you have). I'm not sure what to make of it. Despite having watched all of Apple's videos before receiving my Watch, I still had difficulty using it naturally. Am I supposed to press the crown now? Do I force touch? Which way should I swipe? There didn't seem a coherent logic to it as far as I could tell. For example, when using the Fitness app on the watch, when finishing my run, I wanted to stop the activity on the watch, logic told me I should either swipe left or up from having used the Watch for more than a week. I finally found out that it's the one app which makes you swipe right! Whilst I'm not the smartest person around, I do like to think I've got a reasonably good handle on tech, and the Apple Watch challenged me.
I must admit that I liked the Activity App. It's simple and works on the nudge principle to get you doing what you know you should be doing. Saying that, I've ignored a couple of reminders to stand up whilst writing this piece.... I do wish that there was a bit more coordination between apps, so for example the heart rate monitor and accelerometers worked with third party apps such as Runtastic. Or that the calories burnt during a day went into MyFitnessPal. Apple has sealed off much of the software from outside developers, and that becomes particularly apparent when using Glances.
Glances are activated with a flick up the screen, and you can edit on your phone what you use. (Tip - Fewer the better.) What's frustrating is that Apple's Glances are interactive, ie. you can press something and do something. Third party Glances only tell you one single piece of information and that's it. This does lead to the issue of being a first generation product. Most developers didn't have access to the actual Watch before it was released and so made some pretty ropey apps. I hardly use any of them in honesty. Shazam is one of the few, as I found sticking my wrist out to hear music less obtrusive than putting a phone in the air. In addition, apps seem to take ages to launch, which is probably due to a combination of bad programming (from not having previous access), and also the iPhone acting as the brain for the Watch and relaying messages between each other all the time. This makes it all the more a frustrating experience and makes you want to pull out your phone to do a task....
One final thing which I did look into was the Health App on the iPhone. I've never looked at it until now, but it starts to give hints at where Apple is aiming to go. A smartwatch which can measure many of the parameters it offers in the App, becomes a very helpful tool in managing your health. Sure it won't be able to record everything, but if they can develop the Health Data collection in the Health App along with many other devices, it good get me very interested. One bone of contention though; it knows my weight, it knows my height. Why can't it work out my BMI?
Closing thoughts. Whilst this might be the best smartwatch I've used to date, I'm still disappointed, and don't think I need one yet. Beyond using it in the car, I don't think it's changed my life in any way which a simpler and cheaper fitness band wouldn't. To add to that, the software still needs much tweaking, and developers need to be able to be given more time and access to the Watch to make things work better.
Whilst the Apple Watch with Milanese Loop is nice to own, and makes a good replacement for my watch (which cost £100), it costs nearly £600. Add that onto £600 for an iPhone which you must have to use the Watch, and things start to look pretty expensive. In addition, if you're ever tempted by an Android phone, then you've just made your Watch redundant. I'd like to see more interoperability between ecosystems, but I guess that's not what the corporations want.