Apple’s first smartphone was a legendary device, nobody thought that a once $700 smartphone with outdated hardware features and a immature software ecosystem could eventually set the standards of a smartphone and redefining on how we can take a mere communications device to the next level, yet the iPhone wasn’t the first smartphone ever made. Today, Apple is doing the same thing with wearables, despite of a whole lot of them are already in the market since three years back, many might consider the company to be late in the game, and there are accusations of Apple doing a me-too thing on releasing the Apple Watch to compete with Android Wear, Samsung’s Tizen and Pebble, is Apple doing things differently on the Watch and is it just another me-too product? We find out.
Design and Hardware
In a press interview back then, Apple’s design chief Jony Ive revealed that the Apple Watch has been through a careful three-year planning and design phase, which I won’t object since Apple has definitely taken care of the Watch’s craftsmanship. I personally find the Apple Watch posessing design cues of the iPhone 6, it features an adonized aluminum chassis with smooth polished rounded corners and a 2.5D curved glass display, its nice to have a correlated design since the Apple Watch is designed to be a companion for the iPhone.
Our 42mm case model of the Apple Watch is fitted with a 1.49-inch Retina display, while its display resolution isn’t being disclosed officially by Apple, you don’t need to be worried about pixels on the display. The device’s screen visibility is decent while you are outdoors, making it a sensible running watch if you were to use it as a fitness tracker. In terms of durability, there have been a number of times that I accidentally dropped it from a chest height or accidentally knocking it on the wall, the Apple Watch fortunately survived.
Apple has included two hardware buttons on the Watch, a digital crown that lets you browse content on your device and activate Siri, and a power button that also acts as a shortcut for accessing your favorite contacts. These two buttons can be accidentally pressed if you are doing sports such as push ups, which at times causes the device to take a screenshot or restart.
The Apple Watch’s processing power is all handled by a Apple S1 SiP (System in Package), which is given a 520MHz clock speed and fabricated on efficient 28nm process, the watch is also given of 512MB of RAM and 4GB of total onboard storage, in which 2GB is reserved for music and 75MB for photos. In short, the Apple Watch itself is technically a computer already on your wrist, which is definitely powerful enough to run apps you threw at it.
User Experience and Tests
Instead of using iOS’s core just like the Apple TV, the Apple Watch this time uses a totally new operating system called watchOS. Upon firing up the Apple Watch for the first time, pairing the device with your iPhone is totally dumbproof and a smart implementation by Apple, you open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone and use the phone’s camera to take a picture of the ‘milky way’ like animation on the watch, the phone then searches for any updated firmware online and lastly, syncs all of your current available supported apps to the Apple Watch, you are then set to go – no complications.
Making phone calls over the Apple Watch is a love and hate relationship, while this isn’t a necessary feature of a smartwatch, its implementation is totally flawed and the least helpful of all features. First, you can’t tell your iPhone to make a call on your watch when you need it, and your can’t transfer the call to your phone’s speaker with a button on the watch, its like as if Apple doesn’t intend to have you making a phone call on the watch. Probably the most annoying thing of all is that the loudspeaker just sound so muffled when your callers aren’t speaking loud enough, which in fact they are already speaking at an audible volume.
Notifications are also a flaw in the user experience, there are a couple of times that the Watch missed notifications when there is in fact a notification coming into my iPhone. When a notification is successfully displayed, actions are sometimes limited and you can’t even tell it to open the app on your iPhone. Take Facebook Messenger for instance, I could only reply with a “Thumbs Up” emoticon or dismiss the notification, and even though I know it doesn’t have a dedicated watch app, I can’t have the watch to open that particular conversation on my iPhone.
watchOS is beautiful, in fact, the most beautiful smart watch operating system that I’ve ever used and considering this is the first iteration, animations and transitions are smooth and rich as you would expect a product coming from Apple. Despite of that, practical usability is the main issue of watchOS, they honeycomb style home screen might look nice on pictures, it can be a pain to use in the long term, considering that you won’t be noticing how many Watch apps are available on your phone, it just gets packed with icons and you have to remember how they look like to recognize a specific app.
In terms of everyday performance, I’m glad that there weren’t any major hiccups on the device’s usability, most of the watch apps run well, Bluetooth connectivity was superb and reconnects immediately should the phone gets out of reach. While Apple have quoted an 18 hour battery life based on a moderate usage, our tests revealed that the Watch can sometimes exceed that stated battery life a little if you aren’t having too many notifications and have a battery efficient watch face.
watchOS isn’t perfect and we shouldn’t expect it to, no doubt it is beautiful it lacks many of the important features that current smart watches should have, while I remain optimistic on Apple’s softwre roadmap for its wearable, its still too early to tell whether the Apple Watch is a worthy investment for now or the near future.
Is the Apple Watch Sport worth its $349 price tag? Yes and no, depending on how you perceive it. The Apple Watch is a quality product as you would expect from Apple, its premium build quality and rich software experience is definitely worth its asking price. However, if you are looking for a wearable that you can call it a true companion for your iPhone, the Apple Watch is still far from being one as you will still need to complete most of your tasks by taking out your phone, it will take a while for Apple to make watchOS a better wearable operating system, and I certainly do not see any point in buying an Apple Watch for now since there are alternatives such as Pebble, Android Wear could even see light soon in iOS if Apple happens to approve its companion app.
+ Great build quality
+ Reasonable battery life
+ Digital crown useful in some situations
+ Reliable connection with iPhone
+ Comfortable watch strap
The Not so Good:
– watchOS and ecosystem remains immature
– Main features not properly implemented
– Loudspeaker unusable for phone calls
The Apple Watch Sport gets a score rating of 7.7/10