The Apple Watch has yet to officially reach the shores of Singapore but like many others who were curious, I plonked my money down for an early look; at a premium no less. If you’ve been following this blog, you’d have realised that I’m an Android user at heart. With the Apple Watch in tow, I’m now using an iPhone while my trusty Android Nexus takes a backseat. While there have been other smart watches released into the market, none has been as encompassing as the Apple Watch.
I never knew I needed an Apple Watch until I purchased one. Read on.
LOOK AND FEEL
I got myself the sports edition since the bulk of my work revolves around physical activity. The missus was gushing over how it looks and saying it’s very “Apple” and how the design is clean and simple yet sophisticated. Nothing like those trackers I’ve worn.
A simple dial on the side scrolls or enlarges icons on the screen. Another button by the side adds friends. The Apple watch comes with 2 watch straps; a small/medium and a large. You can swap it around with a simple click and release.
Even the way the strap loops is unique so there’s no need for another watch loop. The design allows the strap to tuck neatly within the strap itself thus allowing for a flat profile.
Charging is wireless though the Apple Watch must sit on the charger to juice up. It took me about 1.5 hours to go from flat to full charge.
The back of the Apple Watch houses the optical sensor that has received much attention from the media. I’ll come to that later.
The Apple Watch itself is IPX7 certified so it’s good for the sweaty work outs and shower but nothing more. DC Rainmaker took the Apple Watch for a deeper swim and other extreme tests and escaped unscathed. The question is, would you?
The touch screen-enabled Apple Watch work by swipes; both up, down and left and right. The controls are intuitive. Force display allows for a secondary level of control without adding more buttons. Everything right down to the app display can be configured from the Apple Watch or the app in the iPhone.
The retina display is crisp and beautiful. I found myself looking at the Apple Watch to see the jelly fishes, flowers and butterflies appear and move. It’s like a mini screensaver!
If you were to ask me, the most notable feature of the Apple Watch is that it looks like a normal watch, something that I can wear everywhere. Sometimes companies do forget this when they try to outdo each other.
FUNCTIONS AND DATA PRESENTATION
The focus here is really on the fitness functions this being a fitness gadget blog.
First up, the heart rate monitoring functions.
Previously I wrote about how Brad Larson managed to extract the HR data from Apple Watch and compared it versus a Mio Link. Unfortunately I do not have the engineering background nor the app-know how to write my own apps so I manually extracted and plotted the HR data points from Apple Health app and put it side by side against that from Scosche Rhythm+ tracked by Strava app.
I’m Asian with tan skin tone and the Apple Watch appears to be reading my HR fine. At present, the Apple Watch does not transmit tracker HR data to 3rd party apps for specific exercise sessions. Perhaps this might change in the near future.
In every day mode, HR is read once every ten minutes and the tracked stats can be seen in the Apple Health app. I found this feature very useful to check for my resting HR during sleep. One of the key features I use to assess fitness improvements over time.
APPLE WATCH WORKOUT APP
Within the Apple Watch, there’s a panel designated just for physical activity tracking. The entire day’s activities were summarised into 3 coloured circles; for calories burned, moving and standing. I was able to set the required number of calories to burn off per day and left the rest to Apple Watch.
Throughout the day, I would receive notifications to stand up and move, progress update at a particular point of time and even when my set goal is reached. While the Jawbone series of trackers were the first to come up with vibrating idle alerts, Apple Watch brought it to the next level with reminders on display.
Now I can’t stress how powerful it is to read about how idle I’ve been and that it’s good to get up and walk, the more amazing thing is I did not need to read it on my phone, unlock my phone or watch or programme it in app. It just happens.
The Workout app also allows tracking of specific sessions of exercises ranging from outdoor walks, outdoor runs to indoor stair stepper. I was able to choose from a list of pre-set activities and either set a goal or just start without any goals.
Upon reaching every kilometer, I would receive a buzz from the Apple Watch as a form of notification. I could also exercise with or without the iPhone. Besides the reading of HR, this is probably the function I use the most.
At the end of the session, I would receive a nice summary on the Apple Watch and iPhone. This is not a run-of-the-mill tracking function but a comprehensive one that is comparable to the paid exercise apps on the app store.
However, the sessions were hard to find once tracking was over. The Workout app on the iPhone does have a specific icon when the workouts were so I had to browse through day by day to look for those sessions. This is definitely a feature to improve on.
There are also awards to strive for in recognition of your efforts in staying active. Nothing too fancy but gamification has always had a positive effect on selected populations of people. Whatever gets you moving right? The achievements reminded me of those that Nike Fuelband+ used to have. I wouldn’t be surprised considering Jay Blahnik, a key Nike Fuelband developer joined Apple in the early development stage.
At the end of the day, I could easily search through the day’s tracked data and browse through the move, exercise and stand results.
3rd PARTY APP COMPATIBILITY
Here’s where the Apple Watch really trumps the competition. When you download an app unto the iPhone that has an Apple Watch feature, the same app automatically appears in the Apple Watch. Even as I type, that list is increasing at an alarming pace.
For a start, big exercise apps like Endomondo, UnderArmour Record, Runkeeper, Strava, Runtastic all offer Apple Watch apps. I was able to start runs and receive real time stats from Strava or Runkeeper. Or even workout to Runtastic’s ab workouts, right from the watch.
While most of the apps still lack polish, I believe the developers will have a better understanding of how consumers use such apps from the wrist and over time, develop better and more practical apps. For a start, it’s already mighty impressive.
Battery life is not stellar but forgivable. Charging everyday is a must and I’ve contemplated purchasing an additional charger to keep the Apple Watch juiced up for the impromptu runs. I charge my mobile device everyday so charging the Apple Watch along with it isn’t a big issue. Moreover, the daily charging gives the wrist a break and allows the user to give the Apple Watch a good wipe.
The Workout app, while comprehensive in terms of exercise tracking functions, could use a bit of polish in terms of data presentation. For starters, I would have loved to see a summary of my workouts easily. Also full water resistance for swimming would have been great.
There are varying levels of vibration for messages, phone calls and even reminders to get up and move. It’s subtle yet obvious.
Lastly, I was really hoping the Apple Watch would offer some compatibility with Android. Oh well.
IN A NUTSHELL
- Full smart watch functions
- 3rd party app notifications on watch
- Vibration enabled for haptic controls
- Apple Watch specific emotions
- Fully customisable watch faces
- Search from SIRI from Apple Watch
- Answer calls and send messages straight from Apple Watch
- Vibration enabled
- Bluetooth 4.0
- Camera remote and display
- Music player remote
- Map directions on Apple Watch
The list goes on and on. Like the iPhone, the Apple Watch is the next game changer from Apple. I’ve seen a lot of fitness trackers and while I’ve been amazed with some, the Apple watch made me change from an Android device to an Apple one. That must say something.
I’ve merely covered the fitness aspect of the Apple Watch sports edition. Throw in the smart phone features and you’d understand why Apple is confident of their crown jewel adding billions to their war chest.
Android smart watches will definitely catch up and so will 3rd party hardware manufacturers. But it’s going to be hard to beat the Apple Watch or future editions of the Apple Watch, the epitome of hardware and software fusing.
Apple Watch is officially available in many countries including Singapore.