Apple Watch Review

applewatch

By Sibel Gray, Wearables contributor for the Internet Marketing Association

Despite all the negative reviews I’ve read regarding the Apple Watch, after using it for three weeks, I feel spoiled.

I value the privilege of being able to keep my phone in my purse. To be able to answer quick phone calls, receive notifications, and with a simple voice prompt send text messages. For someone who is also directionally challenged, having quick access to maps and location guidance is just fantastic! The glances feature is an added bonus, providing summaries of information needed frequently which are simple to access with a quick swipe. Not to mention the convenience of using Apple Pay.

Getting used to the advantages of the Apple Watch is apparent. Sure you don’t have to get the first version, and can wait if you’re not an early adopter. But after getting use to it, there is no way I’d part with mine.

For a piece of tech jewelry, the expectation is for it to be perhaps more futuristic in design. Nevertheless, it is elegant and the functionality provides freedom from being enslaved to your smartphone. In essence, you are exchanging one device for another; however, the Apple Watch is handier.

Setup

Like most Apple products, the watch is intuitive and simple to setup.   It pairs with an iPhone 5 or later running iOS 8.2. Bluetooth must be enabled on your smartphone, including Wi-Fi or cellular network access. With both devices charged, they can be paired via the Apple Watch app on the iPhone.

One area I experienced a challenge is sending texts to non-iPhone users. In settings > messages > “send as SMS” needs to be enabled, and iMessages needs to be turned off, and then back on again in order to resolve the issue.

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Workout & Activity Tracker

Overall, the health and fitness features of the Apple Watch are great for general wellness. Though you may reconsider using it as a fitness tracker if you are looking for athlete grade workout statistics.

In comparison to other fitness trackers + smartwatches I’ve used, the collected data is minimal. Still, it took a bit of time for me to process how all the information is gathered and presented.

Apple Watch has two apps focused on tracking fitness – “Workout” and “Activity” – both feed into Apple’s health app.

Workout Mode

The device automatically detects your exercises and movements.

However, for runners focused on their distance and pace, the “workout” app is required to gather details. Also GPS tracking is unavailable, but with the assistance of your iPhone it can be recorded.

To capture workout statistics, launch the app. A number of options will be presented – outdoor and indoor walk, run, cycle as well as elliptical, rower and stair stepper. For someone who does high impact cardio like me, the “other” category is my only option. With that choice, alternative exercises are calculated as a brisk walk.

The sensors on the watch track duration, active calories, and heart rate while you exercise. From within the app, you can set goals for your routine and view your progress while sweating it out.

Personally I found it difficult to view my statistics while working out.

Trying to swipe between calories burned, and viewing my heart rate was challenging. It definitely would be easier if all the information fit on one screen. Also, notifications were bothersome. So the do not disturb mode is appreciated.

Activity Reporting

The “activity” app on the Apple Watch is colorful, and presents a summary of your daily movement. It is accessible via certain watch faces, through quick glances and the activity app.

At a glance, you’re provided with a quick review of the goals achieved within your day – for total calories burned, steps, and distance. The data points are presented as 3 nested rings. Each loop is represented by a color. Red for movement, the amount of calories burned in your day. Green outlines the length of your workout duration, and blue shows how many times you’ve stood up. When you’re goals are completed, the Apple Watch gives you a pat on the wrist.

To see reports of your daily, weekly movement, and exercises you can also go to the accompanying Activity and Health app on your iPhone. Third party fitness apps are also available for workout enthusiasts who want to record more than what Apple can provide.

With time the device is supposed to learn your habits and provide reminders of how to keep up with your goals. It’s a great start, but falls short for me in the workout-tracking category. I questioned the accuracy of the data, and used it as a best effort estimate. As I know how many calories I usually burn with a specific workout routine. Hopefully improvements will come sooner than later so I can eliminate devices from my wearable tech box.

My Wish List

Improve Battery Life: Battery lifespan is about a day for my particular usage. It’s annoying. You have to remember to charge it often, or put it in power reserve mode. There are rumors of wearable wristbands to save battery life in the works. Perhaps by The Fall they will hit the market, but will come at a price.

Experimenting with settings to reduce data exchange between devices and simplifying notifications will improve battery life but it’s not enough. Also closing running apps in the background, reducing sound & brightness features, removing apps from glances, limiting emails to your VIP list, as well as enabling power savings mode in the workout app (heart rate will not be tracked during walking and running workouts) will all assist in improving battery life on the Apple Watch.

It’s a challenge to know which apps are open. As a habit closing an app after using it would be helpful. To close an app, press the button located under the digital crown. After the power reserve screen appears, keep pressing the button and the app will close.

Monitor Heart Rate Continuously: After its first update, the Apple Watch no longer monitors heart rate in the background every ten minutes. Its presumed Apple took away the functionality to improve battery life. It only monitors heart rate when asked, or during workout mode. As well as when you want to send your heart beat to another Apple Watch user. The feature is cute, but gimmicky especially if you’re not a teenager.

Personally, as long as my workout data is accurate, it’s not that important to me. However, somehow I would still prefer to have an option to turn off background heart rate monitoring myself, than have Apple take away the privilege of a device that has the capability to do it. 

Customize Activity App: Now, I’m being really spoiled. But I would really like to have the option to change the “activity” app colors, and customize it. I find the color combinations, and graphs overwhelming in presentation particularly on the iPhone.

Edits to Activity App: For a device that is learning your habits, I’m surprised that the Activity app restricts edits. I would appreciate the capability to manually enter exercise input.

Customize Watch Face: I am disappointed with the watch face options provided by Apple. Personalization is key for me with a wearable device. It’s part of the beauty of having a digital accessory. Unfortunately with the Apple Watch, options are limited, and not necessarily cool. A couple of them have potential, but the ones I like, are not customizable. At least third party apps should be allowed for watch faces.

Track Sleep: It would be a novelty if the Apple Watch had a sleep management app.

In Conclusion

I enjoy the conveniences of Apple Watch. For a first-generation device, it’s adequate. Though I am curious how it will evolve.

Although basic, the health and activity tracking apps are great from a holistic perspective. The device gathers a lot of data. Learning about your habits, your activities etc… however, at the end of the day, like most wearable devices I’ve tried, you’re still left to evaluate your own routines and metrics. It’s not so bad if you’re capable of understanding the information provided. Yet, it needs to get smarter to entice users and provide valuable benefit from the statistics gathered.

Having said all that, I still love mine.

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