Apple Watch, arguably the most talked about smart device in recent times, started shipping from last Friday. We have here done a round-up of the opinions of users on some of the features of this eagerly anticipated smartwatch.
The biggest tech gadget release of the year is already upon us. Apple Watch, which had been in the news ever since the September 9 event last year, started shipping last Friday. The rollout wasn’t the smoothest – but many of those who had pre-ordered the smartwatch on April 10 managed to get it over the weekend. The first set of user-reviews are also out, from which we can highlight the following points about the much-hyped Apple Watch:
- A visual delight – Tim Cook’ ‘most personal device’ was constantly being promoted as a fashionable piece of wearable technology, and Apple Watch definitely lives up to that billing. Early adopters have been delighted with the large number of Watch faces – with some of the animated faces coming in for particular praise. The cool emojis add to the visual charm of the smartwatch. The Cupertino company has clearly not held back while designing Watch and customizing its features.
- Smooth notification system – Unlike many of the smartwatches churned out by other vendors, Apple Watch has a user-friendly notification system. The dial does not become all aglow every time a notification arrives – and users are alerted via a very light vibration (more like someone is giving a light tap on your wrist) via the ‘Taptic Engine’. Also, the Watch face lights up ONLY WHEN wearers lift up their hands to view the notification. People have the option to turn off notifications for apps that they rarely use. This has to be done on the paired iPhone.
- ‘Scratchgate’ is nothing – There has been a minor concern brewing among users and software & app developers alike, about the so-called ‘scratchgate’ controversy. The stainless steel model of Watch was supposedly getting scratched too easily. What is not being taken into account is that, stainless steel products are naturally prone to getting scratched (think about the iPod Classic, and you will get the picture). Rubbing off the scratch(es) with the fingers, or removing them with a good-quality metal polish is easy enough. Just as ‘bendgate’ was not a defect of iPhone 6 Plus, ‘scratchgate’ is not a Watch problem.
- Probable extra pressure on the iPhone battery – Most early users have tweeted that Apple Watch tends to bring down the battery life of the paired iPhone by a couple of hours or more (there have been a few polar opposite reports though). The built-in Watch companion app is the most likely reason for this battery drain. Experts from the field of iOS software and app development feel that force-quitting the Companion app might serve as a solution to this problem.
- Availability of apps – The success (or otherwise) of any smart device hinges on the availability of compatible apps for it – and Apple Watch won’t be facing any issues in this regard. In addition to the range of embedded applications, around 3100 apps for Watch are already available for download at the App Store. WatchKit app developers started working in full swing within days after Apple released the WatchKit tool (on November 18). The store display of Watch applications is round, and users can get previews of how every app would look on the Watch screen and the (much) larger screen of iPhone.
- Water-resistance and sensor accuracy – According to a 9to5mac report, the water-resistance rating of the new Apple smartwatch has been tested by putting it under 3 ft. of water – in a simulated environment. It has been found that the device does not lose any of its functionality till that level. The sensors of Watch have also been put through rigorous step tracking and heart-rate tracking tests. The results have been impressively accurate. The smartwatch certainly does not come up short on the technology front.
- Speed – Let’s just say that Apple Watch is not as fast as general users and most iPhone app developers had expected. Even though much had been documented about the fast ‘Glances’ of Watch prior to its release, reports have been coming in that the smartwatch takes its own sweet time to load apps from its paired iPhone. Users are being forced to stare at the Watch screen for several seconds for relatively simple tasks – and they are not liking it.
- Battery-saving darkness – This works for some users, and does not for some. There have been mixed reports about the battery-saving feature of Apple Watch – due to which the Watch screen remains dark until a user flicks up his/her wrist to view it. The fitness tracker, heart rate monitor and other apps remain active in the background though. There have been cases when the Watch has been rather laggy in ‘coming back to life’. Most of the time, the smartwatch simply doubles up as a classy piece of dark-faced fashion accessory.
- Battery performance – Let’s now talk a bit about the factor that reportedly delayed the release of Apple Watch in the first place. Tech enthusiasts, app developers and general users have confirmed that the battery of Watch lasts a full day (with moderate use). There is a bone of concern though – recharging is a surprisingly time-consuming task. It seems that there is still some work to be done to iron out all the battery-related issues of the smartwatch.
- Passcode – Yet another thing about Apple Watch that has irked the majority of early buyers is the requirement to type in the Passcode, each and every time the smartwatch ‘comes to life’ (i.e., lights up). A single sign-in process off the wrist would have been more convenient, instead of having to enter the passcode repeatedly. Imagine yourself showing off your brand new Apple Watch to your buddies, and signing in with the Passcode time after time.
- It takes some time to get familiar with Watch – Nothing wrong with that. It is, after all, a high-end wearable tech gadget with a host of features, apps, and supported taps, swipes and other gestures. The good thing is, once you have got a hang of the built-in controls of the device, it is pretty much easy to operate. The key here is not to think of Apple Watch as a downsized version of iPhone. It is an entirely separate gadget (yes, it complements the iPhone, but that’s about it) – and like any new tech tool, you need to spend some time getting acquainted with it.
- Durability – The cheapest model of Apple Watch is priced at $549, with the upper end of the pricing spectrum being $1099. It is only natural that users would expect high-end durability in exchange of such price tags. The Watch does not disappoint in this regard, with the sapphire screen of the basic Apple Watch model proving to be the toughest (it has survived a 9-rated pick test). The Apple Watch Sport is only a tick behind, in terms of durability (topaz level). Not enough reports have been obtained about the toughness of Apple Watch Gold Edition yet – but it should also be a tough model. Add to that the fact that users would hardly ever put Apple Watch to rough use, and the gadget should last for a long time.
- Screen navigation – Good enough, but not as good as that of iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus. Professional software analysts and experts from mobile app companies have opined that navigation on Apple Watch cannot possibly be as intuitive as it is on iPhones – simply due to the smaller screen size of the former. There are a clutch of apps, gestures, taps and icons arranged on the Watch face, and users have to be careful while tapping about on the screen. Oh, and if you have rather fat fingers, the Apple Watch might not seem that user-friendly!
- Navigation support – Most early adopters of Apple Watch have expressed their satisfaction with the navigation support that Apple Watch provides. The turn-by-turn directions come in particularly handy while driving. There have been some complaints of the notification taps being a source of distraction while the wearer is driving, however. An easy way out is to disable all the unnecessary notifications at the time.
- Texting on Apple Watch – This is, till now, the most positively reviewed feature of the Apple’s ambitious new smartwatch. Using ‘Glances’ to view messages instead of having to take out and unlock the iPhone is way more convenient – and there are plenty of canned responses present in Apple Watch, which can be sent along as replies. The Messages app can also be used to send emojis with text.
The appearance and the seamless notification features are two highs of Apple Watch. The number of Watch apps present at the App Store is likely to swell pretty soon – thanks to mobile companies worldwide focusing on WatchKit app development. On the downside, the battery life (while good enough on its own) does not compare favorably with that of Pebble smartwatches and some of the offerings from Samsung. However, we also need to factor in the fact that the very first editions of high-end tech gadgets are seldom perfect. Apple is venturing into the domain of wearable technology for the very first time, and the Cupertino giant will surely be working on making Watch an even better device over time.
All things considered, Apple Watch is, by far, the best smartwatch currently available. The abundance of built-in and third-party WatchKit apps is an important factor in its favor. However, many customers are still facing long lead times (confirmed by Apple), and they won’t be able to lay their hands on the smartwatch till mid-May. The initial feedback on Apple Watch has been positive…but Tim Cook has to wait for some more time to find out whether he indeed has a winner on his hand. Or his wrist!
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