Smart watches are the next wave of personal computing devices (whether we need them or not), and Apple is hoping to lure its millions of iPhone users to its new wearable platform called Apple Watch.
Like all Apple products the new Apple Watch is elegant and well constructed – even at the Sport edition entry point. The $399 Sport version has the same internal hardware as more expensive devices in the product line.
The only difference are the materials the watch is constructed with. The lightweight Sport edition consists of aluminum and glass like the iPhone, the mid-range $599 Apple Watch has a stainless steel and a sapphire face, and the “Edition” version (that starts at $10,000) is constructed with a solid gold case.
The watch only works with Apple’s iPhone 5 and up and will not work with phones from other manufacturers. It depends a lot on that phone partnership, and the Apple Watch loses a lot of its functionality when that connection is lost.
In my testing not one of the third party apps worked when the Watch went out of range of my iPhone’s bluetooth radio. While the watch will connect to the same WiFi network the phone might be connected to, it will not communicate app data back and forth to the phone. It can only send and receive messages and conduct Siri inquiries when on a WiFi network but out of bluetooth range of the phone.
This issue eliminates much of the convenience the Apple Watch offers as it requires the phone to already be in a pocket or in close proximity. It’s just as easy to pick up phone to complete a task.
The Apple Watch is an excellent fitness tracker and will track pedometer data even if the phone is not nearby. It also takes heart rate data every ten minutes and passes that data back to the health kit app on the iPhone.
But as somebody who did not wear a watch before purchasing an Apple Watch, the overall utility of the device is lacking for me. It has yet to deliver useful functionality in the same way the iPhone and iPad did for me on release, and it struggles to be useful without the phone in close proximity.
Like all Apple products the Watch will improve over time, but at this point I don’t see a compelling use case for the product. It’s good, but not great.