Let’s get this straight: the Apple Watch isn’t, and does not want to be, your iPhone, so let’s dial back the expectations you have of this entirely new Apple product as a replacement for your iPhone.
Now that that’s out of the way, we can start looking at the Apple Watch without bias. I have always generally not worn anything on my wrists for extended periods of time, because as silly as it sounds, having anything on my wrists feels like handcuffs. But not the Apple Watch. On the contrary, it unexpectedly offers up a load of freedom, which was highly unexpected.
But that’s just a tiny part of it. I was lucky enough to be at the Apple event last September when the Apple Watch was first announced and had the chance to try it on. Little did I know that there's a lot more to the Watch to be discovered, and the demo at the event also skimmed the surface. Let me recount the ways the Watch has managed to pleasantly surprise me.
It’s beautifully customisable
The Apple Watch comes in two sizes - 38mm and 42mm. Why just these two sizes? Apple has done a lot of research into the perfect watch sizing, and these were the best two sizes to fit most wrists. And unlike the other smartwatches in the market, the Watch comes with a myriad of high quality strap choices, all beautifully crafted.
I have a really dinky wrist, but the 38mm stainless steel Watch with the chainmail-like Milanese Loop strap fits me like a dream, thanks to its magnetic closure. If your wrist is on the tiny side, the Milanese Loop and the Modern Buckle are the smallest in the extensive strap range. I’d recommend getting a dressier strap along with an every day one like the Sport Band for your sweatier activities, because the Watch face alone is adaptable to any social scenario.
In case you’re concerned about the durability of the Watch, I'll have you know that I’ve been lifting a lot of heavy luggage during my travels these past two weeks, but the Watch has held up well without a scratch in my not-very-careful hands. I'm notorious for destroying things, but the Watch still looks as good as the day I unboxed it. That's quality.
It’s extremely handy
Or should I say wristy? Gone are the days of me digging my iPhone out of my bag to see what’s new on my social networks, or check if anyone has messaged me. My Watch will tell me when something is up. Think that’s something you can live without? Wait until your hands are full and you’re waiting on a message from someone. That’s when you’ll realise how convenient and liberating the Watch can be. And once you've experienced being unchained from your phone, you'll find it tough to go back.
I also have the habit of playing music from my iPhone (it’s loud enough, I don’t need portable speakers), especially when I’m travelling. And the Watch acts as a remote that I can control my music from. Which means I can simply toss my phone on the table, then move over to the bed to read, and never have to get out of it when I realise I need peace and quiet. The remote literally never leaves my hand.
It’s infinitely liberating
It was only when I was watching a movie in South Korea (Jurassic World in 4D!) that I realised just how unintrusive the Watch is. All around me were people with their faces lit aglow from checking on their phones, while I only had to depend on the Watch to discretely tap me on the wrist to tell me about an incoming message. Upon which I can decide if it’s worth me tearing my focus away from the dinosaurs on the big screen to reply on my phone.
Another feature that the Watch does extremely well is to give turn-by-turn walking directions. You no longer need to keep looking at your phone as you navigate with Apple Maps. It’s inconvenient, not to mention unsafe. You will however need to retune your senses as the Watch will indicate to you through the Taptic Engine how and when you should turn. For example, a series of 12 taps will let you know when you're approaching the intersection which you should turn right at, while three pairs of two taps will indicate you should turn left. It will take some getting used to for sure. And when you do, you'll wonder how you've always lived without it.
The Apple Watch does not sit on my wrist like a dead weight. It feels alive, occasionally tapping me to tell me I have a new notification and blinking to life whenever I turn my wrist up.
But my personal favourite has to be the the double tap, or rather rap, on the wrist to remind me to stand every hour. I’ve always thought that fitness tracking wearables were pretty useless, passively monitoring my movements. I’d only invest in one if it can electrocute me into moving, because what's the point of passive monitoring? Well, this is as close to jolting me into action as it gets. It’s not painful by any means, but it’s persistent and almost indignant. You can adjust the strength of the haptics on the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, if you prefer more of a gentle touch.
I actually enabled all of the possible notifications on my Apple Watch, when I would typically disable them on my iPhone, because I enjoy the touch of the Apple Watch as strange as that sounds. It's probably my favourite thing about the Watch, especially compared with the insignificant fuzzy buzzes of other wearables. There are smartwatches out there which function as pure notifying machines (the Martian Notifier springs to mind), but none as intimately as the Watch does. For now, you cannot customise the type of Taptic notifications you feel according to the alerts, but that might be possible in the future.
It lasts longer than you think
People have been knocking its battery life, but I can get through a full day of normal use with it (even with all my notifications enabled) comfortably. It's still a device that needs its nightly charging session, but that's not all that different from the devices you're currently toting around, is it?
When it's nearing the brink, it automatically brings up the Power Reserve function that you can enable to have just the Watch displaying the time. It will lose its smartwatch functionalities, but it will stay alive and function as a normal watch until you get home to charge it.
It's an acceptable trade-off despite what naysayers have been ragging on about, given the functionality that the Watch offers up. If iOS 9 can extend the battery life of your iPhone, you can bet that future updates for the Watch might possibly do the same.
In my time wearing it, I’ve had complete strangers in the different countries I've passed through recognise the device and start a conversation with “Hey, is that the Apple Watch?”
Critics of the Watch have said that given the amount the Apple Watch costs, you might as well invest in a luxury watch. Well, all I have to say to that is that not everyone will be able to recognise your Patek Philippe (unless they belong in the chichi upper crust), but given the reception that I’ve gotten on the streets, it appears that the Apple Watch has left quite an impression on everyone, regardless of their spending power.
I sometimes even forget I have it on, until a complete stranger reminds me.