After two weeks of Net Neutralating myself to death and foaming at the mouth at the silliness of capitalism in a space that doesn’t need any, I’m back to good old gadgets and devices.
And the reason I’ve been brought down from my self-made pedestal of being disgruntled is a watch. Not just any watch, though. Finally, the actual Apple Watch made it to my wrist.
And the reason that’s a big deal is that this is one device that has been strangely absent from any sort of ‘exclusive preview’ and ‘giving it only to you but you can’t write about it till x date’ that I usually do get.
In fact this little gadget has been so protected that more than 80 per cent of the developers who actually wrote an app for the Apple Watch, never did get to test it on an Apple Watch. Thus let’s all shout hallelujah and balle balle and get on with a hands-on (wrists-on?) review of what the world may be queuing up for.
We need some prespective
Let’s get some context before we put the Apple Watch to a serious test. The smartwatch market has been running mostly on fumes. No big success, no huge winner yet, most people haven’t had a compelling reason to buy one – thus the Apple Watch has many roles to play.
It needs to reignite the whole category and it needs to be a success for Apple itself, because it is the first product that wasn’t conceived or curated by Steve Jobs. Talk about big boots to fill. Let us see if it does any of that.
The Watch comes in a box that is surprisingly large. Inside is surprise number two. A big, white, shiny plastic box which is more jewellery case than typical Apple packaging.
It is clear that Apple wants you to think fashion and lifestyle rather than tech when you buy an Apple Watch. And in typical watch-style packaging, you’ll find the watch and a very long (shockingly long) magnetic induction charging cable.
When it was first announced, I thought the Apple Watch would be a better crafted iPod Nano. My first hands-on experience confirmed that. It is very nicely made, beautifully put together, has premium materials – but it is very Nano-ish.
It’s thicker than you expect and the round edges don’t make it look very space-age. Putting it on, however, reverses those thoughts immediately. It doesn’t feel chunky, it feels light and actually looks very good.
The set up
This is typically Apple in terms of doing things differently, yet simply. You need to activate your watch (the start-up time is a good two minutes), get to the watch app on your iPhone and use the camera to scan the watch code that is beautifully flowing on the screen.
And then get set for a long, very un-Apple-like set up time. After some initial settings, it’ll ask you if you want to install all the apps from your phone that work with the watch. And that takes almost forever.
Once that’s done and you’ve chosen a watch face and gone through (incredibly detailed and way too many) settings for your new device, you’re pretty much set to rock and roll. Strap it up and press that side button.
It can do a lot, but in the first few hours you’ll notice the fact that this is pretty much a quicker interface for all things you did on your iPhone. The Apple Watch is built for a purpose: to keep your iPhone in your pocket.
Notifications pop up, apps send information, you check them out, interact if needed and move on. Understand that and this is a rewarding experience. It tracks your fitness, measures your heart rate (not continuous), gets your music to you (only via bluetooth headsets, it doesn’t have a headphone jack), controls your Apple TV, and lets you check email and Twitter.
It can also be used for navigation, making calls (great microphone, terrible speakers), sending romantic and slightly weird emoji messages, and, shockingly enough, telling time.
Then comes the end of the day. Unfortunately my Apple Watch wasn’t with me by that time. At about 6pm, it had died its own low-battery-induced death. This had been my greatest fear and it was realised even earlier than anticipated.
I could have shut down all features and used it only as a watch that tells time – but then why would I need an Apple Watch? Overall, this was the most advanced smartwatch I’d used, but the battery life and the interface were the two big letdowns.
This is a watch that can do a lot, but it has too many confusing ways to go about doing those things. Using the digital crown or the side button or a quick tap or a long press or a swipe – it’s a lot to understand and absorb.
It is just Day One and maybe it’ll get better as I go along, but charging my watch every single night? That isn’t something I want to get used to. Ever!
Wait and watch!
Apple has come up with a smartwatch that is way ahead of the pack. It is a well-thought-out, well-executed device,
that is way better than expected. But it has fatal flaws for now.
It’s best to stick to the rules of history that apply to any new Apple device. Never buy the first generation, try out the second generation in a store and safely buy the third generation. 2017: that’s when I might buy the Apple Watch 3.
Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3
From HT Brunch, May 3
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