We've just posted our definitive Apple Watch review. Since Apple Watch isn't just a new product for Apple but a new product category, we thought we needed to do something more. We needed to review it more. That means more opinions from more people, namely the rest of iMore's editorial staff. So, if you're looking for a second, third, or even fourth opinion on the Apple Watch, read on!
Apple Watch Design
Ren: I chose the 38mm aluminum Sport edition, and though I at times covet the look of the steel Apple Watch, I'm more than happy with my choice. The Sport also has an uncanny similarity to the first-generation iPhone, and maybe it's the nostalgia talking, but I love its look and feel.
After a few weeks of pretty active use — including two roller derby practices, a full-house deep clean, yard work, biking, and a few hikes — the Watch still looks as pristine as when I first pulled it out of the box. There aren't scratches, nicks, or spots anywhere I can see, nor is the screen the fingerprint magnet I expected it to be. Its glossy surface almost repels dust and fingerprints, and a quick sleeve wipe banishes any that have dared to attach themselves to the Watch's screen.
The Digital Crown may be my favorite interactive button since Apple's original iPod click-wheel: There's just something delightful about spinning it around with a finger. It's become my new de-facto fidgeting habit, especially when I have the Astronomy clock face up on screen — moving the Crown forward or backward speeds up time, showing you the rotation of the Earth, Moon, and solar system.
When I first started using the Watch, I got pretty frustrated trying to turn it off by pressing the side button. Since then, I've learned to cup the watch face with my palm to turn it off, which has trained me out of my side-button-pressing habit. Now, I barely use it, except to send Rene sketches.
On the wrist, the Watch feels seamless. I was worried, having not worn a watch in many years, that I would constantly feel weighted down, or knock it against various items, but I've had no issues at all. It blends into my wrist unless I feel that quick "tap-tap" to let me know that something important wants my attention.
Ally: I'm glad I went with the 38mm. Going from never wearing watches to the larger 42mm would have been very overwhelming to me. And since I have smaller wrists, I feel the 38mm is a nice compromise. It ended up being a little smaller than I expected which made it even better.
While I like the Sport model, I wish I went with steel. It's a trade-up I'll probably end up making in the next few months. Unlike Ren, I have a few scratches on my Apple Watch screen and I'm not quite sure how they got there. I know a watch sits on a very exposed part of the body so it's something we have to expect, yet it's a little disheartening after such a short time.
Georgia: The Apple Watch aesthetics are amazing, and there's an incredibly high level of quality to its finish. The aluminum casing on my Apple Watch Sport feels smooth and refined, and yet strong and sturdy. It feels built to last.
I love how the glass curves around to meet the metal with an almost imperceptible edge between. It's a little thick, though, so at times it's difficult to fit under some of my shirt sleeves. But once it's on my wrist, it's so comfortable I sometimes forget it's there.
I rarely use the digital crown but the screen is bright and clear and easy to see, and the system Apple came up with to swap straps is brilliant.
Apple Watch bands
Ren: I currently own a white Sport band for my 38mm Watch along with one half of my father's blue Sport band (the M/L insert he's not going to wear). That insert is a little big for me, but it lets me mix and match bands to create a Swatch-style white/blue combination that I rather like for certain occasions.
For most everything else, though, I've been relying on the white Sport band proper — and it's succeeded admirably. I went with the white band at the last second before preorders, figuring it would go well with just about all the clothing I owned but also assuming it would get dirty in about five seconds.
I was right about the first, and dead wrong about the second: Though I can get the band slightly dirty over the course of a day, that dirt doesn't stick, yellow, or otherwise discolor the white fluoroelastomer; any dirt that attaches itself either dusts off by the end of the day, or can be cleaned with a damp cloth. It's pretty fantastic.
I also ordered a Milanese Loop after trying it on in-store, though I have yet to get it. The Loop looks amazing in person, even with the Sport, and the band's texture is incredible. I'm also debating picking up a brown Modern Buckle; I'd written off the brown until seeing it in-store, but it actually looks lovely on the wrist.
Ally: We have white and blue Sport bands in our house. I find them comfortable for pretty much any occasion but they're something I'll probably only end up wearing to the gym once my Milanese band finally decides to ship. I'm super jealous of Rene's. I also plan on picking up a pink Modern Buckle as soon as they come back into stock. After trying them on in the store, I loved the feel of the leather and the ease that came with putting it on and taking it off.
Georgia: My white Sport band is smooth and light and almost unnoticeable on my wrist.
The pin and tuck system makes it easy to put on and, once in place, it doesn't come loose. That's really important when you're training, and when any distraction can impede your performance.
It stays in place and, because it has a brilliant indentation inside, it doesn't seem to collect a lot of sweat or moisture. Also, all the edges are round and smooth so they don't catch on your skin, or anything else. That's really impressive for something that I imagine other companies would leave with flashing and other manufacturing remnants.
All that said… I find the white a little loud for my tastes. It's not as bad as the other Sport band colors, none of which match the kind of clothes I wear, which is why I went with it, but also why I've been pairing it with some bracelets.
I've also ordered a black Sport band and Milanese Loop, though, and I expect once I switch to them, I won't be switching back.
Ren: Interacting with the Apple Watch feels like the future… and, at the same time, a 1.0 product.
I do love the Digital Crown: Once I trained myself to use it and not my fingers for scrolling, it became impossible to navigate on the Watch any other way. There's a lovely Taptic buzz when you hit either end of a list, and it just feels so fluid to use. That said, it's sometimes inconsistent. You can scroll a notification with it and even see the "Dismiss" option at the top of the screen, but it requires a swipe or tap to actually dismiss it.
The side button and I… we're not the best of friends. Mostly because I keep forgetting it triggers the Friends interface.
Force Touch is a super-cool gesture, though it does have discoverability issues. People may trigger Force Touch randomly, sure, but I don't think they'll realize how they did it — or how to get back. I've also had a few issues with Force Touch not always registering, but I'll attribute that to my inability to do just one thing (i.e. walking while trying to clear all notifications).
If I had to name my biggest complaint about navigating Watch OS 1.0, there are just too many taps. For a device that's meant to be used in seconds, trying to send a text message via Siri requires just too many two-handed prompts. Press the Crown to activate Siri. Tap to finish listening. Tap to choose whether to send as a text or voice memo. Tap to send. Tap tap tap tap. Apple could do well to take a page from Android here — the Moto 360 auto-sends dictated texts after a certain amount of time on the screen unless you tap on the screen to cancel.
Ally: I don't mind navigating around the Apple Watch but found clustered apps on the Home screen make discovery next to impossible. However, I was able to find some better ways to organize my Home screen.
In terms of overall navigation, I've had to force myself to use the Digital Crown instead of my finger to scroll around the screen. Years of touch screens have trained me to have an aversion to physical buttons. Force Touch menus aren't always obvious which again, is a problem for discoverability. My partner frequently asks questions on how to change settings and I have to remind her about Force Touch. For ordinary, non-techy people, Force Touch is going to take some getting used to. Even for me, it hasn't yet become muscle memory.
My main concern with Watch OS at this point is notifications. They immediately interrupt whatever it is I'm doing. They don't do that on my iPhone so I wish they wouldn't do it on my Watch. I've been interrupted during a Sketch, while reading a message, or even browsing my calendar. I'm using my Watch because I only have a few seconds. That means I don't want any extra distractions while I do whatever it is I need to do.
The Apple Watch app is easy to use and provides a convenient way to configure and set up your Watch without getting wrist fatigue. It's also very similar to the Settings app on your iPhone, which is no coincidence. I prefer it in every way to changing and tweaking settings on my wrist.
Overall, Watch OS is good enough in much the same way iPhone OS 1.0 was good enough. It's a foundation in which Apple and developers will need to lay the rest of the groundwork. For that, I'm truly excited.
Georgia: Apple Watch navigation feels like it still needs some improvement. The Apple Watch is a first generation product in a category where everyone is still trying to figure out the best way to interface and interact, so that's not unexpected.
Siri responds about 70 percent of the time for me, which is both okay and maddening.
When I get notifications, like messages, everything works great. When I need to go find an app, it sometimes takes too long or becomes too complicated. Also, perhaps out of habit, I find myself forgetting to use the digital crown. Since I can just swipe the screen like my iPhone, that's what I do. That might change over time.
It's good start, it's just clear that it's a start.
Apple Watch apps
Ren: Third-party app extensions on the Watch are sometimes brilliant, sometimes terrible. I've had pretty good luck with the apps I've used so far, but I've also stumbled across a few that either try to do too much — I'm looking at you, Twitter! — or don't quite grasp how to properly design for such a small screen.
I have found, like Ally, that I'm using apps on the Watch I rarely if ever use on my iPhone. The NYTimes app extension is wonderful: It's a great way to browse top headlines and photos and figure out from that limited content if I want to read further; if I don't, I just swipe forward. Yelp, too, benefits from limited screen real estate; when I'm looking for places in the area, Yelp simplifies results to bring the most important info: map location, rating, how far away it is, hours, and cuisine.
Ally: Apps on the Watch are a completely different experience. I've found myself trying new apps out simply because they have great Apple Watch extensions. Then there are other apps that I don't really feel like will ever belong on my wrist. Like games. I don't think I'll ever download a game to my Watch. To me that somehow defeats the purpose of using the Watch as a way to get me off my iPhone. I only want important things on my wrist that deserve my attention. Nothing more, nothing less. However, the app experience needs some serious improvement, like I previously mentioned.
Georgia: There's been a lot said about the 3,500 Apple Watch apps at launch, but the number of apps I truly like and use is still small. Having Shazam and Hue on my wrist is wonderful and incredibly convenient, and I love them, but I still want more really good, really well thought out apps.
As developers spend more time with the hardware, and figure out what's most important on a watch, and as Apple releases full-blown apps, I expect that will change.
Apple Watch performance
Ren: I think I've probably had the worst battery life of the entire iMore staff, but I've also been intentionally battering the poor Watch with a variety of tests — poor thing.
Two weeks in, here are my top battery offenders: tracking exercise (aka using the heart sensor); taking lots of calls on the Watch; using Siri heavily; and excessively using third-party apps. That last one will also place some strain on your iPhone's battery, as you're essentially tethering to it to pull down that third-party data.
Still, even trying to destroy my Watch's battery, I've only had it die on me once — last night, in fact, around 11:30PM — after starting at 7AM, tracking several multi-hour workouts, using it for dictation, calling a few friends, and navigating to practice. (And 16 hours of battery life isn't too shabby in spite of all that, really.)
If you engage in heavy Watch usage and want to make your battery last even longer, I recommend two things: turning off the "wake on wrist raise" option within the Watch's General settings, and reducing brightness to one bar. (Even that low, it's very readable in the dark and in bright sunlight.)
Performance-wise, I return to the fact that the Watch is a 1.0 product. Third-party apps feel like molasses sometimes because you have to make a connection with your iPhone to pull that data down. The Watch sometimes hiccups when you're trying to switch views too quickly. And occasionally you have to do a few more taps than is really necessary.
But I have faith in Apple's ability to iterate and improve upon this. I remember both iPod and iPhone OS 1.0. There's plenty of room to improve yet.
Ally: Battery life is about what I expected so I have no complaints there. App Store apps can sometimes be a painful experience on the Watch. Loading screens are commonplace and some apps require me to launch the iPhone app often enough in order to communicate that I just end up deleting them off my Watch altogether. Apple's built-in apps however seem to run just fine. I'm not sure if this is an implementation issue or just growing pains of Watch OS 1.0. Whatever it is, I can't wait for it to get better.
Georgia: I've been very impressed with battery life on my Apple Watch. Every day I end with between 30 and 40 percent remaining and for a charge-a-day, I can't ask for much more than that. It's so good, I think I'm going to take the battery life complication off my clock face so I can replace it with something more needful.
I still have to charge it every night, but I'm already charging my iPhone every night so it's no extra effort. With the magnetic charger, it feels even easier.
Performance has been more of a mixed bag. Apple's built-in apps are typically responsive enough but launch and load times for information-heavy apps, due to how it has to communicate with the iPhone all the time, can be slow.
Apple Watch timekeeping
Ren: My boyfriend teased me a great deal when, on day two of owning the Apple Watch, I asked "What time is it?" and immediately reached for my iPhone. That admittedly embarrassing story is a quick way of saying: I'm not used to wearing a watch. I haven't worn one since junior high, and I'm pretty sure the last watch I wore drowned in a lake one summer.
But I've taken to the Watch in the weeks since I've had it on my wrist. I've been diligent about charging it — perhaps more so than my iPhone — and, almost two weeks later, I'm finally using it to check the time... and the status of a zillion other complications.
I thought I'd have the Astronomy clock face on pretty much 24/7 because of its secret Digital Crown powers to preview time forwards and backwards, but its lack of customized complications means that more often than not, I'm rocking Modular or Utility. Modular isn't the prettiest face in the world, but it lets me have a lot of data on the screen — data that can also be used as app shortcuts to my calendar, Activity, weather, and more.
I also love that you can build multiple clock faces with different complications on them. I've built a Modular clock face specifically designed for when I'm coaching that has timers and stopwatches put front and center; I've built work-specific faces that show four different time zones. All of them are accessible at the firm press of my Watch's screen.
Yes, the Watch needs more clock faces. No question. I'd even love to see buildable templates sometime in the future. But for version 1.0, it's not a bad start.
Ally: I've settled on the Utility clock face for most occasions. The most useful feature to me is being able to see my activity and world times at a single glance. Sometimes I still find myself pulling out my iPhone to view the time though. Muscle memory. I'm sure with time, this habit will fade and new ones will form.
Georgia: The Apple Watch works wonderfully as a watch, though it's rare that I use it as such. I could have a traditional watch if all I wanted to do is tell time, just like I could have a flip phone if all I wanted to do is take and make calls. What I want from my Apple Watch, like my iPhone, is everything else.
My clock face is mostly just a staging area for complications.
Apple Watch health and fitness
Ren: As someone who plays a pretty active sport (roller derby) and has so far failed to find a single fitness tracker that didn't suck at tracking it, the Apple Watch is a huge win in the fitness category.
It's not perfect: I've had to track scrimmages and skating practices as "Other," since there's no "Skating Sports" option in the Workout app, and the Watch's calorie count estimations are probably off. But having detailed heart rate data is huge. With it, I can focus my training on certain aerobic aspects of my skating, and also figure out where and when I'm not pushing myself hard enough.
Those pesky Activity rings are also changing my daily habits in a way pedometers never could. Because I'm getting credit for workouts and non-workout movement alike, I'm more inclined to take the dogs out on a walk, take out the trash, or stand up and do a few burpees to get that stand hour in my Stand Ring. For me, movement has always been a bit of a dichotomy — I'm incredibly active in the evenings during derby practices, but a bit of a sedentary slug during the day at work. The Watch is getting me to move more regularly, and that's incredibly exciting to me.
(Also, that darn Stand Ring really does make for a good excuse to do a quick one-minute high-intensity exercise. Burpees, pushups, crunches, squat jumps — they don't take too long, they get your blood pumping, and you're more awake to face your next 50 minutes.
Ally: Fitness tracking is the main reason I wanted an Apple Watch. For the past year I've worn a tracker of some kind so I can make sure I'm hitting step and calorie goals in conjunction with eating healthy. Considering Apple took a different approach to tracking activity, I found myself skeptical. However, two weeks in and I'm slowly coming around to Apple's way of thinking.
Stand goals are encouraging me to take small walks throughout the day. Although I spend most of my day standing at my desk while I work, it's so important to take breaks and move around. Not only is better for your physical health, it's great for mental health. I sometimes get so engrossed in an article or project that I stay stationary for hours on end. That hasn't happened once since I put on the Apple Watch.
I also quite enjoy that Apple is breaking out active and resting calories. I'm also finally using the Health app on a regular basis since my Apple Watch can feed lots of useful information to other apps through it. My dashboard is filled with useful stats for the first time in, well… ever.
That isn't to say the health and fitness features of Apple Watch don't need some serious improvement. Take standing goals for instance. They are rudimentary at best in their current state. For example, if I'm driving I would assume the Apple Watch can use my iPhone's GPS to determine that. So don't give me a stand reminder when I'm going 60 mph.
I would like to see the Workout app add more detailed information in regards to workout logs so I can compare sessions within their respective categories. There also needs to be a lot more activities to choose from in general. An elliptical and a bike are not a very good representation of modern day gyms.
All that aside, the Apple Watch is helping me push myself to go on longer walks, increase the time I spend working out, and make sure I'm sticking to healthy habits all day long, not just during a training session. The foundation is there, and I can't wait to see how Apple and developers build on it in the months and years to come.
Georgia: I'm still not sure how accurate the Apple Watch will prove as a health and fitness tracker. What it counts as calories and activity will take me a while to investigate. I do find that it motivates me to keep moving.
I turned off the hourly reminders to stand up, because I can't just get up and start moving around when I have a psychotherapy client in session. I think it could be highly beneficial and aid in mindfulness for people who live sedentary lifestyles
The heart rate monitor is great, but it's not totally consistent for me. My wrists are super thin and I think I may just not have it tight enough to get proper, consistent readings. I'm also still not sure how well it handles interval training, especially when you're in good enough condition to go from an elevated to a resting heart rate quickly.
Apple Watch communications
Ren: I didn't expect to use the Watch for communicating as much as I have — I figured it would mostly be a notification containment system — a way to triage the information I was getting until I could make it back to my iPhone or computer. And it is that, for sure. But it's also a little bit more.
Answering text messages via Siri is great — except for all the taps it requires to send them. But Siri's dictation is excellent and (usually) lightning-fast, and I've only had a few screw-ups in my weeks testing the Watch.
Phone calls are actually pretty crisp on the Watch, too: They come in clear, and better still, the speaker is quiet enough that you can get away with taking a call on your Watch without other people looking at you like a crazy person. It really does feel like a science-fiction pipe dream in some ways — not always the most practical option, but always fun.
And speaking of practicality... let's talk sketches and Digital Touch. As goofy as they are, I'm for them. Here's the thing: You may not need to send a sketch over placing a phone call or sending a text message, but it's so much more fun. I found myself drawing pictures of food when bugging a friend to go out to eat, or cartoon reactions to certain texts. It's an option in line with the emoji or the selfie, and to truly enjoy it, I suspect you might need to also understand why the other two have such a hold on our world right now.
Because beyond the silliness, there's a personal connection. And as silly as it might sound, I found myself wishing the other night that I could draw a "Get Well Soon!" sketch for a family member who was in the hospital for a procedure in lieu of a mere "Hope you're feeling better" message.
Ally: I don't find myself doing much communicating on my Apple Watch other than replying quickly to urgent messages. I'm just not used to talking into my Watch. I'll do it in a pinch but I'd still rather pick up my iPhone. Perhaps that's a habit that will slowly fade but somehow, I doubt it. I prefer using the Watch to triage, track fitness, and review notifications that may or may not require my attention right that minute.
For others, the Watch may be a fascinating communication tool. For me, it's like having a personal assistant that lets me decide who needs my attention and who can wait until I have a few minutes to pick up my iPhone or open my MacBook.
Georgia: The Apple Watch shines at communications. There is nothing better than receiving calls on your wrist while you're outside gardening and planting flowers, while in the office with your phone across the room in your purse, and even while in the passenger seat of a car to quickly tell someone you'll be there in a few minutes.
I like it so much, I wish I could send phone calls from my iPhone to my Apple Watch so I, if anyone called me while I was gaming, I could talk on my watch and keep on gaming on my phone.
Messages on the Apple Watch are the best thing ever. You get a tap, you see your message, and often it's enough to update you on meeting times, shopping lists, news from family and friends, work requirements, that you don't have to go to your iPhone or Mac.
The Digital Touch system is cute and charming and a lot of fun, but I'm not sure how much I'll use it in the weeks and months to come.
Apple Watch and Apple Pay
Ren: Paying with my Watch is such a delight: It feels cooler than paying with my phone; much more practical; and it's the one action that makes people's eyes bug out over Apple's new device.
Passbook on the Watch — specifically, flying with the Watch — is the real game-changer. Not having to take out my phone to scan it is so very great, though I did run into a problem coming back from LAX: One scanner was too shallow to fit my wrist! (And when you take off the Watch, you disable Passbook, even after entering a passcode.)
Ally: Apple Pay was meant for the Watch. I now know what James Bond has felt like for years when buying groceries — and it is glorious. Anywhere I can use Apple Pay, I am. Right now the selection is quite limited in my area but it's getting better. I love when I can walk in somewhere and not have to worry about whether or not I left my wallet in the car. Now if only licenses and passports would go digital. I can't wait for the day I no longer have to worry about a wallet at all.
Apple Watch and home automation
Ren: While I don't have any gadgets in my house (yet) that can be controlled via HomeKit or third-party apps, I foresee both Hue bulbs and a Nest in my future. I'm looking forward to testing these later this year — especially the concept of turning off bedroom lights without having to get out of bed at night.
Georgia: Each time I watch Game of Thrones or Vikings, I have present ready for my Hue lights that makes the atmosphere just right. I used to fumble for my iPhone — yes, like an animal — and have to stress to get it set before the show started. Now I just tap on my watch.
The app does crash once and a while, so it's still early days, but most of the time it just works. And turning off your lights at night from your watch is amazing.
I'm very much looking forward to the time when my watch unlocks my front door, turns on my car, and otherwise takes care of all the automation in my home and life.
Apple Watch bottom line
Ren: Will the Apple Watch change the way we interact with technology? Yes and no. I think that in the right hands, it has the possibility to streamline our constant data connection and limit us to interacting only with those notifications we absolutely need. Its health options are also a huge boon to both those who exercise frequently and those who want to be more active during the day.
The Watch isn't without its 1.0 problems: There are bugs, crashes, and apps that don't scroll properly. There are third-party apps that attempt to do too much with too little. And there are the occasional slowdowns.
Overall, though, I continue to feel bullish on Apple's newest product. Sales have just gotten started, but already there seems to be huge demand for the Watch and its accessories. If you don't have one, a Watch may not be for you — but you can find out pretty quickly by going down to your local Apple Store and having them help you.
Ally: The Apple Watch is still a very 1.0 product, and it shows. Load times for apps can sometimes be excruciating, and it's obvious that it's going to take developers some time to figure out exactly where their place is on the Watch.
That being said, the Apple Watch itself is doing a great job of helping me triage tasks and focus my attention in a way that I've never been able to on an iPhone. It's also helping me stay on track with my health and fitness goals. And for now, that's enough purpose for me to see a present and future value in Watch OS.
Georgia: The Apple Watch is a wonderful piece of technology that still needs more time to fully come into its own. But if you have an iPhone and want to get into wearables right now, the Apple Watch is the way to do it. Every time I put it on it feels like I'm putting on the future, and I love it.