Taking the Apple Watch off its charger is as simple and satisfying as unclasping a magnet: There's a slight resistance, then freedom. Slipping it over your wrist and fastening it — in this case, using a Milanese Loop, which, like the Leather Loop, feels almost like a Lulu Lemon waistband for your wrist — is easy. From there, you're just a passcode or strong password away from being good to go.
I've had the opportunity to spend some time with all of Apple's watches, from the light aluminum Sport to the classic stainless steel Watch to the luxurious golden Edition. They all feel not only comfortable to wear, but sleek, too. The stainless steel, which comes with the Milanese, feels substantial but not onerous. It's just a watch.
All in the timing
The time is easy to check: Turn your wrist and it's there. (Of course, you can also choose to have the last app you used show up by default instead.) I don't normally wear a watch, which means I'm not in the habit of casually glancing at the time without moving my wrist; having it available on a turn is more than fine.
After a brief flirtation with Mickey Mouse for fun, I've settled on the Utility face for now; I've added complications to show me the temperature, battery, date, and my next appointment. It's such good information at a glance that I wish my iPhone's lock screen offered them as well.
Wearing the Apple Watch is a very different experience. It really doesn't buzz the way an iPhone does in your purse or pocket, or the way a Pebble would on your wrist. It can ping — loudly — if you want it to, but if not, it just taps you on the wrist. (By default, it does so subtly; it can also act with a little more gusto if you want it to really get your attention.)
The convenience proves itself almost immediately. Gone is running or reaching for your phone. Just look, and all the notifications you want to see are on your wrist. Of course, if you're at your Mac, or your iPhone is unlocked and you're using it, the notifications go to where you are instead. Otherwise, they just appear on your Watch.
There are three exceptions to that rule, however: sketches, delightfully animated images that you draw; taps, beats that you tap out; and your heartbeat, which you capture with a wide two finger touch. They're only for you and your Watch-wearing friends.
It feels a little bit elitist, at first. Not many people have an Apple Watch yet, which makes sending and receiving these Apple Watch communications exciting and exclusive at first. But there are only so many Batman, Hulk, and dragon heads you can send before you calm down, after all.
In contrast with notifications, which pepper you as they come in, the Activity tracker just does its business in the background. I stand when I work most of the time, which makes the reminder to stand up less important to me. The ping to move and get my heart rate up, however, is hugely appreciated. The Apple Watch counting calories instead of steps is something I'm still trying to wrap my brain around, though — it's a little like metric conversion when you're used to feet and pounds.
Come in, control
Controlling the Apple Watch is easy — as long as you remember that it's an Apple Watch and not an iPhone. It's not meant for hours or even minutes of prolonged use; it's meant for seconds. It's not meant for you to hunt and peck for functionality; it's meant for you to glimpse, to respond, to speak, to interact briefly, and then go on about your business.
Ignoring someone at the other end of the table or burying your face in a device instead of conversation is harder to do with the Apple Watch: First, it covers less face. Second, it pushes you out as much as an iPhone pulls you in.
Some apps really understand and nail this. The really good ones offer the same level of convenience and speed as stock apps on the Apple Watch itself: They let you act on a message or tweet rather than presenting long lists to browse. They let you see when your car is arriving, or your flight is boarding, rather than giving you a stack of things to do. They let you make a calculation, unlock a door, alter the hue of a light, check on a delivery, and do much, much more — all without having to run back to your iPhone — but without taking too much time from your day-to-day activities.
In that regard, really, it's similar to how we already work on our iPhones without having to use our Macs.
That's not to say everything is perfect yet. For one, apps requiring communication to and from an iPhone are like apps that rely on an internet connection: great and marvelous until anything disrupts that signal. Likewise, having 12 friends you can sketch and tap and send heartbeats to is fantastic... until your thirteenth friend gets an Apple Watch and you have to start swapping buddies.
Those quibbles are minor, however, and far more minor than I imagined they'd be. Once you get used to the Digital Crown, once you start to feel comfortable with decoupled interface and push interactions, once the haptics start to resonate at a more primal level, once the Apple Watch becomes as much a part of you as the iPhone has — it really feels right.
It's fair to say I knew going in that I was going to like the Apple Watch. I wasn't sure I was going to like it as much as I do and as quickly as I have. I thought I'd be fighting it more, or stumbling over it, but instead, it's been really great. Better than I thought. I'm sure others will have very different reactions — but this one is mine.
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow...
Yes, it's a first-generation device. But in many ways, it's Apple's most capable first-generation device ever, and taking phone calls on our wrist really is bloody cool.
Taking the Apple Watch off at night and returning it to its charger feels just a little sad. It's like when you lose data on your phone and the connected world you've become accustomed to is suddenly a lot less vibrant.
It's only for the night, though. And given how many features the Apple Watch has, the next day might be very different. The next week and next month, even more so.
Okay, maybe one more Batman head sketch before lights out...
Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.
I probably don't have to tell the gurus this, but be careful wearing a metal band while typing on a Macbook. My Moto 360 started wearing the finish of my Macbook Pro, so now I take it off when typing for longer sessions.
I have an external Macally keyboard as I've always found laptop keyboards to be too small. Oh, and I hate chicklet keyboards.
Speaking of bands. Can we buy them in store, or do they not start selling until June. I don't want to pre-order a band because I haven't gotten my watch yet. It's still processing.
Even early pre-orders of extra bands are all typically delayed and won't ship until "May" or "June" according to those I've asked (and my own order). So it seems unlikely that they will be available to buy in the stores, and there will be significant order chaos if they are (people cancelling the pre-orders), and probably more anger as well.
I don't really get the whole drawing thing. It's not like you can put anything beyond a few alphabets if you wanted to take notes on that screen. Then again, I suppose some proper note-taking app and voice dictation (if you can live with annoying the people next to you in public) will sort that out.
Come on, UPS, get me my watch! LOL
I'm certainly not looking forward to the next month (or two), of reading how super-great this watch is while still waiting for them to fill my order. The pain!
I'm sorry for your pain, but I bet you'll receive your watch earlier than what it currently states.
Pro tip: Get rid of the superfluous 'what', i.e., "...you'll receive your watch earlier than it currently states."
G'day Rene. I've been reading your stuff for several years but I've never bothered registering to be able to comment.. Until now.
I'm really digging your thoughts, and observations on the apple watch. You pretty much cover all the questions I have so far as if we were talking face to face. That's a good thing. :)
I live in Australia so the cheapest apple watch I can buy is the 38mm for $499.
The 42mm version is $579. That's A LOT of money for a watch down here.
My personal choice would have been the 42mm SS with black sport band.. But it's a staggering $879 AUS !
That's a HUGE pill to swallow!
Anyway cost aside I think I'll go for the cheapest 42mm option at $579 AUS simply because it's the first year for this product and I'm sure there will be major improvements in the future. (And I have less than zero interest in any other brand than apple. The whole family loves apple gear)
My point is that I research everything I intend to buy, and your simple straight forward observations are very helpful to me.
Thank you :)
How far can the iphone get from the watch? And what happens if you forget the iphone in another place.
as long as they are on the same wifi, they will "talk to each other" bluetooth range is about 40 feet.
If you leave the phone at home, you will have a watch that tells time. Not much more. If you calibrate the fitness app a few times With the phone, then you can go on a walk, run, etc without it.
It needs to "learn" first.
So if you are inside home they are connected by WIFI and when you go outside, they will switch automatically to bluetooth?
2 more weeks for me. Ugh.
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