Modern technology gives us many things.

Apple Watch review – the smartwatch that’s an extension of the iPhone

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Apple Watch has all of the hallmarks of a typical Apple product – it is beautifully and thoughtfully designed, it takes an existing category and completely transforms it and it just works.

Apple Watch is the company’s first new product category for five years and its most personal yet. It is not stowed in your pocket or in your bag – you wear it.

Apple products have been strong in the looks department and Apple Watch confidently continues this trend.

But as eye-catching as it is, it is also functional and, once again, Apple Watch ticks this box.

The device acts like an extension of your iPhone and conveys various notifications, messages, emails on your wrist. You can even make and receive calls with it.

It’s not a miniature smartphone – far from it – but Apple Watch can provide enough information for you to not have to dig out your iPhone as often as you did before.

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And it might sound funny to say, but one of the best features of the Apple Watch is that it knows its limits.

The screen is, after all, either 38mm or 42mm so don’t expect to find a keyboard or a built-in camera. They’re on your iPhone.

But Apple Watch still offers plenty of convenience to make it a welcome addition to your life.

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DESIGN

Apple Watch is a thing of beauty. The device looks great and has a precise high quality finish. It’s the closest thing to jewellery Apple has ever made.

The focus on style and design has always been essential for Apple but for Apple Watch it took on a new level of importance.

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Apple Watch isn’t too thick or bulky and is comfortable to wear

The device itself is understated and has a pleasing combination of curves and straight lines.

It is no bulkier than a regular watch and is comfortable to wear.

There are only two buttons and a touch screen. One of those buttons is the digital crown which is also be used to scroll screens, zoom in and out and adjust volume and values.

The digital crown – which is the winding knob you’ll see on every other watch – is a clever inclusion because it looks like it’s part of a watch but also solves a problem at the same time.

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With such a small touchscreen, the act of scrolling the content on the screen (which you can still do if you want) actually covers the content you’re trying to see.

But running your finger along the digital crown achieves the same result without covering any part of the screen.

The second button is a shortcut to your favourite contacts.

On the underside is a circular ceramic charging plate along with sensors that measure your heart rate.

Along the left edge are a small speaker and a microphone.

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And while the Apple Watch itself looks good, there is also a range of watchbands designed to compliment those looks.

There are six different types of bands that offer the same high standards in design and quality.

There’s the Sport Band, Milanese Loop, Classic Buckle, Leather Loop, Modern Buckle and the Link Bracelet.

For our review, we’ve been wearing the stainless steel 42mm Apple Watch with the Link Bracelet.

And with ever other link bracelet watchband we’ve ever owned we had to take out a few links which meant a trip to jeweller and a $40 bill.

Not so with Apple’s Link Bracelet. The first six links on either side of the butterfly clip has a small button so they can be easily removed and the band reconnected.

Watchmakers have been making their products for hundreds of years and no one thought to do this. Apple has just entered this market and it is already innovating.

Apple Watch can even detect when you take it off your wrist and automatically lock itself. When you put it back on again you have to unlock it with a passcode.

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The Apple Watch can detect when it’s not on your wrist and lock itself

PERFORMANCE

Apple Watch is fast and it’s simple to use. The device is powered by S1 – a custom designed chip that houses the entire computer architecture.

Pairing it to the iPhone took seconds. From the Apple Watch app we just had to aim the iPhone’s camera to the Apple Watch screen and the devices were connected.

The iPhone Apple Watch app lets you set up the device and choose the wrist it will be worn on, your notifications, app layout and adjust individual settings for each app.

The watch has an excellent interface that’s easy to navigate through the screen and the digital crown.

Apple Watch is designed to allow the user a few seconds of engagement at a time. If you need any longer than that, you can take out your iPhone.

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Having said that, those micro sessions with the Apple Watch are highly effective. You can easily stay on top of your messages, your emails, your calls and other notifications.

The Taptic Engine on board provides light taps on your wrist to get your attention for certain notifications or activity achievements.

While your arm is by your side Apple Watch’s screen is off. It’s only when you raise your wrist to glance at the screen does it instantly come on.

So if you want to know the time, simply turn your wrist and the screens comes to life.

The watch face can be changed and customised with “complications” which is the watch-industry term for those added features on the face like the date, weather, calendar and activity reminders.

From the watch screen sweeping up from the bottom of the display will bring up your Glances – these are summary screens for your apps you’d like to access quickly like your calendar, the weather, stocks, battery level, maps, the heart rate monitor.

You can also control your Keynote or PowerPoint presentation or your Apple TV from the Apple Watch as well.

It can also act as your boarding pass, allow you to pay for things and also act as your hotel room key.

There are many options for the watch face on the Apple Watch
There are many options for the watch face on the Apple Watch

Sweeping down from the top will give you notifications with a red dot at the top of the screen indicating there are new notifications to view.

Any notification you’ve set to receive on your iPhone will also be received by the Apple Watch even if the related app is not installed on the watch.

Pressing the digital crown is like the home button on your iPhone and it will bring up the app screen which you can easily navigate with your finger on the touchscreen.

There are many included apps on the Apple Watch along with more than 3,000 from third party developers.

But it should be clear that Apple Watch is mainly for viewing content. You can’t type on the device so, for example, if you’re checking your mail you can read and trash the messages you don’t want.

If you want to reply it’s time to get out your iPhone. During our review we found the mail on Apple Watch to be quite helpful as we could see the messages we’d received and delete the ones we don’t want and check if anything needs answering right away.

Third party apps are the same and give users a glimpse of the full-blown app and if you need to do anymore – go back to the iPhone.

Apps and notifications on the Apple Watch
Apps and notifications on the Apple Watch

But a glimpse is all you need to get that piece of useful information like the weather forecast, your shopping list, your flight’s gate number and boarding time, the live football score and the latest news headlines.

With messages we were able to exchange a number of texts without touching the iPhone. To reply to messages you can either use one of the many preset replies, send an emoji or dictate your response.

This response can then be send as an audio recording or as text. Dictation worked well in quiet surroundings but was a bit hit or miss in a noisy environment like a shopping centre.

Digital Touch connects two Apple Watches for a different form of communication
Digital Touch connects two Apple Watches for a different form of communication

And you can also enjoy a new form of communication with other Apple Watch users by exchanging sketches, sending a tap to get someone’s attention and even sending your heartbeat.

What about receiving phone calls? You can answer and make calls from Apple Watch with the speaker and microphone making it surprisingly easy.

During our review we often answered calls with the Apple Watch on our wrist while we were doing other things like writing, eating or cooking or when we were at home with the iPhone in another room. It’s a true hands free experience.

Some of the Glances - the easily accessible apps that put information at your fingertips
Some of the Glances – the easily accessible apps that put information at your fingertips

And we didn’t need to raise the watch to our mouth to be heard. And the speaker is loud enough to easily hear it in a quiet room.

When you’re out it’s not always ideal conditions to answer calls because you can’t hear it as well and you may feel a little strange talking to your wrist.

It’s easy to switch the call seamlessly to your iPhone and once you’ve done that you can’t send it back to the Apple Watch.

Another handy feature of the Apple Watch is the ability to control your iPhone’s camera.

Apple Watch lets you   make and receive phone calls from your wrist
Apple Watch lets you make and receive phone calls from your wrist

Open up the Remote Camera app on the watch and the camera on the iPhone is automatically activated.

On the watch you can see exactly what the iPhone camera can see and you have the choice to capture the picture instantly or on a timer. It’s a game changer for those who love taking selfies – they’ll have to call them watchies.

As an activity device the Apple Watch is excellent.

It has a built in Activity app that will tell you how many steps you’ve taken, how many calories you’ve burned, how many minutes you’ve exercised and it will even tell you to stand up and move around once an hour.

The apps are accessible with a press of the digital crown
The apps are accessible with a press of the digital crown

The Workout app lets you choose the type of exercise you want to do and set goals for calories and time and all the while reading your heart rate from the built-in sensor.

And all the information and achievements are logged on the Activity app on your iPhone.

In fact the Apple Watch covers the features you’d get with a dedicated activity band or fitness tracker and most of the features that come with a dedicated fitness watch.

The feature the Apple Watch doesn’t have is built-in GPS – it gets that information from your iPhone so you’ll need to take it along for your run.

You can run without it although having the iPhone with you for the first few runs allows the device to learn more about your stride and its relation with your time and distance.

If you wanted to run just with your Apple Watch you can use the internal memory to store a music playlist and link a pair of Bluetooth headphones.

If you want to listen to TuneIn Radio or Spotify and any other streaming music service you’ll need your iPhone with you.

BATTERY LIFE

The Apple Watch battery performance has been one of the most asked-about features of the device.

Apple has quoted up to 18 hours of battery life between charges but in our review we have found it to be a lot better.

The Apple Watch  can be charged  with the magnetic charging plate
The Apple Watch can be charged with the magnetic charging plate

On a single charge we got through two full days before we needed to attach the magnetic charging cable that attaches itself to the bottom of the Apple Watch.

Unfortunately you can’t wear the Apple Watch while it’s charging but you can still use it on the desktop – you just have to keep entering your passcode to access the interface.

WHAT WE DIDN’T LIKE

Apple Watch is an impressive product with a multitude of great features but it still has some shortcomings.

One is that the device is not waterproof. It is water resistant so it can handle a few drops of water in the rain or while you’re washing your hands but you can’t submerge it or take it swimming.

When you need to charge the Apple Watch it means you can’t use it so the best thing to do is charge it overnight.

There were only a handful of times when the time didn’t display when we lifted our arm to tell the time – including a couple of times when we were showing it to other people.

Apple Watch is available in three versions
Apple Watch is available in three versions

It doesn’t have built-in GPS because this would seriously tax the battery but it does feature on other sport watches.

Once you get past the entry level Apple Watch Sport model ($499 for 38mm and $579 for the 42mm) it isn’t exactly cheap and, depending on the watchband you go for, the Apple Watch could actually cost more than the iPhone it’s connected to.

VERDICT

The Apple Watch is a beautifully designed product that has Apple’s typical high standard for workmanship and quality.

It works seamlessly with your iPhone to deliver the information and convenience you need that’s only ever just a glance away.

The device knows what it can and can’t do and has tailored the apps and interface with that in mind to deliver an excellent experience.

Not everyone will want, or will be able to afford, the Apple Watch but anyone who buys one will not regret the purchase one bit.

It changes the relationship you have with your iPhone and lets you keep it tucked away so Apple Watch handle menial tasks, track your activities or to access information when you need it right from your wrist.

Apple Watch has set a new standard for smartwatches that will be supported by app developers and innovators from now on.

APPLE WATCH

Price: Apple Watch Sport (from $499), Apple Watch (from $799), Apple Watch Edition (from $14,000)