Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Apple Watch - Tissot Slayer

A few years ago, after spending nearly two years living in Switzerland, I treated myself to a Tissot Touch watch. It was one of the earlier models - a beautiful looking watch, and not cheap - but it has been something of a disappointment in terms of functionality. I have to adjust it manually when I travel across time zones or when the clocks change and many of the functions are a bit too cryptic or complex to be able to use easily. I can't even light up the digital display in the dark!

I watched the Apple keynote back in March where the Apple Watch made its first public appearance and I loved the design and apparent simplicity in function. But I made up my mind to wait until the second generation. I've got to the stage in my life where I don't feel I need to be an early adopter for every new device that comes out - Apple or otherwise. And because I feel naked without a watch, I didn't want to take a risk with a first generation Apple Watch that wasn't quite up to scratch.

However, that changed with the June 2015 WWDC keynote when watchOS 2 was announced, and early availability issues seemed to have died down. After talking to my long suffering girlfriend I ordered a black 38mm sports edition a week ago and four days later it arrived!

If you've watched any unboxing videos of the Apple Watch you might understand how exciting it was to strip away the various bits of packaging (which I personally believe surpass anything Apple have done before) and get to the tech inside. Before I even started looking at the watch I started playing with the new folding USB mains charger - the first time Apple have shipped a folding UK 3 pin plug adapter which is a magnificent piece of gadgetry that oozes class! Seriously!

Even with a Spigen Slim Armour case the Apple Watch weighs in at just 46 grammes - half the weight of the Tissot (a big titanium beastie with a big titanium strap) and I hardly notice it on my wrist. (The bare watch without straps weighs in at 25g). A few folk have commented on how big the Apple Watch is - but I have tiny wrists for a man so my photos are probably not good for comparative purposes. The armour case was always going to be an essential for me, and the gold-ish coloured Spigen was a reasonable price, not too garish and I think it enhanced the black watch perfectly. I'm sure people are going to start collecting cases and straps as they become more widely available as they are a reasonably cost effective way to great a 'new' look watch.

It took me about 20 minutes to get the Apple Watch up and running using my iPhone 6. It was a fairly intuitive process but it worth reading some of the articles available on-line or in the Mac magazines beforehand so you know what to expect. As usual there is no user guide included but you can download the free official user guide from Apple and it's extremely comprehensive (it's also available free on iBooks).

By now you should be aware that the Watch works for left and right handers - I usually wear my watch on my right arm, under my wrist, and this orientation is catered for without any problem. Both the digital crown and the side button are easily accessible to a southpaw like myself. The downside to this configuration is that when I raise my wrist to activate the screen it rarely works. This action works much better when the watch sits on top of the wrist - but even then it isn't 100% reliable. Not the end of the world as a tap on the digital crown or the face itself will activate it, but it is a little frustrating and disappointing.

But that's about where the frustration and disappointment end. The Apple Watch is probably the best timepiece I've ever used. I love being able to customise the watch faces and more specifically their 'complications' (the different additional functions like date, battery power, sunrise, etc.) for different purposes. Although I'm currently back in the UK and intending to stay for a while I love the idea that my watch will self-adjust the time to wherever my location is. The display is magnificent as I would expect from an Apple retina display, even of this small size.

Siri appears to work much more effectively than on any of the other iDevices I've used; I guess I'll just have to get used to feeling a bit of an idiot talking to my watch when I'm in public. But given the volume of sales already, there will be a lot of us doing it!

Battery life is pretty much as expected and as Apple suggests. My worse case scenario was on the third day when I put the watch on at 04:30 in the morning and wore it until after midnight - nearly 18 hours - by which time I was down to 4% remaining. That said, the novelty was far from over, and I was messing about with it all day. On a normal day, I tend to use about 75% of a full charge. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it doesn't take long on the charger to put a considerable amount of boost back in the battery - in a random test 15 minutes charged the watch from 69% to 86%.  I would recommend getting a charging stand. I bought a Mudder squat stand which is spot on, and I've got a second charger cable on order from Apple for when I'm on the road.

I've still only been wearing the watch for four days so haven't even begun to realise its full potential. I have a few apps installed which make life a bit easier - QuickSwitch (for controlling my WeMo devices) and MacID (for unlocking my MBA) are my two favourites as it means I don't have to fumble around for my iPhone. I've added MapMyRun as I have started running again after 7 months in Prague, but I'm still reliant on the iPhone at the moment. I was using Maps on my iPhone last coming back from a concert in Birmingham and discovered that the turn by turn directions were coming up on the watch as well, which I decided was actually really cool!

First impressions are that Apple have bucked the trend of releasing a first generation gadget that isn't quite up to scratch. This is a fully functioning piece of tech which is only going to get better with the next generation OS which will add utility and smooth out some of the slightly rougher edges. And that is just as well, because I don't want to be upgrading my watch every two years like I do with my phone!

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