Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Apple Watch Review: More is Less

Everyone keeps asking me about the Apple Watch, which I have had now for about two weeks. I keep thinking about what to say. There is not much to tell. Well, I guess there is a little to tell. For a brand new Apple product, this may appear as a bad sign, but the more I wear and use the watch, the more I realize it's not. With previous Apple products I could say things like "there's 128GB of space," or "it's got a great camera with lots of new features." Like The Six Million Dollar Man—better, stronger, faster. But with the Apple Watch, I'm like, "meh, it's OK," or "I don't know," or "leave me alone I'm still figuring it out and I have not found the words yet!"

The truth is that no one ever asked me about any of my previous watches, except to say that they liked how they looked. The time, sure. The thing always tells the time. That's a given. But does it look cool? I have a HUGE Nixon watch that is the size of a dinner plate. That watch looks badass on my wrist. I have a Seiko diving watch similar to the one Mick Jones is wearing on the cover of a Big Audio Dynamite album. In the past, I've even owned a very nice Omega. I tend to not last too long with crazy expensive things. I don't like the whole "look at me" ostentatious thing. That being said, my Omega was so beautiful and traditional looking that it barely got noticed. I sold it eventually anyway because I did not like walking around with 4k on my wrist. I knew the money could be better used elsewhere and I was right.

So what's the deal with the Apple Watch? Well, for starters, it tells time. You get to choose from different watch faces. I picked one and I'm good. (I imagine more faces are coming.) You can customize each face and add or remove info like battery life, date, sunrise/sunset, color, weather, etc. I own the Apple Watch with the leather strap, the sapphire crystal with the stainless steel case. Since I've owned nice watches and crappy watches in the past, I knew to spring for the more robust materials. Sapphire is very hard and not likely to scratch. Ever. I already banged the watch into a metal outdoor chair and there is no evidence on the watch. A watch needs to be sturdy so it won't look like a damaged piece of crap on your wrist. The basic design of all Apple Watches is the same. It considers design before practicality. So the watches made of the lower-end materials will suffer scratches, dings, and bangs the most.  Unless you plan on being careful all the time, I suggest getting the Apple Watch with the sapphire crystal and the stainless steel. The bands can be swapped easily so you have options in that department.

So what else does the watch do? Well not much, but that's the point. This is not a device to do things on. That's what your phone is for. The Apple Watch makes it so you pull your phone out less. Apple brings the watch back onto our radar and teaches us that some of technology's woes and downsides can be solved with a watch. That is, if you feel they need to be solved. If you love checking your phone and you hate wearing a watch, I suggest keeping your money. If you like watches, as I already do, and you want to be alerted to every email and text, but at the same time don't want to check your phone every two seconds, then the Apple Watch might be for you. It took more than a week of wearing the watch for my body and mind to recognize the new subtle vibrations and dings. I was missing alerts at first and I thought the watch sucked. But Apple is a freaking genius, and no I am not just sucking from their cooperate teet. If something sucks, it sucks, and no logo will help me love it. I enjoyed Google Glass but it's not practical, it attracts a lot of attention, and now it's in a box. I rarely use it.

The Apple Watch does a lot more too.  For example, I used it to take remote pictures with my phone. I took a selfie with the good camera, not the shitty Facetime one. I stopped alarms on my phone with my watch when the phone was elsewhere in the house. I changed music tracks on my phone from the watch as I listened to music on a bluetooth speaker outside. I replied to texts simply with prefab responses. I checked the weather easily without digging for my phone. I checked the calendar easily. I put some family photos on the watch that I can see easily. I shazamed music easily.

There are also many apps and alerts that can be turned on or off via your phone. If you want the weather, time, Twitter feed, Instagram feed, etc., then they are there for a quick look-see. Mostly I just check the time, see my wife's texts come in, ignore many notifications, and use the watch to use my phone less. So far it's come in most handy when driving. Eyes on the road and I can still see who texted. It's easier to look at than the car radio, and I don't even need to take my hand off the wheel to look at and activate the screen.

And so far the Apple Watch is this understated blah of a device that does not do much, but somehow does everything. It's too small to do anything substantial, but just right to help you do everything.

I'm loving the simplicity of it in a way that I never dreamed possible.

The James Bond in me does wish it had a camera in it. And also a laser.