The dust is starting to settle and we've been able to spend some serious time putting Apple Watch through its paces following its release, so we're ready to let you know what we think of Apple's entrance into the smartwatch world. Is it worth the cost, and will you really get any benefits out of slapping one on your wrist? Read on to find out.
Apple Watch: Apple's entry into the smartwatch world
Apple Watch, by the Numbers
Apple Watch is available in three models: Apple Watch Sport (aluminum), Apple Watch (stainless steel), and Apple Watch Edition (gold). All come in two color choices: silver or space gray for the Sport, silver or space black for the steel model, and gold or rose gold for the Edition. You can also choose between 38mm and 42mm screen sizes for each.
The 38mm Apple Watch Sport weighs 25g, and the 42mm version weighs 30g. The stainless steel model weighs noticeably more at 40g and 50g. The rose gold Edition weighs 54g and 67g, while the yellow gold model is 55g and 69g.
Pricing starts at US$349 for the Apple Watch Sport, $549 for the Apple Watch (stainless steel), and $10,000 for the Apple Watch Edition.
Apple Watch Sport (left), Apple Watch (center), Apple Watch Edition (right)
Considering Apple Watch is intended to be strapped to your wrist all day, weight is a real consideration. For some the extra heft of the steel or gold models may be more weight than they want, but for others it's exactly right. TMO's Bryan Chaffin told me he prefers a heavier watch because it feels better on his arm. For me, less weight is key because I don't want to feel the watch on my arm.
Apple Watch Sport uses Ion-X glass for its display, and the stainless steel and Edition models use synthetic sapphire. Ion-X glass isn't as scratch resistant, but it also isn't as brittle as synthetic sapphire. So far, the Ion-X glass is holding up just fine on my Apple Watch Sport, and I'm expecting that to hold true unless my watch slams into something especially hard like a rock face or the sidewalk—both of which are possibilities considering how much time I spend playing outdoors.
Using your Apple Watch in the rain, or wearing it while washing your hands won't be an issue. Apple Watch is IPX7-level waterproof, which means your Apple Watch can withstand being submerged for half an hour at a depth of one meter.
I stood out in the pouring rain to see how my Apple Watch would fair just so you wouldn't have to, and I didn't have any issues. That's exactly what I expected, and since Apple clearly states Apple Watch's waterproof rating, it isn't any surprise at all.
There are reports of people swimming with Apple Watch, but I'm a little leery of trying that myself. The water pressure your watch will be exposed to if you're swimming hard could potentially be enough to blow past Apple Watch's seals, leaving you with an expensive and non-working glass and metal bracelet.
Apple Watch Screen
Apple Watch uses an OLED display with a 340 x 272 resolution for the 38mm model, and 390 x 312 resolution for the 42mm model. It's bright and easy to read, and most of the time I was able to see the screen in direct sunlight without any problems. That was a pleasant surprise because I've always wanted an easy way to get a quick look at my progress when I'm running or hiking. With Apple Watch, that's totally possible. Just a quick look at my wrist, and I haven't even had to slow down.
The colors are rich and bright, and Apple calibrated the display to match the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus so images will look pretty much the same on both devices. The images I tested looked about the same on my iPhone 6 and Apple Watch, although I wasn't able to test how close they really are with a colorimeter.
Since Apple Watch probably won't be a serious part of anyone's color-corrected workflow, meaning jobs where exactly matching colors really matters, I'm fine saying the colors look the same across devices. The short version: colors look good on Apple Watch, and the resolution is really nice, too. If you're a professional photographer, however, don't expect to see true-to-life colors.
Apple Watch Battery Life
The battery in Apple Watch is supposed to get you through the day on a single charge, and that's what I experienced—with plenty of breathing room to spare. I typically ended the day with over 40 percent charge left, and never dropped below 30 percent except for the day I intentionally ran the battery into the ground so I could run through a complete charge cycle.
My typical day included several Glances for OmniFocus and Activity, notifications from (and sometimes responding to) text messages, Dark Sky, Hooks, Slack, and Withings Home, tracking workouts, using the Remote app to control Apple TV, using Maps for directions, buying drinks at Starbucks via Passbook, using Apple Pay, and checking the time.
I'm not worried about battery life because Apple Watch seems to be able to get through the day easily, and I don't want to wear my watch to bed. It charges overnight and is ready to go when I sit down at my desk in the morning.
Apple Watch Bands
Apple made customizing the look of Apple Watch easy by offering a line of bands in various styles. They range from a rubber-like sport band to leather to metal, and all look great.
The release mechanism for swapping out the bands is easy to use, but there isn't any chance of your watch accidentally coming loose. Apple's lugs hold the band firmly to your watch and it takes a little bit of force—but not too much— to slide a band free.
I'm using the the plastic-like band that ships with the Apple Watch Sport, or in Apple's parlance, the high-performance fluoroelastomer band. Star Trek technobabble aside, this is the most comfortable plastic, rubber, or vinyl band I've ever tried. Compared to the bands on many of the wrist top fitness trackers I've tried, Apple's feels like luxury.
Apple's other bands are equally impressive, too. The Milanese Loop band feels like some kind of magical fabric the Elves would give to Frodo on his quest to Mount Doom in Mordor, and the Leather Loop band might as well be of magical origin, too. My only disappointment is that the Leather Loop band is available only for the 42mm Apple Watch models, so I can't get one for myself.
The prices for Apple's bands will give some consumers pause, although they seem fairly reasonable compared to quality bands for high end watches. The fluoroelastomer costs $49, or for $149 you can get the Milanese Loop, Classic Buckle, or Leather Loop. The Modern Buckle band costs $249, and the Link Braclet costs $449.
If those prices are all too steep for you, just be patient. Apple is letting other companies make Apple Watch-compatible bands, so there will probably be something you like at a more affordable price soon.
Next up: Getting your Apple Watch up and running