Skip to content

The Apple Watch era, analysis

39 years ago, Apple was founded by madmen with a madness : to make technology closer to people away from laboratories. For the rest of us . This meant a big jump into the void for some minds of the time, and at that time the scientific-technical world itself didn’t understand very well what a “normal” person would need a computer for. The market did not find the usefulness of something it had never known, and they did not suspect all the way ahead. It was the time of the great egos : the end of the war in the middle of the 20th century placed society in a point of technological vanity that in many cases, despised its utilities for everyday life.

But it wasn’t like that.

The Apple Watch era, analysis
The Apple Watch era, analysis

Perhaps Apple and some other geniuses of the time – residents of many visions of the future – understood that the tools that technology brings us are not destiny, but the means to manage to develop ourselves. They begin by not being necessary until they become indispensable, and we move on to the next change. It is a cycle that is always repeated. In many cases, it happens when because society – we – have a certain time to adapt to something until the possibilities arrive. And so it has happened from the introduction of calculators to spatial exploration .

.

On the other hand, as a civilization we have an incredible capacity to draw the future . We have been doing it precisely since the beginning of the 20th century, when everything was against a world more concerned with survival, than with thinking one hundred years ahead. However, as if it were a collective therapy , the golden age of science fiction in films, series and books was born, being – for me – the substratum of all the surprises we are lucky enough to live today.

Science fiction anticipated us with intelligent clocks

We were able to overtake the flat TVs that seemed to us only pictures hanging on the walls, notebooks that magically showed interfaces and controls, mobiles where we could see other people… and clocks that could do incredible things . Today, we are going to live together the arrival of a new device that perhaps is the preview of something that goes much further than the object itself, and with which Apple wants to give us its particular welcome to the future .

Contents of the Apple Watch box

The box this time moves away from minimalism in materials from any other Apple device we know. Over the years, the boxes of each product have been thinned down to almost mimic the physical dimensions of what they contain. However, the approach for the clock , in its “Watch” version, is slightly different.

The first thing we find when we open the box is another small plastic container , with the little apple stamped right in the middle. It opens like a small chest and there we have the clock. It is very similar to the watch boxes that we can find in any jewelry store, and obviously, it is not made like this at random.

Below this container, all the device documentation , the typical minimal step-by-step guide we need to move around the interface and a basic handling of the physical buttons. The introduction of Force Touch and the use of gestures make this triptych useful as a starting point, since it is probably the first time we have an operating system of this complexity on our wrist.

The whole process of pairing with the iPhone is explained while we are doing the configuration process. In addition, important data will be extracted from our iCloud account and phone information, so customizations are minimal on a first contact . Eduardo showed us very well in our first contact:

The charger is basically the typical Apple USB cable with one end terminated on a small circular magnetic base . Physically, it stands out because of its enormous length, perhaps thinking of using it in combination with charging bases where the cable can be picked up, or to make it more comfortable when charging it on the bedside table.

For the analysis, we also used the watch with a sports strap, the black model. The case in this case is thinner and includes the strap in all the available sizes : one part with the rivet to hold it and another part with two straps, one in size SM and one in size LXL, so that we can use the one that fits our wrist the best.

This is physically the case

Apple opted for a square body instead of the circular one typical of many clocks (and some smart clocks) on the market. In terms of usage, it is more comfortable to view information on such a screen, since data and applications – as well as users – are already accustomed to working with screens of this format.

If something stands out in the Apple Watch is the incredible quality of its materials and construction . No plastic aspects or materials imitating better ones: the model analyzed is made of stainless steel alloy 361 , which has a high resistance to corrosion. Apple offers it in two colors, silver or space black, being this last one the most differentiating of the range since it has a darker body that gives rise to more combinations.

Apple has managed to concentrate hardware that will delight technophiles and quality design that will appeal to fashion lovers

The construction is impeccable, without a doubt. If we review the materials with which Apple has also built the other straps, we even find Vectran fabric – used by NASA in the airbags of the Mars Rover probe – to cover the interior of the leather strap with buckle. Each of the 20 models in this first collection is conceived – and designed – not only as a high-tech item, but also as a piece of clothing . This intersection between both worlds is one of the strengths that makes the Apple Watch attractive, and which Apple has been able to identify very well.

In case you are wondering, it has a water resistance level of IPX7 , which allows us to have the watch submerged up to one meter under water for half an hour. Of course, it is also protected against sweat or rain and although it is not recommended for swimming, many users have been using it for this purpose without any problems.

Retina display is identical to iPhone 6

The screen, as in all the latest Apple devices, is the great protagonist. It has a Retina screen virtually identical to that of the iPhone 6 , with 322 pixels per inch and an impressive ease of vision and quality. Not for nothing has it been rated as the best screen in a smart watch, and if you doubt it, it’s something Apple has put a lot of effort into: leaving absolutely nothing to chance, and making sure that every point of its new product stands out in terms of quality.

Straps

A watch is a different device from other mobile products: in others, the accessories are used to reinforce , care for or change the appearance of the product itself. In a watch, the strap should not be considered as an accessory because it is part of the main body, but for practical purposes and possibilities it is.

Apple has seen that such an important point could not be neglected with its watch, and has enhanced the physical customization with a variety of models that combine one of the three bodies ( anodized aluminum, stainless steel and luxury materials such as gold or silver ) with a variety of strap models that completely change their appearance.

Apple has understood very well that customization with accessories can be a great asset in the Apple Watch

To do this, he has hit the bullseye with two keys: make sure that all the straps are compatible between all the body models ( always making sure that they belong to the correct size with the same one, 38 or 42mm ), and that they are extremely easy to change . Thus, we can vary the look, or prepare our Apple Watch for a training session simply by pressing two anchor buttons and sliding it with our fingers without using any tools. The easy change of strap on the Apple Watch makes it a sports watch in seconds

The inclusion of a hidden port under the belt gives us great possibilities for expansion

The straps are going to be one of the great successes within the accessory market for the watch. We can already find in the market straps of third brands that bring even more possibilities to our customization needs. And that’s just the beginning: Apple has prepared something else with the inclusion of a secret port that can charge the device and perhaps, bring another step in the intelligent integration of it with the watch. Straps with batteries or new sensors, perhaps? I don’t think the idea of a strap with GPS to extend the features of this model in the future, for example, is out of the question.

Comfort of use

The Apple Watch is the company’s first “wearable” device. That’s why the comfort factor is something to keep in mind , and as I said, it starts with solid construction and quality materials. The shape of the watch and the weight is the next thing we have to consider: the first photos we could see of the watch showed that the sensor zone “bulges” a little bit the zone below, since it has to be in contact with our skin. This is not noticeable once it is worn and it is perfectly comfortable to wear.

The Apple Watch is a lightweight and comfortable watch to wear, even while playing sports

The weight is also not relevant: I have worn heavier and lighter watches, and it is not difficult for me to wear the Apple Watch in my daily life, or even while doing sports. The big advantage of a device that is worn is that – if it is not uncomfortable, or heavy – we quickly wear it without notice. The straps also help a lot with this comfort, especially the great adaptability they have to different types of wrist, thanks to the removable links per button – without tools – of the stainless steel strap, or the comfortable system by which the strap passes under itself so that no fastening points are needed on it.

Thickness is also something that in photographs seems more than what I see live – and much more so – is. On the wrist it doesn’t give a sensation of something excessively big ( and I’m talking about the 42mm model ), although I don’t doubt that a reduction of thickness would be a good idea. The size of the sphere is already a matter of personal taste, I recommend that you go to an Apple Store and try out the different models until you find your own.

How long does the battery last?

One of the big questions – and the one that raised the most controversy – was his battery life. With cell phones we have already passed that point where we have to charge the device every few days, but we are not used to doing it with just any clock. If you are a user of other smart watches before having a Watch ( the Pebble, in my case ), this will not be a problem for you.

The battery can last us more than a day, but we will inevitably have to charge it every night

The battery, lasts about one day using it without disconnecting any sensor or giving up anything ( approximately, always depending on how active and the use. It should not be forgotten that it is a very personal device ). Notifications, applications, some calls, and show it to whoever approaches you to see it by curiosity . If we use it for sport, the battery consumption is higher during that time, since the heart rate sensor makes measurements every five seconds – instead of every hour or so in normal mode – dropping a couple of hours more if we use it for sport. The leds of the heart rate sensor of the Apple Watch, in operation

Obviously, it is a device designed to be charged every night , so we prepare it to face another full day the next day. This implies that we will have to take the magnetic charger wherever we go, or use the energy saving mode that we will talk about now. The charger is designed to be used in the most comfortable way possible, it uses the induction charge to anchor the watch by means of magnetism, which we can move and use without it being disconnected. It is, in many aspects, a MagSafe of new generation .

Apple – yet – has not released any official charging base, but has created a cable much longer than usual , so there are already numerous bases on the market that pick up the cable and leave the magnetic connector just so we only have to let the clock rest.

The power saving mode is also a good way to speed up those last few drops of charge , as it turns off all the sensors and connectivity of the clock at once, making it a normal clock . We can activate it again when we need it, since we have it quite close at hand in the “Views” section. In this mode, the clock can last up to one more day, depending on the load it has. We can also choose to turn off the heart rate sensor, or disconnect those features that we are not going to use.

This is how it is used

One of the best tips for a new Apple Watch user , is not to think of it as an iPhone. The function is completely different and the way it is used changes with respect to the cell phone. The first thing we see when we activate it is the sphere, and from it we can go to the notification zone ( by sliding up and down ), or to the “Snapshot” zone – a sort of lightweight widgets – by sliding up and down.

If we click on the Digital Crown , we will go to the applications area, where we can launch some of them, or enlarge the view by rolling the crown. To return to the dial, we can click again on the crown, which also serves as a quick changer between where we are and the last open application.

The bottom button on the clock will take you to the speed dial . From here we can send a message ( via iMessage ), a heartbeat, drawing or emoticon, or call. The call will be answered directly on the clock, thanks to the built-in microphone and speaker, or on the phone if we unlock it ( thanks to Handoff ).

Force Touch technology is going to be the next big revolution in Apple devices

A new point to consider is the use of Force Touch : something we already tried, and we loved it on the new 13″ MacBook Pro and on the last MacBook launched by Apple this 2015. This is a pressure sensor on the screen that, combined with a haptic processor , gives us back a vibration that emulates a click when pressed hard. This is used as a “right button” in applications: it gives us access to common features, such as deleting items, stopping or pausing training, reloading a screen…

Force Touch in the Apple Watch seems to me a great idea , and it is really comfortable and intuitive to adapt to this new way of interacting with the operating system. So much so, that I’ve tried Force Touch on the screen of my iPhone 6 Plus. Everything will come.

Turning the screen off and on is something I was worried about after seeing the launch keynote. On a clock, you expect immediacy when you look at it, and the Apple Watch is still a mini-mobile . It seems that Apple has also understood the importance of this and, by raising the wrist, the information is there. It can also be accessed by clicking on it. In any case, it hasn’t turned out to be – with day-to-day use – something that impacts the usage experience.

Using the Apple Watch as a standalone device

One of the most frequent doubts about the new Apple clock is its ability to be independent from the phone . It is not a completely autonomous device, since it needs the iPhone to connect to the Internet and have access to its GPS, for example, in order to use that information.

The inclusion of a GPS chip of its own in the Apple Watch would have been a big hit on the table by Apple , as it would round off a great first version. Nowadays, with devices like the iPhone 6 Plus with five and a half inches, it is difficult to use them in combination while training, for example running, although perhaps it would have increased – even more – the price of a device like this first generation.

The Apple Watch is a great sports tool, but it lacks the detail level of other applications on the market, something that will change with watchOS 2

The Apple Watch can be a good companion for sports activities without the iPhone , only that we would lose the geolocation and mapping data. In fact, with the current version of the operating system, we don’t lose much either, since the “Training” application doesn’t offer us a detailed view of our race route, for example, as applications like Nike Plus or Runkeeper do. The problem is that these last two applications are not native ( at least until watchOS 2 ) so without the iPhone we can not use them on the clock.

With the “Training” application we can go out and do sports, working perfectly. This application has things that I liked very much, for example the differentiation of sports that calibrates as the clock processes the parameters to adapt to one activity or another. However, is a very fair application for what the market offers right now.

For example, the screens during the exercise can be customized , it is true, but only by alternating between two or three possibilities ( beats per minute, calories, time spent, etc.. ). Missing in the “Static bike” activity ( among others, for example ) shows the percentage of the user’s maximum heart rate. Or be able to customize not only types of data but where I want it to appear on the screen.

Another thing to be improved by this application is the data exploitation . With the Apple Watch we have a fantastic device to quantify ourselves but then that data is diluted showing only basic data such as calories, distance traveled, etc.. Here would also come into play an improvement in the management application for the iPhone ( which we will talk about next ), which could show that detailed information to the maximum on the screen of our phone.

The connection by Bluetooth with other devices (including sanitary) is a complete success

Now something that I liked very much, without losing the perspective of the independence of the iPhone that we were talking about: it is possible to connect the watch directly to external Bluetooth devices . Speakers, headphones, heart sensors . In addition, we can download music directly from our iPhone to the watch, so if we have a wireless headset we can listen to the songs directly from our wrist without having an iPhone nearby. Even we can synchronize lists of Apple Music on the clock itself.

It is possible to download in the Apple Watch even content from Apple Music that we can then listen from it without the need for iPhone or Internet connection

This is the most common use, but there are many more that – in the future – will improve the features of the watch a lot. For example, connect new heart sensors ( or other ), home automation sensors – watch out for this – or any device that uses the Apple Watch as a control or management platform. The possibilities are incredible here, and we’re only looking at them.

watchOS 1.0.1, first contact

With the Apple Watch also we release a third new operating system within the company: watchOS . Understood as a minimized version of iOS, specialized for the hardware features of the watch, watchOS has its own development cycle . It’s also a curious moment within the Apple roadmap, as this operating system is running on a device that usually does not have . That is, it is not an evolution of a system from a smartphone to an iPhone, as happened in 2007 with iPhone OS ( would later become iOS ). It is a new approach as we are talking about a wearable object, with its own characteristics.

Apple has created the hardware and software in the Watch so that they are familiar to any iPhone user

As I told you in the use of the Apple Watch, the company knew perfectly well that an operating system for a clock would have drawbacks a priori, and so provided it with familiar elements : the Digital Crown is a “Home” button, the side button is the on/off button. And the interface has very defined transitions between the spheres, the mosaic of applications and notifications or views. It does not take long to understand the concepts and browser with the Apple Watch as we do today with any iPhone.

An important factor that I would like to mention in this analysis of the first Apple Watch ( to which we will return many times in the coming years ), are the enormous possibilities of interaction that could be transmitted between iOS, OS X and watchOS . With iOS, Apple learned many new concepts to apply to OS X that it would not have been able to understand otherwise, and I am sure that with watchOS and its new user experiences, the same thing will happen. Starting with Force Touch , a magnificent system that brings new possibilities to touch screens or touch surfaces, in fact, as we saw with the new 13″ MacBook Pro ), understood as a new evolution of the “right button” and providing new actions where before it was complicated to obtain them, in a completely intuitive way for the user.

Secondary actions when pressing with Force Touch in the Music application

In general terms Apple has solved and noted how to achieve a cohesive and coherent system , without losing the immediacy and speed that requires an object like a “clock”, which as I said is completely different from the traditional paradigms seen in desktop and mobile. And for this, not only has it been based on a tactile interface ( like the competition ) it has also added a system known as the Digital Crown, updated and working in the way that is most useful in an operating system. It’s our home button, our browser for applications and interface and our reference point for going backwards or quickly switching between applications ( implementing even “double clicking” for it ).

The dials in the Apple Watch are too few and far between: Apple should consider creating a “Watchface Store” where users can create their own. Perhaps one is missing more customization at the software level , especially when it comes to customizing the dials – the visible face of the watch – allowing even developers to create their own, as well as applications. An “App Store of dials” would be a great idea, always adjusted to the company’s design lines, since people can contribute with fantastic ideas that would revitalize the clock even more. With watchOS 2 , we can further customize some dials by adding information directly from the applications, which seems to me a step in the right direction.

Apple’s approach to this product works: quality hardware and software that does what it promises, although watchOS 2 promises more surprises

I was concerned about the problems that a first system could have along with a first version of a hardware, but it seems that the experience of the first iPhone and prefer a more focused approach to making things work well, even if we miss others, is working. The third party native applications and their full access to the hardware will come with watchOS 2 without the need to launch a new model of clock, which tells us that this same hardware that we have on our wrists is going to give us many more surprises without running risks in performance that will ultimately affect the user experience. And I think it’s a great idea because with watchOS 2 they show that they take the firm steps that a first version of a device needs.

The iPhone application that manages the Apple Watch

An important part of the clock lives on the iPhone: in the application that manages it . This is the application that appeared to us all in iOS 8.3, the one that performs the pairing and manages all the parameters that configure its operation. It is important to know it because from it we can even change the layout of the applications in the clock mosaic ( something that we can also do from it, of course ).

The settings are largely used to customize each element as we want to use it in the clock , duplicating the functionality of the iPhone. If this duplication is activated, the selected option will communicate with the phone and vice versa, and changes anywhere will be reflected on both devices. For example, if we activate “Duplicate iPhone” in Airplane Mode, when we activate it on the clock it will also be activated on the phone, and if we deactivate it on the phone, it will be deactivated on the clock as well.

We can customize how the Apple Watch works down to the last detail, so that it works for us, not interrupting us

An important section within the application is the notification management . Similar to how we do it on the phone itself, we can activate or deactivate it per application if we want to receive them on the clock. Even some extra customization, for example in Activity we can activate the “Wake up reminders”, but remove the “Progress updates”. The applications with extra customization are the native ones of the clock , which nowadays – in watchOS 1.0 – are only brought by the operating system. In the Views section we will find those applications installed on the clock that can use these little widgets.

Taking into account that the clock is something that we will always have very much in sight, Apple offers us two options to increase our privacy : One, display a red notification point at the top of the dial, which will alert us that we have a notification at least pending to read. Another, to convert the notifications into private ones : they will only appear when the notification is clicked. We can also activate a discreet special vibration that anticipates that a notification will arrive. Here, again the amazing Taptic Engine helps a lot, as it is not a usual vibration of the device, but transmitted to us.

The “General” section contains the typical configuration and information similar to what we find on an iPhone, and we can activate or deactivate the wrist detection ( choosing what we want to see when the screen is activated, the clock face or the last screen that was displayed ), handoff, software updates… One of the interesting options is that we can mute the clock by covering the screen with our hand for three seconds, when a warning is received.

The application installation is done from the iPhone . A list of all the applications installed on the phone that have a version for the Apple Watch will appear, and we can decide – for each one of them – if we want it on the watch, or not. As you can see, this small manager is the control center of our Watch , and although it is simple to use, I would like it to be organized and used better.

The application that manages the Apple Watch in iOS should be improved and specialized in being useful and comfortable

For example, I can’t make sense of the Browse, Highlight or Search tabs , when they basically show us the content of the Watch’s Apple website or applications. A user already knows where all that is, perhaps they could have taken advantage of these tabs to have more order in the manager. Apple can do much better with this app, I trust that future updates ( perhaps in the face of watchOS 2.0 ) will improve the approach with this iPhone management application.

This is how it is with the Apple Watch

It’s funny, but living with an Apple Watch has reminded me in many ways of when I had my first iPhone in 2007, but with an important difference: the iPhone was a new smartphone evolving a concept that had been stagnant for years, and the Apple Watch is an everyday object that has become something else . Even for those of us who have been using smart watches for years, in my case the well-known Pebble.

The Apple Watch starts from an important premise: in its first version it bets on being a secondary screen of phone applications, counting on native applications that reinforce the idea of a quantifying and sports device . Therefore, from the first moment we wear it, it will help us to be more active: the heart sensor incorporated in an almost invisible way when we put it on is a useful ally to know when we need an extra motivation to move, to get up or to know exactly the calories we consume in an activity.

There is no a typical use of the Apple Watch . The most interesting thing about a device as personal as this one, is to allow it to adapt to our rhythm of life. It is not an indispensable object ( today, we will come back to this article in a few years ) but when you learn to integrate it into your life, the possibilities and the capacity to help you in your daily life makes it worthwhile. In next articles I will tell you everything I have discovered that the Apple Watch can do for us, with applications or by combining incredible services.

As second screen of the iPhone and its applications is a fantastic device . We don’t need to take the phone out of our pockets, bags or briefcases, and we can discreetly check if we have something urgent to attend to without having to keep an eye on the iPhone. The interactive notifications help a lot to launch quick answers or to interact with the applications in a simple and direct way, much more comfortable than the way we do it with the cell phone ( taking it out of our pocket, unlocking it, entering the app … ). In the clock is a turn of the wrist and press the button of the notification.

The intensity d