Apple Watch review and guide

Carlton Boyce / 06 April 2016

Is this smartwatch worth its hefty price tag? Carlton Boyce weighs up the Apple Watch's features and limitations.



When Apple first launched the iPad, I wasn’t convinced; I already had a MacPro, a MacBook Pro, an iPod, and an iPhone and didn’t think there was room in my life for another Mac product, especially one for which no clear purpose seemed to exist.

Of course, I was wrong. No one is better than Apple at selling you something you didn’t realise you needed.

I succumbed to the iPad and found it indispensable for reading Kindle books, watching videos on YouTube, editing photos, keeping up to date on social media, emailing, etc.

So, proving that even I can learn from my mistakes, I was unusually reserved in my judgement of the Apple Watch. 

I couldn’t quite see why anyone would bother buying one but now that it’s been about for a little while I can report that, well, shall we take a look at it together so you can make your own mind up?

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What is it?

The Apple Watch is a smartwatch that pairs with your iPhone (iPhone 5 or later, running iOS 9 or newer), allowing you to function some of your phone’s apps through a wristwatch.

It also has fitness tracking apps as standard and Apple says it is “splash- and water-resistant but not waterproof”, claiming that it can be worn in the shower but not the swimming pool. 

It’s tough too, making it the perfect watch to wear while you are playing sports or indulging in other outdoor activities, like walking, running, and cycling.

It comes in a variety of styles and two different screen sizes: 38mm and 42mm. It is, as you might expect, extraordinarily stylish and is slightly heavier than the average digital watch.

There is a wide range of different straps available too and changing them is a simple job that doesn’t require any tools, so it’s easy to customize your watch or co-ordinate it with your outfit.

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What does it do?

Probably the easiest way to think of it is as a mini-iPhone; you can leave your ‘real’ iPhone buried in a handbag or coat pocket and read emails, make phone calls, or be alerted to calendar events via your Apple Watch.

You swipe the touchscreen to move through your most commonly used apps and tap the screen to enter them. The touchscreen is a bit small and fiddly but selecting small icons on the screen is still achievable, even if you have thick fingers. However, scrolling through in this way does, of course, cover the screen making it impossible to read things like text messages.

Enter the Digital Crown (a crown or winder on the side of the watch). This does much the same job as the touchscreen but allows you to read what’s displayed at the same time. It also works better than the touchscreen to make fine adjustments to settings or to zoom into photographs. It also lets you navigate quickly back to the home screen.

Oh, and it shows the time too. You can customize the watch face to show the information that is important to you but, in the same way as the iPhone is a better computer than it is a phone, the Apple Watch is a better iPhone than it is a watch.

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Fitness tracking

The Apple Watch also tracks your activity levels in the same way as the later iPhones do but it adds a heartbeat function, which could be useful as a training aid – or a warning that you are overdoing things and should slow down a little…

Once you’ve input your personal details (and you only have to do this once) it measures your activity and displays three motivational rings on the display: to undertake some brisk activity, like walking for 30 minutes a day; stand for at least one minute in every hour; and hit your personal calorie burn goal. The three rings monitor your progress, enabling you to check whether you’ve hit your target throughout the day.

Having something that records your goals and progress towards them acts as a pretty effective motivator: I’ve taken walks just to make sure my daily average doesn’t drop too much after I’ve spent a day sitting down behind the keyboard.

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What doesn’t it do?

Well, it’s not a standalone replacement for your iPhone as it relays information to and from it. Nor does it have GPS or a keyboard. But really, it’s too small to type on anyway.

Anything else?

Some owners report that being able to pay for shopping with Apple Pay is far more useful than you might imagine, while others say that using the Apple Watch to check-in at places like airports is a similarly under-rated benefit.

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Drawbacks

Users report that it can be a bit slower to use than your iPhone and, like your iPhone, you’ll need to recharge it every day.

Making and receiving phone calls can be a bit awkward. The built-in speaker works well in relatively quiet environments like the car or office, but when the ambient noise levels are relatively high, you’ll find yourself having to juggle it between your ear and mouth. This is not a good look and will have bystanders wondering if you are alright.

Price

Prices for the Apple Watch start at around £259, rising to over £1,000 for the Hermès edition - or £13,500 if you insist on having one with an 18-carat gold case.

Verdict

If you are a fan of Apple products then the Apple Watch is an unmissable addition to the range. It’s even cleverer than you’d expect it to be, and more motivational than Mr Motivator after a double espresso.

Click here to browse the selection of Apple Watches on Amazon.

For more tips and useful information, browse our technology articles.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.