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Three days with the Apple Watch: What we think of the newest Apple device

Today the editors of Apple World Today — or should we call it Apple Watch Today? — are sharing their thoughts after three days of living with Apple’s most personal device ever. If you also have a Watch and wish to share your thoughts or have any questions about the experience of using one, please let us know in the comments.

Steve Sande

Lucky me, living in the Western U.S. I somehow got my Apple Watch before the rest of the crew and was able to do both an unboxing video and show how the pairing process looks from the standpoint of the iPhone

As fate would have it, the arrival of the Apple Watch coincided with a very busy and stressful time in my life; my 86-year-old father ended up in the hospital with neuropathy due to worsening diabetes. Between making sure his stay in the hospital is a short one before going into rehabilitation near me, moving my mother in with my wife and I, and talking with various healthcare providers, things have been hectic. Fortunately, the Watch has kept me on top of things as I’ve been running around town. Here are some observations about the Watch from the first three days.

I am amazed at how comfortable the Watch really is. I got the 42mm aluminum space gray model with a black band, and I can barely tell that I have it on. The first time I got a haptic “tap” on my wrist, I basically said WOW! It’s a unique feeling, both light enough to not be annoying like the buzzing of a phone, but hard enough to get your attention.

I found that I had to turn down the volume on the audible alarm, as it was turned all the way up by default. It’s quite loud even with the volume down. The display on the Watch is really beyond comparison; it’s beautiful, detailed, and colorful. I’m quite impressed with the touch controls and Force Touch. Doing a “hard push” on the screen provides that feeling that you’re actually pushing into the screen, which is a wonderful way of letting you know that things are working the way you want them to.

The Activity app is actually working quite well for me. I set it up to track calories based on a fairly sedentary lifestyle, and I like being able to see where I am in terms of moving around and also standing instead of sitting all the time. The “workout” circle of the app indicator usually doesn’t move too far for me, as I don’t really do dedicated exercising. 

One of my favorite uses so far of the Watch is checking on how my Colorado Rockies are doing through the MLB At Bat app. I don’t really care how other teams are doing, so during games I just get notifications of lead changes and the final score. If something interesting is happening, I can get a play-by-play of what’s going on. I think this is a much better way to enjoy knowing what’s going on with my baseball team at a glance instead of having to pull out my iPhone and scroll through pages of the iPhone app.

Another thing that amazed me: last night, we had a Rockies game on our schedule (we couldn’t attend due to the situation with my Dad). The Maps app on my Watch showed at a glance the directions from where we were to the ballpark, along with an estimate on how long it would take to drive there with traffic. Very cool, and I plan on adding more location information to Calendar events in order to take advantage of that feature.

Battery life on my Watch has been much better than expected. So far I’ve never seen the Watch go below 50% of battery capacity. Likewise, connectivity with my iPhone has been better than expected. Only once did I have a situation that I didn’t think was that great — answering a phone call on the Watch in a very noisy place, and I could barely understand the person on the other end. 

That’s about it for me; I am really happy with the device and my wife is starting to take notice of what I’m using it for, so I won’t be surprised if there are two Watches in this house soon.

Dave Caolo

If the iPhone is Batman, the Apple Watch is Robin.

72 hours is not nearly enough time to determine what the Apple Watch is for, how it fits into my life and what the Watch experience will be like six months from now. Yet one role has become clear: it’s my iPhone’s sidekick, and a very effective one at that.

When the Watch was announced, I questioned its usefulness. “How hard is it to pull my iPhone from my pocket and look at the screen when I receive a notification?” I said. The answer is it’s not hard at all. It’s just that the Watch makes it so much easier and one-ups the iPhone by making me less annoying to others and more attentive to my environment. Here’s what I mean.

Scenario A, option 1

My kids and I are walking around town, visiting shops and what have you. My son is describing something in Minecraft — pressure plates and redstone — that I’m feigning interest in. I hear a familiar “Ding!” from my pocket, reach in and pull out my phone, stop paying attention to William entirely (something about “Mooshrooms”… I don’t know), stop walking as I don’t want to stride into anyone, read the notification and decide that isn’t anything I need to respond to, click the sleep/wake button, slide the iPhone back into my pocket, resume walking and say, “What?”, prompting William to start over.

Scenario A, option 2

We’re walking through town. I hear a “Ding!” from my Watch. I look at it, decide there’s nothing I need to do and put my arm back down. That whole process takes literally less than two seconds. I never break stride, never lose my place in the story and I’m “out” of what’s happening around me for an instant.

This is where the Watch has excelled: unobtrusively delivering information. Really, that’s what watches have always done. But the Apple Watch is a watch in the same way that the iPhone is a phone. Sure, the iPhone lets you place and receive phone calls, but really it’s a pocket-sized computer with a telephone app. Likewise, the Apple Watch displays the time, but that’s only part of the story. It’s a tiny computer whose impact I can’t predict after three days. Meanwhile, let’s talk about use.

The Watch is so comfortable I habituated to it right away. That’s saying something, as it’s the first watch I’ve ever owned. I have a 38mm Sport model, and I find very comfortable. The strap feels better than I expected. As the entry level model, I was expecting a slightly less than stellar feel, but that’s not the case. Additionally, the device itself is a lot less bulky than I expected, which is good. I’m very happy with the 38mm size as I feel it’s a perfect fit; the 42mm simply would have been too big for my wrist.

It feels substantial, which isn’t surprising for an Apple product. The digital crown has that “heavy” feel that comes with solid manufacturing. Overall the fit and finish is top notch and it’s every bit a high quality item.

I’ve learned a few other things after wearing the Apple Watch for three days. For example, its “off” most of the time. Its display wakes up when you lift your wrist to look at it, but otherwise the Watch is a shiny, black piece of jewelry. It’s always doing something — noting my location, monitoring my physical activity, communicating with my iPhone — but its screen only lights up when I ask it to. Even incoming notifications don’t illuminate the screen unless I lift my arm. If I hear a sound and feel the tap but don’t raise my arm, the Watch’s screen stays dark.

Speaking of that tap.

The subtle tap that the Watch’s Taptic Engine provides is really something the first time you experience it. It’s pronounced enough to get your attention but just so. It’s not annoying or overpowered at all. It’s hard to articulate just what it feels like but it’s in no way unpleasant. Imagine a gentle thump from a tiny, velvet-covered ball-peen hammer. Like something a Christmas elf would use.

It’s quite useful, too. Often times I’m in an environment that’s noisy enough to overpower an audible alert. The tap takes care of that quite effectively.

I’ve also grown to love texting via Apple Watch. It’s quite fun to get notifications on the device, and the canned replies like “Yes”, “No”, “Thanks”, “Talk later” and so on (you can customize these, too) are often adequate responses. This has already saved me a lot of time. Texting on the Apple Watch is my favorite feature so far.

Speaking of apps, so far I’m not inspired by what’s available from third-party developers. That’s not a condemnation, as most of them haven’t had a Watch on hand for testing, etc. Some notable exceptions are Twitterrific, which manages to present the information I want while maintaining the look and feel of its iOS counterpart, and CARROT Weather, which displays forecasts and sarcasm clearly and concisely (thought it doesn’t call me “meatbag”). Slack and Deliveries are also nice on the tiny device.

Lastly, the battery life is better than expected. As I’m typing this I’ve had my Watch on my wrist for 15 hours and the battery is at 29%. That’s typical of what I’ve been seeing. I do charge it every night.

What Apple hasn’t done here is try to cram a entire smartphone onto your wrist. Instead, it has made a capable, smart and useful companion.

Batman and Robin.

Kelly Hodgkins

After three days with the Apple Watch Sport, here is what I would say about the device. First, the fit is superb and far exceeds my expectations. I wear the Watch and forget it is on my wrist until I feel a tap or hear a chime. It’s lightweight and doesn’t catch on my clothes like the Pebble and Jawbone Up did when I wore those devices.

My only gripe is the Sport band. It has a nice smooth and comfortable feel once you get it clipped into place, but I dread putting it back on each morning. The band clips just fine, but it pinches my skin when I slide the excess band into appointed storage slot. Battery life lasts a day — I started each day at 6AM with a full charge and ended each day at 11PM with less than 5 percent on the meter.

Second, it is obvious from all the different settings and detailed features that Apple has spent a lot of time and effort in developing this device. I am still left amazed at all the features and customizations available. Don’t like that the Watch opens to the face when you raise your arm? Boom, you can change that. Find the text to be too small or too big for your comfortable level? No worries, you can change that, too.

Third, the Apple Watch is a breeze to use. Though there is a learning curve with an new device, the Watch was not as complicated as I expected. Some reviewers bemoaned the “overly complicated UI” that took days to learn, but that was not my experience. The first day was bit confusing, but by day two, I had mastered 95% of the available interactions. Apple has a great online guide that helps immensely with using the Watch.

Overall, the Watch is an amazing device, but it is not for everyone. While my colleagues are very pleased, I am looking hard at my usage to see if I would be better served with a quality fitness tracker instead of the Watch. The verdict is still out and only additional time with device will let me know if it becomes an integral part of my routine or a $350 paper weight for my wrist.

That being said, if you are interested in a smartwatch, then you should not hesitate to buy the Watch. Though it doesn’t do everything, I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the quality of the Watch and all the features Apple has managed to pack into this device. In my opinion, the $349 Sport Watch is a great value for those looking to extend their iPhone to their wrist.

Steve Sande
the authorSteve Sande
Steve is the founder and former publisher of Apple World Today and has authored a number of books about Apple products. He's an avid photographer, an FAA-licensed drone pilot, and a really bad guitarist. Steve and his wife Barb love to travel everywhere!