The options and availability for “wearable tech” have exploded in recent years, and are expanding every day, including watch-type products such as the Apple Watch, Fitbit, and Samsung watches. They are one more way we have become a net-connected society.
Watch products today can geolocate with GPS technology, monitor your heart rate, make and receive phone calls, and even pay for transactions with near-field communication (NFC) services such as Android Pay, Samsung Pay, and Apple Pay. Fitness trackers, such as those made by Fitbit and Garmin, range from basic models that only tell you the number of steps you’ve made, to those that monitor your pulse, track exercise, water consumption, and many other things.
The Apple Watch is one of the most popular wearable tech items, and like any product, it has some pros and cons, as I learned when I recently bought an Apple Watch Series 1. First and foremost, the watch only works with an iPhone 5 or higher, so you have to commit to owning both.
With the Apple Watch, you have some basic choices to make, about the series and size. I chose a Series 1, as the primary difference is that the Series 2 watch has the added features of GPS and being waterproof. Then you have the choice of a 38 mm or 42 mm sized watch. This decision is a personal one, depending on how large of a watch you want on your wrist.
The watch had enough charge out of the package to allow me to begin what I found to be a pretty straightforward set up process, including app setup, done primarily through the iPhone. It comes with some preloaded apps such as heart rate monitors and accelerometers, and during setup, it downloads all the apps from your iPhone that have an Apple Watch companion app.
A touch-enabled home screen gives you access to all the apps loaded on the watch. Learning to navigate the home screen had a learning curve, though now I find relatively it easy to use. I chose the 38 mm, because even though I am a rather big guy, I felt the 42 mm looked too big on my wrist. However, because of my big fingers, I regret not buying the 42 mm model, as I think it would’ve made the touch screen easier to use.
Apps on the watch are controlled primarily through the knob on the side, called the “crown,” which took a little bit of practice to get used to for navigation. An additional button on the side of the phone is also used to control various parts of the apps.
While many of the preloaded apps don’t require you to have the iPhone nearby in order to work, many of those loaded from my iPhone do. I have found however, that I can be quite far from the iPhone and still stay connected.
While I can wear the watch all day without it needing a charge, I would not be able to go two days without charging. It’s a good idea to buy an extra charging cord or two, for the office or to carry with you.
One drawback of the Apple Watch is its notification sounds, which are pretty basic: a ring for phone calls, and a ding for everything else. That means you have no idea whether the notification is for a text, email, or any other kind of notification, without scrolling through the watche’s list of notifications. Even worse, the watch disables all of notification sounds from your phone that you have likely customized to let you know the difference between them.
Overall I have been quite pleased with this purchase. At the end of the day however, when choosing wearable tech, it’s most important to be clear about what your priorities are for what the tech can do for you. That will help decide which product is the best fit.
John Redmond-Palmer can be reached at John@redpalmcomputing.com.