Tech Review: Apple Watch
May 16th, 2015
Ever since I started wearing my new Apple Watch Sport band, I’ve noticed that practically everyone I encounter has something to say about it. With its smooth edges, pistachio-green band, and a watch face that looks like a glowing gem, my Apple Watch has been an object of intrigue, bewilderment, and quite possibly envy. The most common question people have asked me is, “Why would anyone need one of these?” In this post, I hope to enlighten people on why I am the proud owner of one of these high-tech baubles.
The Activity App
By itself, the Activity app makes the Apple Watch worthwhile. Throughout the day, the Activity App assesses the user’s cumulative physical activity using the watch’s built-in gyroscope, accelerometer, and an LED heart rate detector. The app communicates with the user through gentle “taps” and messages, reminding the user to stand up and move around after sitting for a while and congratulating any efforts made towards meeting physical activity goals.
Because of the Activity app, exercise feels like something I can easily and effortlessly insert into my day, whether I’m walking from the parking lot to grocery store or doing a workout at the gym. What I love about the Activity app is that it makes exercise seem a lot more doable and a lot less overwhelming. Rather than making exercise an “all or nothing” affair, the Activity app encourages a balanced lifestyle and flexible approach to fitness.
What makes the Activity app particularly user-friendly is its beautiful and simple interface. The Activity app can be located on the home screen of the watch as an icon resembling a target. At a glance, the three circles inside the icon fill up as the user exercises throughout the day. This is a handy snapshot that can give users a quick overview of their activity levels. For a more detailed assessment, simply tap on the icon to open up the Activity app’s full interface.
The full interface consists of three circular “tracks” that fill up in a clockwise direction. At the start of each day, the tracks start off as empty. Throughout the day, users are encouraged to make these tracks fill up. One revolution around a track can be used to represent daily movement goals. It’s also possible to make multiple revolutions and earn special achievements for going the extra mile.
The outermost pink tack represents calories burned during physical activity. Caloric output is based on the wearer’s height, weight, age, and sex. The green track in the middle keeps track of time spent exercising. Finally, the innermost blue track represents the number of hours in which the user stood up and moved around for at least one minute.
LED Heart Rate Sensor
One of the most ingenious aspects of the Apple Watch is the heart rate sensor. Using LEDs (light-emitting diodes), the watch sends light beams into the user’s skin, creating a profile of subcutaneous blood flow. The watch is able to compute the user’s heartbeats per minute in just a few seconds.
The watch takes a reading of the user’s heartbeat at frequent intervals throughout the day. Whenever the Apple Watch connects with the iPhone, it automatically transmits all the heart rate and activity data to the phone. This data is then recorded into the Health app on the iPhone. Without any effort on my part, my watch and phone have created a comprehensive profile of my heart rate and exercise stats over time!
At any time, I can check my heart rate using the Heart Rate Glance feature of the watch. I’ve found the Heart Rate Glance feature especially useful in learning how to maintain a target heart rate during workouts. As I walk or run, I can easily get objective feedback about how hard my body is working so that I can make adjustments as needed.
For friends that also own Apple Watches, it can be fun and cute to send each other heartbeats. On the Digital Touch screen, I can scroll through my (literal) circle of friends and send any one of them finger doodles, or if I press the screen in just the right way, I can send heartbeats. The heartbeats are visually represented as glowing, pulsating blobs with the distinctive “thump thump” patterns of the actual organ. I can also feel the heartbeats actually thumping through haptic feedback!
Since heartbeats are personal and often used to symbolize love, sharing heartbeats across space and time can be quite romantic! Although nothing (yet) compares to an actual hug, sending heartbeats is one of the most intimate things I’ve ever done through a gadget!
For those who own the iPhone 6, Apple Pay has revolutionized the way cash register transactions take place. Without swiping a credit card, users can pay by card indirectly using their phones. Like PayPal, Apple Pay acts as the middleman between buyer and seller, allowing the buyer to keep things like credit card numbers private. With the Apple Watch, Apple Pay is now more convenient than ever since now the user has less to do. I’ve tried out the Apple Pay watch feature a few times already, intriguing the cashiers. Although it takes a little practice to get the hang of Apple Pay, I can now pay for things faster than ever before.
Messaging and Notifications
Lastly, but not least, the Apple Watch has helped me stay up to date on all of my notifications. Every time I get a phone call, iMessage, Facebook message, or Mint alert, it shows up on my watch. (If I would rather not be disturbed, I can always silence the audio and haptic feedback).
While it’s not possible to have a normal back-and-forth text message conversation through the watch, it does come in handy for quick replies. I personally find the default responses too robotic for my taste. Thankfully, there’s a way to customize those defaults and make them feel more personal.
For those that have the money and the desire, an Apple Watch augments the iPhone experience. In particular, it gives users an honest window into their own day-to-day habits and heartbeats and it encourages healthy living. It makes Apple Pay even more convenient than ever. Finally, it has many little features that have the potential to make life easier for some and more cluttered for others. For those looking for a high-quality fitness monitor, I would wholeheartedly recommend the Apple Watch.