The hype about the new Apple Watch
BY SIMON BERGER
The Apple Watch is what Apple presents as its “most personal product” to date. It certainly is the first new product category to have been introduced since the iPad. To check out this watch, a classic product test would be possible but inappropriate. Because this is less about megahertz and working memory and more about design and functionality instead. After all, one only adorns oneself with a technology accessory when both heart and mind have been won over. We put it to the test.
Two sizes, three collections, six bracelets in different colours: in terms of customisable design alone, the new Apple Watch is far ahead. Furthermore, the watch’s functions can be adapted to individual needs. In my case for example, I chose the Apple Watch Sport with 42 mm width and a white bracelet. The first impression after unpacking: wow! The timepiece is finished very well and the bracelet made from fluoroelastomer feels very good – not like plastic at all.
Unlike a conventional watch, you cannot just buckle the Apple Watch around your wrist right after taking it out of its box. First, the device must be configured with the help of the iPhone. In order to do so, the timepiece is simply be paired with your mobile. Then you select the wrist on which you will wear the watch and choose which apps are to be installed on the watch as well as the phone. After this synchronisation, the device is immediately ready for use. It is wise however, to take a few moments to consider which apps shall be allowed to send notifications to this watch. The dedicated Apple Watch app helps with the configuration. Depending on the programme, you can either adopt the settings of your iPhone entirely or specify them differently. In my case, I set my iPhone to silent mode for messages or calls and disabled vibration. The same with the watch, which I configured so that it makes no sounds for incoming calls or new messages. Only an indication on the display will appear and the watch will inform me about the call or a message by giving haptic feedback. “Haptic” in this context means that you can feel a gentle throbbing. This vibration cannot be heard unlike a cell phone quivering on the table. This means, you are informed on incoming notifications in a very discreet manner. Apple calls this feature ‘Taptic Engine.’ It can also be employed to communicate with others wearing an Apple Watch.
Another form of communication via the Apple Watch is sending small drawings, so-called Scribbles. Apple summarises all this under ‘Digital Touch’. First, I thought this was little more than a gimmick. On closer inspection however, I realised that this feature can actually be quite useful, for example when shopping with my girlfriend: imagine her in the shoe shop while I am in an electronics store. As soon as she has found the shoes of her dreams, she can send me a tangible message via Watch. If I finish my shopping sooner, it is my turn to send her a signal. What might sound fairly banal is actually really fun – and it works.
The ‘Taptic Engine’ in addition to the ‘Digital Crown’ and the ‘Force Touch’ are one of the main unique selling points of the Apple Watch for me. By using the digital crown, one can zoom into the map application or scroll through lists from top to bottom and vice versa. This helps to avoid having fingers blocking the view on the small display. Force Touch can be imagined a bit like a right mouse button which you use to obtain additional context-sensitive controls. For example, you can “teach” the Apple Watch the difference between a light tap and more forceful pressure on the display.
My initial reason for acquiring an Apple Watch, however, was primarily for fitness tracking. Because it has a heart rate and an acceleration sensor. With these sensors, I can count my steps and measure the total activity of my body or the intensity of my workouts. In order to do so, I use two apps, ‘Activity’ and ‘Workout’. Activity records all movements I make during the day and displays them in three symbolic rings. The ring “Move” stands for the total consumption of calories burned actively. My target values are determined by the Apple Watch with reference to specific information such as age and gender. The rings “Training” and “Standing” reflect the time period during which I have been active. If you choose, the watch will inform you in regular intervals on current activity progress or remind you that it is time to move again. You can also receive a weekly overview of the objectives achieved and have the option – just like with a personal trainer – to set up new activity targets for the coming weeks.
For dedicated workouts there is the workout app in addition. This allows you to choose between nine different types of exercise such as rowing or cycling outdoors. For sports that do not match any of the nine requirements there is the ‘Other’ option. Depending on the sort of training you can specify targets for calories burned, distance or duration. The Apple Watch keeps you updated on the status during the training session by monitoring the heart rate for example. Furthermore, the app shares the information with the Activity app, which is available on the iPhone. Here, you can follow your progress in detail over the last few days and see how successful your training has been. The results are then subsequently credited via the activity app.
Naturally, the Apple Watch is far more than just a pure tracking device for sport cracks. With it, you might even control Hue bulbs or Apple TV. Additionally, it comes with a remote shutter release for the iPhone’s camera free of charge. However, there is still room for improvement. The battery should ideally last for two days – and the watch should be watertight instead of just ‘waterproof’ in my opinion.
Still, I like my Apple Watch and wear it happily. When it comes to fitness tracking my expectations have been met and the new communication possibilities the watch provides are great as well. I keep discovering new examples of using the device that inspire me. And to be guided by the Apple Watch through the narrow streets of the old town of Cádiz when on vacation without having to look at a screen also has its charms. Hence, the first generation of this watch is already much more than just nice to have.
Christy Turlington Burns
Christy Turlington Burns, one of the world’s top models, is the founder of Every Mother Counts. Christy currently serves on the Harvard Medical School Global Health Council and as an advisor to the Harvard School of Public Health Board of Dean’s Advisors. She is the director of the film No Woman, No Cry, a documentary about the dire maternal health conditions that impact millions of women around the world. As a result of her advocacy work, she was named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in 2014. Christy, a three-time marathon finisher, lives in New York with her husband and children.
This article was published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue Q2 2015. Picture credit: © Bloomberg/Getty Images