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Apple Watch review: Beautiful form, frustrating function

Susie Ochs | May 5, 2015
The Apple Watch excels as a remote control and activity tracker, but it's slow and requires a Bluetooth connection to your iPhone, among other quirks. Still, it's hard not to admire a smartwatch like this.

The Apple Watch did get me to rethink which notifications are important. I like being able to see the score of the Giants game from my wrist, but I don't need to know when new podcast episodes are available in Instacast. You can tweak which notifications go to the watch in the Apple Watch app for iPhone, and of course you can adjust which notifications go to your iPhone in the Settings app. But be prepared to spend a lot of time fiddling with both in your first week with the Apple Watch. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I hope Apple overhauls the notifications system in iOS 9, because the Apple Watch just added another layer of complexity.

Things I love about it
I've found Apple Watch's fitness features more motivational than using a Fitbit or a Jawbone UP2, since the progress goal is right on my wrist. I like how a workout isn't counted as Exercise minutes if your heart rate isn't high enough. But the prompts to stand up and get active aren't as smart as I'd like: for example, I hate when the Watch asks me to stand during my bus commute, especially bcause my phone can tell when it's in a vehicle. I'd also love for the Watch to factor in what's on my calendar, too, perhaps prompting me to move for a few minutes right before I'm scheduled for a long meeting or call.

The Apple Watch excels as a remote control. The Remote app is great — I love being able to control my Apple TV without hunting for the actual remote. It's got all the features of that remote, and I can navigate menus and select items without even looking at the watch. The Now Playing glance is terrific too, providing play/pause, forward/back, and volume control for whatever app my iPhone is using to play music.

I'm really looking forward to when HomeKit finally launches (maybe with iOS 8.4?), and I'm finally able to access lights and security cameras on the watch, and use Siri to set scenes. It's a little frustrating Apple didn't launch HomeKit before the watch, since they started teasing it nearly a year ago as part of iOS 8, and we're at 8.3 now.

I'm glad that the Apple Watch opens Apple Pay to more users too. (Apple Watch requires an iPhone 5, 5c, 5s, 6, and 6 Plus, and of those, Apple Pay only worked on the 6 and 6 Plus.) Once you set up your cards using the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, you don't even need your iPhone present to use Apple Pay on the watch. It's just as easy as using your iPhone — two taps of the button is all it takes to call up your card.

 

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