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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.

But it's slightly more awkward, because with the iPhone the screen is pointed toward you, but with the watch, you typically have to point the screen to the reader. Still, you'll feel a buzz and hear a beep when your payment goes through. I do feel more self-conscious using my Apple Watch to pay for things than my phone (it gets noticed!), but that might fade over time, as the watch becomes less novel.

I love getting wrist-taps to signal turns when using the Maps app on the watch. When I'm in the car, I use the iPhone to navigate, but I also like to listen to podcasts, and it's a drag when the Maps app's voice prompts keep interrupting my podcast. But if I turn off the voice prompts, I'm liable to get too engrossed in the podcast, space out, and miss my turn. So having the watch tap me on the wrist — 10 taps before a right turn, and 6 taps as 3 pairs for a left turn — is great. I tend to still glance at the iPhone's screen in my Tackform dashboard mount to confirm I'm turning onto the right street, but it's been great, and I'll be using Maps instead of Waze from now on, at least when I'm listening to podcasts on the road.

But the Maps app isn't all bliss: I quickly turned off its corresponding glance because I don't need to pinpoint my position on a map very often (maybe I'll turn that back on when traveling), and the Maps glance loaded more slowly than any other besides Heart Rate...which has a reason to be slow!

Things I hate about it
That brings me to my main complaint with the Apple Watch: Its poky performance. Since the lion's share of the data it presents comes from your iPhone, be prepared for lags. Even scrolling around its face, the refresh rate seems a little laggy compared to what I'm used to (and spoiled with) on the iPhone and iPad. Location-based apps, like Maps and Weather, seem the slowest, as well as using third-party apps that pull data from apps I haven't used on my iPhone for a while. The lagginess isn't a deal-breaker, but it is a bummer. The watch is definitely the slowest Apple product I've used in years.

Speaking of apps, with such a small home screen, Apple should let users hide built-in apps they don't plan to use. You're stuck with each app that comes on your Apple Watch, and you can't even banish them to a folder like you can on your iPhone. I don't plan to use the Stocks app, but it's going to take up space on my home screen anyway.


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