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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 timekeeping functions of the watch are broken out into five separate icons on your home screen: the watch face, plus World Clock, Timer, Alarm, and Stopwatch. I don't want to remote those functions from my Apple Watch entirely, but they really don't need to take up five icons — I would be happy to hide the icons and launch the apps with Siri, or just have Siri interface with the apps for me. (She's happy to tell me what time it is in Barcelona, or set an alarm for 7 a.m.) Calling the un-delete-able, un-hide-able Stocks app "bloatware" seems a little harsh, but it really does annoy me to no end that I don't have full control over my watch's icons.

I'm also annoyed that the watch keeps me so tethered to my iPhone. Just being on the same Wi-Fi network as your iPhone isn't enough to maintain a connection — you need to be in Bluetooth range as well. The Apple Watch has both Wi-Fi (b/g/n) and Bluetooth 4.0, but it seems to use Bluetooth to broadcast its presence, and only engages Wi-Fi to actually transfer data. (I asked Apple to confirm this, but haven't gotten a definitive answer quite yet.) My house is pretty small (1100 square feet and cute as a button), so I'm almost always in Bluetooth range of my iPhone, even if it's charging in another room. But at the office, my Apple Watch will lose the connection to my iPhone on my desk once I get more than 30 feet away, even though the Wi-Fi network extends through the entire floor. This isn't a dealbreaker either, but I assumed I'd need either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, not both.

Jury still out?
I have mixed feelings about some of the Apple Watch's other marquis features as well.

Digital Touch. The exclusive watch-to-watch communication feature is fun to play with — Caitlin can tap my wrist from 3,000 miles away if I didn't notice that she submitted a story for editing, which is great. But drawing tiny images with your finger is more whimsical than useful, and sharing a heartbeat is almost too intimate to do with anyone you're not getting naked in front of on a regular basis. But I do think it'll be the biggest seller of his-and-hers Apple products since FaceTime.

Handoff for so much. I get that you can't — and shouldn't — do everything from the Apple Watch, and using Handoff to send some tasks, like answering email, back to the phone is absolutely the best way. But when Siri hands you off for something that you know you could do on the watch, it's frustrating. If I ask Siri to play an unheard voicemail, she wants to hand me off to my iPhone, instead of launch the Phone app on the Apple Watch, which does have a button for playing that voicemail.

 

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