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Deep-dive review: The Apple Watch after a month of use

Michael deAgonia | June 9, 2015
Every once in a while, there comes a bit of tech that lets you do what you're already doing, but in simpler and more effective ways. After using the Apple Watch for a month, I've decided that the watch is that kind of product. If you're already in the Apple ecosystem, chances are that you'll want one.

A Notification is an alert from an app that can be accessed by swiping down. Some Notifications can be acted upon right from the Watch. Email, for instance, lets you read, delete, mark as unread, or flag, though a reply must be done on the iPhone. Notifications for SMS or iMessages, however, can be replied to right from the Watch using either animated emojis or canned responses (which are edited on the iPhone), or via Siri dictation, with the option to send not only the transcribed text, but the audio file as well.

Apps can be accessed by tapping on the appropriate Glances or Notifications, or launched by pressing the Digital Crown. Built-in apps include standard communications software for Messaging, Email, Calendar and phone calls, both answering and receiving. There's also Music (you can add up to 2GB worth of songs on the Watch), Remote (for controlling an Apple TV or a Mac or PC with iTunes), Weather, Stocks, Alarm, Timer, Stopwatch and World Clock.

The Clock app features eight basic themes (called Faces), each with its own customization options. The Faces can be tweaked to display Complications — avatars that give you additional tidbits of information, such as weather, Activity progress, sunset/sunrise times, moon phase, calendar events, and more.

The Watch does come with its own set of (sometimes unwritten) rules. For instance: Notifications and Glances are only accessible through the Clock app. Why? Because Notifications and Glances are called using your finger to swipe down or up, respectively, and doing so in any other app causes the onscreen elements to scroll. There are some inconsistencies as well — for example, you'll see support for technologies like Force Touch in only some of the screens in some apps; other apps don't use it at all.

Becoming familiar with the Watch's feedback is key to using it effectively. Notifications and alerts use different chirps and sounds, but more than that, the Watch has built-in what Apple marketing calls the Taptic engine. This provides physical feedback in the form of taps on your wrist. The physical feedback worked so well for me that I muted sound almost immediately.

Working with the Watch

I was looking for the Watch to do two things: Be a fitness accessory/advisor and a notification system for important alerts. But what I didn't expect was that I would be using apps on it as much as I have.

The Watch fits into the existing Apple ecosystem, of course, including support for controlling and communicating with other Apple products; the day the Watch launched, there were already more than 3,500 apps in the App Store. As expected, third-party software quality varies from great to useless.


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