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Three Apple Watch features that will make you think differently about smartwatches

Philip Michaels | Sept. 10, 2014
Not impressed by the parade of wearables you've seen so far? Neither is Philip Michaels. But after laying hands on the Apple Watch, he saw a trio of features that make Apple's forthcoming gadget a pretty compelling piece of wristwear.

Fitness is front and center
The Apple Watch is going to pack in a lot of apps when it arrives next year, even more if third-party app makers take advantage of Apple's WatchKit to whip up watch-sized versions of their own offerings. So I think it's significant that Apple called out two apps that will come standard on its watch-Activity and Workout. The former app encourages you to do less sitting around by graphing your daily activity to show how often you move, exercise, and stand. The latter gives you the opportunity to take detailed measurements of your workouts, charting your progress toward goals you set.

apple watch activity
APPLE.With the Activity app, Apple hopes to persuade you to move around a little bit more-or at least stop sitting so darn much.

In a broad sense, the Apple Watch is doing what a lot of other activity trackers already offer. But from what I saw in the demo area, Apple is tackling this particular task with a level of attention that rival wearables really don't provide. A woman exercising on a treadmill in Apple's demo area showed me how she used the Workout app on her watch to set goals for her exercise session. As she started running, the watch went to sleep, monitoring her workout in the background; when she raised her arm to check on her progress, the watch sprung to life, showing her how much progress she was making toward her workout goal. Throw in integration with your favorite iOS device, and monitoring your activities becomes a lot easier than it would be with a separate wearable.

Questions remain
As nice as these features are, Apple is still going to have to come up with answers to some pressing questions by the time Apple Watch ships in early 2015. For starters, we still don't know what the battery life on the watch is. Apple reps weren't providing a number on Tuesday, but this needs to be something that stays powered from the time you put it on in the morning until you take it off at night. (The charging method-a magnetized charger that attaches itself to the back of the watch-does seem pretty slick, to be fair.) As sturdy as the Apple Watch feels in a demo area, I'd like to know how it holds up in the field, particularly when there's rain in the forecast. (Apple says its watches are water-resistant, meaning sweat and raindrops are going to be OK, but unanticipated dunks in water are likely not.) And the Digital Touch features Apple demoed Tuesday, where you can reach out to other Apple Watch wearers-presumably loved ones and not total strangers-with a gentle tap or even by sending them your heartbeat seem like they're aimed at users less curmudgeonly than me.

 

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