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My year with the Apple Watch: Good-looking tech, still flawed

Michael deAgonia | April 29, 2016
It's got a lot going for it as a wearable, but remains a work in progress.

Another clever touch was how Apple built security into the Watch. It knows when it's been removed from your wrist and anyone trying to access any data after that has to enter a passcode. This is smart, as it locks out would-be thieves if the Watch is lost or stolen. (There are options on the iPhone that allow you to disable the Watch entirely.)

Beyond the stock look, the Watch's multiple and customizable Faces and Complications allow for a level of personalization that for most users make it feel like one of a kind. There are countless watch bands from Apple and third-party suppliers to create different looks and styles to match most wardrobes or emotional whimsies.

Best of all, the Watch functions well as a watch and the time is always accurate. (Though it would be nice if Apple offered an always-on display option, even if battery life suffered. The raise-to-activate or tap-to-activate functions are fine, but an always-on screen would be more useful.)

What works (software)

The software feature that works the best -- and this may be the sole function most important to Watch users -- is Notifications. Receiving and being able to act on a notification without having to pull the iPhone out of your pocket is incredibly useful; Messages and Emails arrive and can be answered or dismissed right from your wrist, and Siri dictation is surprisingly solid. And since Notifications can be customized in the Watch app, the only thing that reaches my wrist are the important alerts I've let through. Everything else remains on my perfectly silent iPhone, waiting for me to check them at my leisure. The Watch has helped lower my stress levels and my iPhone no longer irritates me with a constant buzzing.

The second best feature about the Watch is being able to buy things with it. Sure, Apple Pay works well with Watch hardware like the Secure Enclave (for storing encrypted payment info) and wireless NFC for contactless payments on supported point-of-sale systems. But there are other ways to buy products using third-party apps such as the Dunkin' Donuts app; it presents a barcode on the display which can be scanned as easily as a coupon or gift card. Even better, since most apps are aware of their location and the proximity to retail stores, purchasing usually requires just a swipe of the Notifications sheet and a tap to be used. It's not quite as convenient as using Apple Pay, but it's still pretty damned convenient.

apple watch pay 
Credit: Shinya Suzuki

That convenience will only grow as more services and locations add support for Apple Pay. Major locations such as Subway and Walgreens already support it, but vending machines are getting in on the action, and soon you'll be able to use the Watch at the gas pump as well.

 

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