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Hands on: Why trying an Apple Watch made me want to buy one

Susie Ochs | March 11, 2015
I had a $17,000 Apple Watch Edition strapped to my wrist today. Rose gold. 38mm. Rose gray strap that felt like butter, with a modern buckle also in solid 18-carat gold. It was beautiful. But as luxe as the materials are, my hands-on demo time with the Apple Watch made me confident that I can go with the entry-level Apple Watch Sport and be just as happy.

Questions remain

I'd hoped Apple would get specific about the Apple Watch's battery life, and the company claimed 18 hours on stage, and broke that down in painstaking detail on its website. Apple is good about not overestimating battery life, and from what I saw in my demo, these figures seem reasonable. The watch is designed to get you the info you want quickly, both in how the information is presented and how easy it is to move between it. You probably won't be staring at it for huge stretches of time unless you're trying to read all your email or something.

For example: To see your glances, you'll raise your arm to wake your watch to its clock face. Stop for a second. Depending on the clock face you're using, you could get some detail right there, like your next calendar appointment, progress toward your steps goal, or the temperature. Otherwise, just one swipe up from the clock face gets to your glances, and then you swipe between each one. It only takes a fraction of a second to absorb what they're trying to tell you: Stock up. Text mom. Your team won. Your appointment is clear across town. You better leave.

This means that just one swipe up and a half-dozen swipes right-to-left can show you a lot of information, and pressing any of the single-screen glances sends you to a more fleshed-out experience in the full notification or app. Notifications can be seen by swiping down the clock face from the top. Apple did a lot of work to make using a smartwatch with so many features this simple.

But not every feature could really be tested in Apple's demo room. It'll be interesting to see if the watch is a good workout partner even if you don't have your paired iPhone with you. The watch's accelerometer can count your steps as you run, but that uses math to extrapolate your distance. If you bring an iPhone, your whole route is tracked with the iPhone's GPS. The watch has iPod shuffle-like storage to play some songs during your run, as long as you have Bluetooth headphones.

Why I'm buying one

It's striking that the Apple Watch's best features solve a problem I didn't have before I had an iPhone. The problem is: I look at my iPhone too much. Throwing more technology at that problem seems frivolous, but if the right balance of notifications and glances actually succeeds to sift the signal from the noise? If it can reduce the number of times I unlock my iPhone to do a simple little thing like reply to a text, only to fritter away time on three or four apps? That could change my game.

 

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