The Apple Watch launched in South Africa recently, and Apple distributor Core Group was kind enough to send one our way.
Not the Apple Watch Edition made from gold, which costs R270,000, but rather the more affordable Watch Sport 42mm – which sells for R6,799.
The Apple Watch was a tricky item to review. It is not in the price bracket of a Jawbone UP2, so we couldn’t just take photos of it on a wrist while shaking businessmen’s hands.
It’s also not in the price bracket of an iPhone – plus Core said we had to send the watch back – so we couldn’t just write how amazing it is and that Apple is the best.
We thought about doing a proper, technical review, but that sounded like hard work. Instead, we decided to wing it.
Step one – open the box
Inside the retail box you get the Apple Watch, a USB charging plate, a two-prong plug with a USB slot, and the usual Apple instructions which tell you nothing of use.
Once you have turned on the Apple Watch, you need to pair it to your iPhone and open the Watch App which you hid away in a menu folder and never expected to use.
Watch-iPhone connectivity is via Bluetooth, and once the connection is established you being installation.
Pairing the two devices requires you to accept Apple’s nauseatingly-long terms and conditions, which I did without reading. Because nobody has ever read those terms and conditions.
You then go through Watch set-up options like diction, shared location information, app downloads, and a password.
Following this, you need to install the latest version of Watch OS, which involved more terms and conditions no one has, or ever will read.
Finally, you can put it on your wrist.
It looks good
My first thought when I saw the Apple Watch was: Is this the next Bluetooth earpiece?
For those of you who are too young to remember, the Bluetooth earpiece was a device used by Nokia phone owners to look important and talk while waving their hands in the air.
The earpiece was handy if you were driving and wanted to take a call, but its owners insisted on wearing it when their hands were free to hold a cellphone.
You don’t see those earpieces that often anymore – mainly because people don’t care about using their phone while operating heavy machinery, but also because they’re just not cool.
Fortunately for the Apple Watch, its ability to tell the time means it has at least one use if the smartwatch fad dies.
Besides the time-telling ability, it looks good. The Apple Watch I tried out had a black rubber band and black aluminium case – which looked stylish and was comfortable, even while running and gyming.
If the smartwatch trend fails, you will always have a comfortable and good-looking digital watch with customisable faces.
Hang on, I’m talking to my watch
The Apple Watch is so much more than a wrist-mounted clock, though.
Skype, SMS, and (after not working for a bit) WhatsApp messages pop up on the Apple Watch when received on your phone, allowing you to view and reply without having to take your iPhone out.
It may not sound like much, but this is handy: especially when you are at Spar – hands full of shopping bags – and need to check your bank balance notification message to make sure the cashier did not overcharge you.
The Apple Watch also allows you to take calls without using you phone, but this may be a step too far for some.
A colleague pointed out that the perfect litmus test for a technology is whether you would use it on a first date.
Here’s the scenario: You’ve just enjoyed a lovely dinner with someone you like, you are walking them to their car, and you get a phone call from your boss.
It’s 22:30 on a Friday evening, you are worried the call is urgent, so you have to answer.
With your date watching, do you accept the call on your Apple Watch, lift it to your face, and do your best James Bond/Knight Rider impersonation?
I thought not.
Apple does things properly
What you can show your potential partner is that Apple went to great lengths to make its watch a smart device that works well.
The user interface is a pleasure to use, even though you are navigating an iOS-type menu on a screen not much bigger than a R5 coin.
Users will pick up the Apple Watch and expect a seamless transition from iOS on their mobile device to the phone, and won’t be disappointed.
The watch does take an hour or two to get to grips with – in terms of how to navigate the menus – but once you are up and running, it is simple to use.
The amount of functionality Apple crammed into the watch is also impressive. Besides reading and answering messages and phone calls, the Apple Watch:
- Acts as a secondary-screen for your phone’s camera – meaning you can remotely watch your iPhone’s camera feed
- Provides access to email, calendar, and wallet functionality
- Is an activity tracker that measures calories burnt, minutes active, and a stand reminder when you sit for too long
- Has multiple and custom watch faces (including Photos-based faces)
- Has an optical heart rate monitor (no chest strap needed)
- Gives access to photos and music on your phone
- Shows weather, location, stock market, and time zone information
- Has this one watch face that is our solar system and shows all the planets moving around the sun as time elapses (you can fast-forward for dramatic effect)
- A lot more stuff I could not fit in the review
Should you buy one?
While using the Apple Watch, its battery lasted about two days. With more use, this will probably result in you charging it with your phone every evening.
If that’s too much effort for you, then don’t buy it.
If you are looking for a sleek timepiece that is functional, has a bit of status attached to it, and comes with a whole lot of smart functionality, then the Apple Watch is a pretty good bet.
For an English valet who works in a large mansion, it will match your uniform, remind you when your employer needs breakfast, and send you a text message when the Bentley is ready for collection.
For a crime-fighting millionaire, it will match your uniform, remind you when it’s time to make more batarangs, and send you a message when Robin is getting beat up by Harley Quinn.