Thursday 27 October 2016

Adrian Weckler: Apple Watch 2 and how I learned to love smart watches

Adrian Weckler in San Francisco

Published 06/09/2016 | 12:51

Apple is expected to announce the launch of a new Watch tomorrow, just as it unveils its iPhone 7.

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The new device is expected to have GPS and a longer-lasting battery (it only last two days between charges at present).

But many people are still getting to grips with the notion of a 'smart watch'. Fitness bands such as Fitbit are hugely popular. But why get something more advanced?

I've been using the first Apple Watch for over a year. I generally don't wear analogue ('ordinary') watches, save for a vintage Certina model that my grandfather left to me (and which I lost).

I've regarded 'premium' watches as unnecessary bits of jewellery that have been made redundant by phones.

And yet I've come to rely on a smart watch for the simple reason that it's useful.

Apple Watch
Apple Watch

The biggest reason is that it saves me time, every day. Specifically, it stops me pulling my phone out of my pocket every five minutes when I hear (or feel) a message or alert. Instead, I check the watch (which is connected to the phone) and make a two-second decision on what to do. Without it, I would spend 20 to 30 seconds removing, unlocking, reading, locking and replacing the phone. Worse, I would sometimes fall into one of the greatest time-wasting traps of our times: doing a quick circuit of my social media apps because the phone is 'already out'. So, for me, the watch brings efficiency.

It is also the only thing that gets me to use voice-activated controls, particularly when replying to a text. (It is wirelessly connected to the iPhone, through which it sends and receives texts.) Again, this is a time-saver when out with dogs on a muddy day. It also lets me stay within the law when driving a car.

But even with this convenience, it would fall flat if the gadget was uncomfortable to wear or just ugly. After 12 months' wear, I can say that mine (the 42mm version as opposed to the smaller 38mm model) is surprisingly comfy to wear with the basic 'sport' strap. It's also wearing well, physically, with little by way of scratches and no hint of any technical faults.

When it first came out, I was ambivalent about its squarish form. "It looks a little like a wrist computer," I remember thinking. But I have become quite fond of the way it looks. The screen quality helps here: up close, it's really quite gorgeous.

I have a bunch of apps on the Watch, ranging from Evernote to Tripadvisor to The device is also completely capable as a full-bore health tracker, with an advanced sensor on the back that analyses your pulse and applies the data to many different sports and medical apps.

But 95pc of my app usage is actually focused on messaging, email and social-media alerts. I'd hazard a guess that this is a common experience among other watch owners.

My point here is that this has proven to be enough.

The watch isn't perfect by any means. It still feels slow to execute many types of commands. It sometimes takes more than one flick of the wrist to make the screen light up, and its battery life won't really last beyond two days.

This is why I'm more than a little interested in a 'version two' model which is said to improve these usability features.

Furthermore, I'm genuinely looking forward to Apple Pay landing on Irish shores (we have no date yet but it could be by the end of 2016), so I can pay for things like coffee with a swipe of the Watch.

Watches are clearly more personal than phones. For my lifestyle, Apple's Watch fits the bill.

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