FEATURE REVIEW – Apple Watch: Part 1

Introduction

apple-watch-selling-points

The world, it seems is getting larger.

My time is in constant demand. Billboards. Radio. TV. Ads everywhere!

Kids. School. After school activities for the kids. eMail. Text messages…

Calgon, take me away!

Wow. I’ll tell you what – The more I’m connected, the more I’m constantly nagged by a connected world. As a father of three, a grandfather of one and a husband, I’m usually all over the place. My schedule is a busy one and you’d think that I’d be moving enough to not have to constantly worried about my expanding waste line, but that apparently isn’t the case. Just ask my tailor…

When tools like the Microsoft Band (review part one and part two) and the Fitbit Surge are available to help you get a handle on not only the activities of your life and the notifications sent from your smartphone, life can often become a bit more manageable; and let’s face it… we can all use a bit of help there.

Perhaps the biggest and most anticipated entry into the wearables/ smartwatch category is the Apple Watch. Is it the nirvana of wearables? Is it everything that its hyped up to be? Was it worth the wait? These are all GREAT questions.

The Apple Watch is a much anticipated, much sought after wearable. In part one of this four part review, let’s take a look at the hardware that made the tech world stop and consider just what the ideal smartwatch could and should do.

Hardware

The Apple Watch comes in three different styles – The Apple Watch Sport, The Apple Watch, and The Apple Watch Edition. I’ve got the Apple Watch Sport, and I’ve already given you my First Impressions of it.

Apple Watch Sport

The Apple Watch Sport is the entry level watch. It’s got an anodized aluminum case, and a Fluoroelastomer or synthetic rubber or silicone band. The Apple Watch Sport runs between $349.99 for the 38mm case and $399 for the 42mm case. With it, you get one Fluoroelastomer band in your choice of color – White, (Powder) Blue, (Lime) Green, (Coral) Pink, or Black.
Watch Sport
Apple Watch
Watch
The Apple Watch comes in twenty (20) different models. The 38mm or 42mm case is made of a high gloss, Stainless Steel in either silver or black. You have a choice of any of the following bands:

• Black Classic Buckle (black leather with a traditional buckle)
• Milanese Loup (silver only)
• Black Modern Buckle (black leather with a magnetic buckle)
• Black Leather Loop (black scalloped leather with a magnetic loop)
• Midnight Blue Modern Buckle (dark blue leather with a magnetic buckle)
• Bright Blue Leather Loop (bright blue scalloped leather with a magnetic loop)
• Pink Modern Buckle (Off white/ pinkish tinted leather with a magnetic buckle)
• Stone Leather Loop (Taupe-colored, scalloped leather with a magnetic loop)
• Brown Modern Buckle (Medium brown leather with a magnetic buckle)
• Light Brown Leather Loop (Greenish-brown scalloped leather with a magnetic loop)
• Link Bracelet (in either silver or black)

Note, that Apple is only offering the Black Stainless Steel Apple Watch in both 38mm and 42mm cases sizes with the Link Bracelet. Period.

The Apple Watch, depending on case size and band choice, ranges in price from $549 to $1099.

Apple Watch Edition

The Apple Watch Edition comes in eight (8) different models. Here, the case is made of a special, 18 karat rose gold or 18 karat yellow gold alloy. The Apple watch Edition comes with a choice of the following bands:

Watch Edition

• White Sport Band (White Fluoroelastomer)
• Black Sport Band (Black Fluoroelastomer)
• Rose Gray Modern Buckle (Reddish-Taupe leather with magnetic buckle in 18k rose gold)
• Black Classic Buckle (Black leather with a traditional buckle in 18k yellow gold)
• Bright Red Modern Buckle (Red leather with a traditional buckle in 18k yellow gold)
• Midnight Blue Classic Buckle (Dark Blue leather with a traditional buckle in 18k yellow gold)

The Apple Watch Edition, depending on case size, gold color choice and band ranges from $10,000 to $17,000.

Regardless of which Apple Watch you get, you have the opportunity to go through a Personal Setup session after you get it.

Regardless of case type, the Apple Watch really does bear a striking resemblance to the very first iPhone, released in 2007. The metal case comes up the bottom and sides of the case to about two thirds (2/3) of the way up, just as the edges begin to round in.

This doesn’t make the device look ugly, but it’s not as sexy, as say, some of the other devices in Apple’s more recent portfolio like the iPhone 4s, 5/s or 6/+. The rounded, square corners aren’t horrible, but they doesn’t do the Watch any favors, either.

Bands and Pricing
Most of the different styling for the Apple Watch comes in the form of different bands that are available for it. While there are a few different casing style variations, it’s really all academic there – the Apple Watch Sport comes in a anodized aluminum case in either silver or space gray, the Apple Watch comes in a 316L Stainless Steel case in either silver or black; and the Apple Watch Edition comes in either 18k yellow or 18k rose gold.

However, what makes the watches really different is their bands… and their associated prices. Thankfully, bands work with every Apple Watch, so if you simply MUST have a particular Apple Branded Apple Watch Band, you can likely get it; and it will cost you… a lot.

All bands available for separate purchase come in both 38mm and 42mm unless specifically noted.

Fluoroelastomer Bands
Fluoroelastomer Bands
A Fluoroelastomer band is $50, regardless of color; and you have a choice of five different colors– White, (Powder) Blue, (Lime) Green, (Coral) Pink, or Black.
Metal Bands
Metal 1
Apple offers both a Milanese Loop (a woven, stainless steel mesh with adjustable magnetic closure) and a Steel Link Bracelet.
Metal 2
The Milanese Loop is $150, is available in 38mm 42mm sizes and available in silver only.
Metal 3
The Steel Link Bracelet is $450, is made of 316L stainless steel, is available in 38mm 42mm sizes and is also only available in silver. The only way to get the black version of this band is to buy it with the black colored, Apple Watch is Stainless Steel.
Apple also offers a Link Bracelet Kit for $50. It has 6 additional links for wrists that exceed 205mm in circumference.
Leather Bands

Apple offers three different kinds of leather bands – the Classic Buckle, the Leather Loop and the Modern buckle.
Leather 1
The Classic Buckle is $150, is available in 38mm 42mm sizes and available in black only. All other Classic Buckle band colors are exclusives to the Watches they’re offered with.
Leather 2
The Leather Loop is $150, is available only in the 42mm size. The Leather Loop is offered in Bright Blue, Black, Stone and Brown.
Leather 3
The Modern Buckle is $250, and available only in the 38mm size. The Modern Buckle is offered in Black, Brown, Soft Pink, and Midnight Blue.

Part 1 Conclusion

The hardware for Apple watch is impressive, but as you’ll see in additional parts of this four part review, not without its quirks. It’s clear that everything here is VERY EXPENSIVE. The Watch in and of itself isn’t cheap – $349 to $399 for the entry level Sport model isn’t cheap. Once you factor in Apple Care + (another $50 bucks, and a MUST have for a device in this category) and tax, you’re pushing the $475 mark, which is close to the price of a Mac Mini.

Let’s talk about that Apple Care + purchase for a moment, too. Apple Care + for Apple Watch provides extended warranty coverage for a period of two years. During the coverage period, it gives you one extended replacement option per year with a $50 deductible.

So, if you break it during the extended coverage period, you can get it replaced for $50; but you’re limited to two (2) incidents. Apple Care + also covers other normal wear and tear defects. Extensive damage or scratching to the crystal may or may not cost you an extended replacement. It’s going to depend on how bad the crystal is scratched and the Genius you work with at Apple.

Wearables are meant to be used by those that are going to be active. You’re going to knock the Watch on something. You are. Get used to that idea now, before you buy. Get the extended warranty. For $50 bucks, it’s about 10% of the entry level cost, but if you ARE active with it and you break it, you’re going to want the replacement option.

So, stylish… but expensive; and if you do take the plunge, you’re going to want Apple Care +.

Come back next time and I’ll get into Wearability and Usability.

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Hell has Frozen Over – Android Wear for iOS Launched 2015-08-31

I am totally beside myself…

moto-360-iphone-hero

I’ve been looking at smartwatches all year. I started in January and haven’t looked back since. Here’ s a list of what I’ve published so far:

My latest entry in that series is the Apple Watch, and as of this writing, that four part review is currently in editing.  I expect it to be published in part or in whole over the week of 2015-09-01.

While in this smartwatch mode, I’ve been very cognizant of nearly every smartwatch announcement that’s hit the wire.  Most haven’t been too earth shattering.  This one, however, really shocked me because it’s one that I never thought would happen – Google has released Android Wear for iOS.

Yep – iOS users can now buy an Android powered smartwatch and can use it with their iPhone.

I… am beside myself. Hell truly has frozen over.

According to a new blog post published on the Official Google blog, Android Wear for iOS is rolling out on 2015-08-31.  This brings Android powered smartwatches to an additional 43.5% of all smartphone users in the US.  The only requirements seem to be you need to be running at least an iPhone 5 or greater (so, iPhone 5/5c/5s, iPhone 6/6+) with at least iOS 8.2.

If you look at the blog post on this, some commenters are wondering why people are surprised over this.  Honestly, that’s fairly easy.  A couple of years ago (as I recall) the going thought was that Google wasn’t going to provide support for Android Wear under iOS.  Part of that was because Apple made it pretty clear that they weren’t going to support Apple Watch on Android.  Each wanted a compelling reason for users to pick their platform and stick with it.

While Apple still seems to be pretty adamant about Apple Watch only for iPhone, Google seems to have come around.  They’ve included the following features in Android Wear for iOS:

  • Info at a Glance: Check important info like phone calls, messages, and notifications from your favorite apps. Android Wear features always-on displays, so you’ll never have to move your wrist to wake up your watch.
  • Fitness Tracking: Set fitness goals, and get daily and weekly views of your progress. Your watch automatically tracks walking and running, and even measures your heart rate.
  • Google Now: Receive timely tips like when to leave for appointments, current traffic info, and flight status. Just say “Ok Google” to ask questions like “Is it going to rain in London tomorrow?” or create to-dos with “Remind me to pack an umbrella.”

Notification support is apparently included, though it won’t be as tightly integrated as it would be on the Android side of the world.  However, according to Google, it should be on par with support for the Fitbit Surge and the Pebble Time.

If this holds true, then Android Wear for iOS shouldn’t suck.  Notification support for both of those smartwatches, while not totally ideal in my opinion, isn’t bad.  Android Wear should be pretty functional.

All that remains is to figure out which smartwatch might be the most compelling for me and then to see if it fits in the budget. If it does, I’ll try to  include it in the smartwatch round up before it all concludes.  Currently, I’m only one device away from completing all of those reviews.

I’m waiting on the Olio Model One to ship.  According to the latest information that I’ve received from Olio, I should have the device in my hands before the end of October 2015, if everything goes according to plan.  It’s a bit later than originally planned and anticipated, but according to them, the hardware and software have both been improved over the original specifications, so we’ll have to see about all that.  Not only have the devices been incrementally improved since their first and initial announcement, Olio has added both yellow and rose gold collections to the Model One.  As of this writing, all watches in all collections – Steel, Black, Gold and Rose – are sold out. Unfortunately,  due to their sold out status, you can’t see current prices for the newer collections.  If I remember correctly, the rose gold watch with the rose gold link bracelet was $1200 USD.  The yellow gold wasn’t quite as much, but was comparable; and prices for both of those included the $250 USD “friends and family” discount.

What do you think?   Should I cover Android Wear, now that it’s supposed to work with iPhone and iOS devices?  Will it make a good addition to our round up, or will it simply be gratuitous at this point?  Why don’t you join me in the discussion area below and give me your thoughts?  If enough people think it will be worthwhile, I’ll try to include it in the round up before I publish the series conclusion.

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