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The Apple Watch disrupts, but is that enough?

Michael deAgonia | July 10, 2015
Disruptive technology doesn't come along often, and is often initially dismissed because it's easy to ignore something you've lived an entire life without. But every once in a while a bit of tech comes along that makes it easier to do what you're already doing.

This is a big deal for me. The iPhone, with all it can do, is a gigantic time-suck, and it's easy to fall into the trap. The Watch is designed for short bursts of interactions, without the distractions inherent to a device that does just about everything.

Fitness tracking is still a huge deal for me, but as someone who uses the Watch to track running, basketball, and especially weight lifting, I'm not very impressed. While the Watch has excellent heart rate monitoring sensors, they only work well if you're using it to track an activity in which your arms wave about. In those cases, the Watch is spot on.

Weightlifters need not apply

Tracking activities like lifting weights or pushups is another matter, and here is where the Watch falls on its proverbial face. If you're an active weight-lifter and are in the market for a fitness tracker, this isn't it. When lifting weights, the heart monitoring is the worst feature of the Watch. It's supposed to monitor your heart rate every 10 minutes in normal mode, and every 10 seconds during a workout. But when Apple released the 1.0.1 update, it changed that behavior so that if the Watch senses movement in normal mode, it skips the heart rate reading. This is absurd. The opposite should occur: if the Watch senses sustained, increased movement, the correct response is to instantly check pulse rate to gauge exertion levels. (The inaccurate readings while lifting weights is a known issue and is supposed to be resolved with a future software update, but who knows when.)

What isn't disappointing, though, is that the Watch is more water proof than I thought. I've used the Watch in showers, hot tubs, and while swimming. I didn't dive beyond 15 feet, but I wore it while playing basketball in a pool, and I was in the water for hours. Do I recommend getting it wet? Not really, and neither does Apple. But you can. (The Watch is rated to survive 30 minutes at one meter's depth.)

Improvements are coming

The technology in the Apple Watch will, of course, improve with each successive software update (and each new generation of the Watch itself). Even so, the Watch already marks the first time technology as fashion has sold in large numbers. When I wrote my first iPhone review, I said that breakthrough products like this really leave an imprint in time, in which we can literally see the pivot point: before and after. Even though I'm disappointed in tracking an activity like lifting weights, the Watch is that kind of product.

The more people purchase and use the Watch, the more attention the device will get from third-party developers and service providers. There will come a point when the number of wearers will be hard to ignore forcing businesses and third parties to support the services those wearers expect, especially something like Apple Pay.

 

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