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Deep-dive review: The Apple Watch after a month of use

Michael deAgonia | June 9, 2015
Every once in a while, there comes a bit of tech that lets you do what you're already doing, but in simpler and more effective ways. After using the Apple Watch for a month, I've decided that the watch is that kind of product. If you're already in the Apple ecosystem, chances are that you'll want one.

And just in case you're worried about it, the Watch is splash and water resistant (but not waterproof).

Force Touch and Digital Crown

The Watch features two hardware controls: a Digital Crown and Favorites button. The latter allows a quick way to start a phone call, text message or Digital Touch session. (Digital Touch lets you send sketches, a tap or even share your heartbeat with up to a dozen contacts.)

The Digital Crown is a scroll wheel that you use to select options when using the Watch's software. It also acts as a Home Button when pressed. Double-pressing the Digital Crown also switches between the last used app and the Clock app, and holding down the Crown activates Siri.

The multitouch Retina display is not only capable of touch and gestures, but it also senses when additional force is applied to the screen; Apple calls this Force Touch. Applying pressure in supported spots brings up additional options. Thus far, Force Touch is mostly used for invoking actions such as calling up app settings, dismissing all Notifications, pausing or ending workouts, selecting audio and video sources in Remote, and customizing Watch faces in the Clock app, to name a few examples.

Besides the Digital Crown and Force Touch, Siri can be used for voice commands like setting timers, checking weather, launching apps and dictating messages. Functionality that can't be accomplished on the Watch is handed off to the iPhone.

An iPhone is required

Let's be clear about this: The Apple Watch needs an iPhone 5 or later to work. Much of the Watch's functionality — such as app data, GPS and Watch customization — piggybacks on the iPhone. In fact, as of iOS 8.2, Apple began including the Apple Watch as an un-deletable system app for iPhones. (That said, there are a few features that can be used without the iPhone once the Watch has been set up — like sending and receiving texts, using Siri for reminders and weather, paying for items with Apple Pay and tracking workouts.)

The iPhone app lets you arrange application layouts; customize Notifications, Glances (more on these in a moment), and application-specific settings; run software updates and add your credit cards to Apple Pay.

Getting acquainted

Using the Watch involves a learning curve, although I managed to figure most things out by poking about the interface. The most important thing is to understand the difference between an App, Glance and Notification; after that, you need to learn how to distinguish between the different chirps, beeps, and physical feedback.

Glances are like a dashboard: A way to get at important app data, which is accessed from the Watch face by swiping up. Once in Glances view, swiping from side-to-side switches between various bits of information from different apps.


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