Jon Bentley tests: Apple Watch

Jon Bentley got his hands on an Apple Watch for a week and put it to the test. Discover what he liked and disliked, and whether or not he became a convert.

I’ve tried quite a few smartwatches over the years but never felt their meagre benefits worth the bother of remembering to charge them, so I can fully empathise with the 91% of people in our Gadget Show poll who said they didn’t need one. However, a week with the Apple Watch has softened my resistance.

The visual pairing between Watch and iPhone using the latter’s camera was easy and fun and I soon got to grips with the touchscreen interface and the Digital Crown wheel for scrolling. I immediately found a big benefit. A haptic tap on the wrist from the back of the Watch was alerting me to incoming calls that I’d have missed when I’d left the phone in another room or on silent in my pocket.  Answering calls on the Watch and exchanging a few words – it has microphone and speaker built in – before handing over to the phone was a joy in itself.  It was also a delight discreetly reading new texts mid-dinner without rudely pulling out my phone.

The number of iPhone apps that already come with their own Watch apps was a pleasant surprise, too. I enjoyed Shazam-ing accurately from the Watch using the built-in mic, Apple Pay worked very well on the whole and EBay’s app offered a surprising amount of useful information, including notifications of bids received and auctions won.

But, like our tech testers, I found some apps in need of work. The Twitter one was very limited, the Guardian news stories were frustratingly brief, and emails were tedious to read on the tiny screen, while much of their content couldn’t be displayed at all, which meant getting the phone out anyway.  And though the Activity app was rather addictive - I hated completing the day without all my four graphically gorgeous target circles being complete - it doesn’t really measure anything more than traditional fitness band at a fraction of the price.

Battery life was a mixed picture too.  Though the Watch invariably made it through the day it seemed to drain the battery of the iPhone 6 paired with it even quicker than usual, and if you then left the Watch on overnight it would be flat by morning, which rather puts the kibosh on any sleep monitoring functions.

Pros and cons then, but after a few days with the Watch I was starting to change my mind about smartwatches in general, and thinking that if I’m going to wear something round my wrist it ought to do more than just tell the time. In that sense the Apple Watch was becoming a personal game changer, and I’m now eagerly looking forward to seeing how Apple’s platform develops.

Impressed as I was, though, I don’t think I’ll actually be getting an Apple Watch. It’s rather expensive and, as an Android user myself, I don’t think it’s worth changing my phone operating system for. But, as the best example of the breed, I’m hoping it’ll inspire Android smartwatch makers to develop better, competitively-priced smartwatches of their own, with improved apps and longer battery life. When they do I’ll be very tempted to buy a smartwatch. I never thought I’d say that.

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