There are times when being a so-called early adopter brings mixed emotions. There’s the excitement of trying out something new before your friends, neighbors, family members, co-workers, or Joneses. And there’s the disappoint whenever something new becomes something blue and troublesome.
So it was with Apple Watch. I viewed the presentation in late 2014 and was awestruck. This is the future of mobile computing and communication. Or, so I thought. I managed to get a Watch Sport model a month or so after release and while there were aspects I loved, there was a growing list of issues I did not. Here we are, 2016, and Apple has released Watch 1.0.
Almost Nailed It
First up, Apple nailed the Watch design; case, bands, screen, buttons and dial. This is a visual design with legs and it quickly spawned an entire cottage industry of band makers who were willing to put out attractive Watch bands to match at prices far below Apple’s own line of bands. I bought a Milanese Loop-like band on Amazon for $11.99– far below the $150 Apple wants for a band that looks similar– and it’s been the best watchband I’ve ever owned.
OK, so Apple nailed the hardware, right? Not quite. Watch Series Zero (which is the name I’ve applied to my first Apple wrist device) was slow. Slower than slow. Agonizingly slow. So slow I didn’t bother to use Watch apps, but instead focused on the Glances, Notifications, Alarms and Alerts, and the all important Complications.
That adjustment in usage made Watch Series Zero usable. Barely.
watchOS 3.0 graced my Watch Series Zero for a month and the change in performance is as it should have been in the original. Under promise and over deliver. I still don’t like the Dock navigation (too many touches to get to an app) but it’s a vast improvement, and Dock apps move quickly to the screen.
This week I picked up a new Watch Series 2 and handed my Watch Series Zero to a deserving familiar member with the proviso that customer support doesn’t come with the lack of a price tag. Compared to the original, Watch Series 2 screams fast. No slowdown anywhere that I can detect on the apps I use the most. Without question this is the best watch I’ve ever bought, and thanks to interchangeable Watch bands it can be nearly as fashionable as anything in my modest watch collection; add color with the fluoroelastomer bands, add flash with a faux-gold band, or whip out some attractive leather for a different occasion.
What makes Watch special is how Apple nailed the sensors, and gave us a taste of the future. Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic test four popular wearable devices on 50 healthy adults who were also hooked up to an EKG to compare heart rate tracking. Everyone was tested while resting, walking, and jogging on a treadmill.
The chest strap monitor nearly match the standard EKG with 99-percent accuracy. Apple Watch came in second with 90-percent accuracy. The test Fitbit Charge HR, Mio Alpha, and Basis Peak did not fare as well.
The Future Is Coming
Here’s what such tests, combined with personal experience, tell me. Those sensors and health tracking apps matter and could revolutionize how medical research is conducted on patients. What’s coming? It’s not far fetched to believe that Apple is working on sensors than can measure blood pressure and blood glucose. Those two functions, in Watch Series 3 and Watch Series 4, would go a long way toward improving health monitoring, but only cement Apple’s position as maker of the best smartwatch on the market.
Is it so far fetched to look at how quickly iPhone advanced from 2007 to iPhone 7 to recognize that in a few years Watch will be a similar product with far more capability? Remember, the first iPhone did not come with a camera, no headphone jack, no 3G, no motion detector, no GPS, no Retina display, and none of what we take for granted in today’s iPhone 7.