I am a gadget freak. For as long as I can remember, technology has fascinated me, and I always need the newest and coolest thing that's out there.
That goes doubly so for anything Apple related. Ever since the first iPod came out, I think I've purchased everything they've ever released. I've had every generation of iPhone. I had every generation of the iPod before the iPhone rendered it obsolete. I've had most of the iPads, and I've had various MacBooks and MacBook Airs and iMacs.
Which is to say: I have an Apple problem. I'm a fanboy. I don't mind admitting it.
So when Tim Cook took the stage last September and announced the Apple Watch, I felt that familiar fluttering in my chest. I needed this. It was a watch and a fitness tracker, but it was also the communication device I dreamed about as a kid. Yes, I was enough of a dork that I dreamed about futuristic communication devices. I told you I have a problem.
I envisioned the Apple Watch as the thing that would free me from the chains of my phone, because I hate that we have become a society constantly glued to our phone screens. I am often particularly guilty of this. Instead of viewing the world around me, I'm looking at a screen. I'll go to dinner with three friends, and all four of us are staring at our phones, reading hilarious tweets, updating Facebook. But we aren't talking to each other.
In my head, the Apple Watch would be the device that cured those ailments. If a notification came in, I could glance at my watch, rather than pulling my phone out of my pocket. Conversations wouldn't be interrupted. And when driving, I could receive and glance at text messages and emails without the fear of being pulled over by a Las Vegas cop.
In my head, the Apple Watch is the perfect compliment to my life. But in reality, it is not. It could be. Someday. But right now, it's not.
In my time with the Apple Watch, I mostly felt confused. And that's a new feeling for me with Apple products, because they usually just work. They're intuitive. The Apple Watch is not intuitive, because Apple has introduced an entirely new way of navigating. I couldn't figure out what was supposed to happen when I turned the Digital Crown. It took me awhile to figure out that I couldn't do anything with Glances, which are screens that offer information. But in order to act on the information in the Glances, you have to go into the specific apps, and that's where I'd lose track of what I was supposed to press in order to get where I wanted to go.
And there are performance issues. The watch lags from time to time, though Apple says that will be addressed with updates to the Watch. But it doesn't give you the same smooth, out of the box feeling as every other Apple product. This is a first-generation product, and it feels like it.
THE GOOD THINGS.
But despite those issues, this is a product with a bright future. It is easily the best smartwatch on the market. I can easily envision a day when this thing does finally free me from my phone.
My two favorite Apple Watch features are the Taptic Engine and the fitness tracking capabilities.
The Taptic Engine, put simply, is the way the watch gives you notifications. Through some kind of black magic, the back of the Watch actually taps your wrist when you have a new notification. It literally feels like you are tapping your own wrist, which is both awesome and disconcerting.
But it is a much better method of notification than having your phone beep or buzz. And I can see it being useful for poker players who prefer to concentrate rather than have outside screens distracting them.
The fitness tracking tools, though not entirely accurate at all times, are great. The watch measures your steps, distance and more, but it also keeps track of your heart rate. The heart rate tool didn't provide the same kind of accuracy as, say, a chest strap heart monitor. But for a watch that is measuring your heart rate by reading the back of your wrist, it's pretty good.
For those who are sedentary for much of the day, the Apple Watch could be a godsend. The Activity app allows you to set your own targets in calories burned, steps and time standing, and each goal is displayed as three rings on the watch. The watch also reminds you to stand up from your desk once an hour, and tracks your total time standing over the course of the day.
The Workout app offers several preset cardio workouts, though the list is not extensive. You've got running and cycling and others. When you're using the Workout app, the accelerometer and heart rate monitor work in conjunction with each other to track data on an even more sensitive level. But much like every other fitness tracker, the watch isn't going to be much use to those of you who lift weights, as it has no way to track activities that don't raise your heart rate to high levels.
Much like the rest of the watch, there is a lot of promise in the fitness tracking capabilities. But it's not perfect yet.
Make no mistake about it: this is a watch for early adopters. It's cool, and you can see a day when it becomes a part of your everyday life. And I do believe there will come a day when devices like this free you from the grasp of other technologies, and that's a good thing.
But that day isn't today. Unless you absolutely have to have the latest Apple products, you don't need the Apple Watch. My advice? Wait a year and see if the early issues have been ironed out, or just wait for the second generation.
If there's anything we have learned from Apple over the years, it's that they have a unique ability to make each new version of their devices much more incredible than the last. I think that will be the case with the Watch, and I'm willing to wait and find out.
What do you think?