Apple Watch: My First Year

You've probably heard of the Apple Watch, a device you wear on your wrist that pairs with your iPhone to provide a wide range of functions, offering utility that goes far beyond merely telling time. But odds are you've also been skeptical about how such a glorified wristwatch—or wrist-based iPhone extension, if you prefer—can possibly be worth the $299+ price Apple is asking.

Everyone has different needs and interests when it coms to technology, so my patterns and preferences may not match yours. But after using an Apple Watch every day for nearly a full year, I am 100% hooked. The Watch doesn't really handle any task I couldn't already do using my iPhone (with one exception). It just makes it easier to do those tasks throughout the day.

Email. Most email I get doesn't require a response; it's a receipt, a newsletter, a press release. Before, I had to pull out my phone everytime to see that these had arrived. Now, I get a tap on my wrist, I look down at the Watch, and then go back to whatever I was doing. Other mail just requires a simple acknowledgement; I can handle that on the Watch as well, scrolling through a list of canned responses to quickly pick the one that works. If the canned responses don't fit the situation, I can tap the Siri icon on the Watch to dictate my reply--or switch to my iPhone or iPad to type one out.

Texts and Facebook Messenger. Like email, I get a tactile tap when these come in. It's the rare instant message that I can't handle entirely on the Watch.

Siri. To access Siri, I only have to raise my wrist and say, "Hey, Siri" to set an alarm, add a Reminder, add items to my grocery list, check sports scores, etc., etc.

Weather. I'm obsessive about following the weather, so I keep a Complication running on the Watch face that gives me the temperature and alerts me to imminent rain. (Weather is just one of dozens of available Complications. Others include a world clock, alarm status, battery status, live sports scores, moon phases, and sunrise/sunset times.)

Grocery shopping. I'm the grocery shopper and cook in our family. Now, instead of juggling my iPhone—or, worse, a pen and a piece of paper!—while maneauvering a grocery cart, I use a Watch app called Capitan that manages my shopping list.

Apple Pay. I love using Apple Pay, Apple's wireless payment feature that works at thousands of credit-card terminals, including grocery and retail stores, gas stations, fast-food restaurants, vending machines, pharmacies—even the London Underground. Now, instead of pulling out my phone to pay, I just hold my Watch to the terminal, get a confirmation tap, and I'm done.

Phone calls. Yes, you can actually make and receive phone calls entirely on the Watch, as long as you don't mind everyone else hearing your speakerphone conversation. At home, this can be invaluable if you're doing the dishes or are otherwise occupied. Even in public, though, the Caller ID shows up on the Watch, giving you the option to decline the call or, if you choose, answer it on your iPhone.

Maps. Any route I've begun in Maps on the iPhone is echoed to the Watch, including a series of wrist taps that indicate whether I should turn left or right. This is particularly useful when walking through an unfamiliar neighborhood and you don't want to be staring at your phone all the time.

Voice Recording.Just Press Record is another Watch app that can be invaluable, allowing you to record anything the mic can hear at the touch of an on-screen button. (It can also be an always-available Watch-face Complication.) 

Other useful or interesting features include the Watch's ability to automatically change time zones as you travel, a variety of customizable Watch faces, its use as a remote for playing iTunes music, and (one thing an iPhone alone cannot do) its ability to be a highly accurate heart rate monitor and fitness tracker.

What You Should Know

Currently, Apple Watch must be paired with an Apple iPhone (5 or higher) for full functionality. Otherwise, it's pretty much just an expensive watch.

It comes in two sizes: 39mm and 42mm. I have somewhat small wrists, so I assumed I'd get the smaller version. However, the larger model didn't look ridiculous on me...and I appreciated the larger screen. I bought the 42mm and couldn't be happier. 

The Watch needs to be charged every night. Although it's rare for my battery to fall below 70% after a 15-hour day, I don't use some of the functions that can eat up battery life, such as the heart rate monitor/fitness tracker. 

WatchOS 2.2.1 is the current version of the operating system. WatchOS 3, with a number of significant enhancements, has been announced for fall 2016 release.