Santa Claus could use an Apple Watch to navigate the skies, check the weather and even order cookies with the Seamless app, but does that mean you should put one at the top of your Christmas list?
Apple's lower-priced model, the Apple Watch Sport ($349), is the best smartwatch available. The Apple Watch Sport is stylish, better designed – in both a physical and user-interface sense – and is more customizable than other smartwatches. It's the perfect gift for people who like to be connected, deal with lots of notifications, and want a personal accessory that helps them keep in touch with friends and loved ones.
The Apple Watch Sport comes in two different case sizes: 38 mm and 42 mm (1.5 and 1.7 inches, respectively). After testing a 38-mm Apple Watch Sport for several months now, we found its screen is quite resistant to scratches. The display is higher in resolution than other smartwatches and easier to read in direct sunlight. It doesn't have an always-on mode like some Android Wear watches, but it does have a built-in ambient light sensor, which automatically adjusts the screen's brightness. This feature saves precious battery life, which is the biggest problem with smartwatches.
Weighing just under 2.5 ounces, the Apple Watch Sport felt solid but not too heavy. You can choose from silver, space gray, gold and rose-gold variants. The included silicone strap for the Sport is extremely comfortable and adjustable. Apple sells additional watchbands made from leather and stainless steel but at a high price.
Operating the Apple Watch isn't as smooth as using an iPhone. It has a pretty steep learning curve. Between the scrolls, swipes and presses, the Apple Watch takes some getting used to. Apple has already released a software update that includes some new watch faces and improved battery life. Apple claims the watch battery lasts 18 hours. We were able to get a full day of use during testing, but depending on how often you fiddle with the watch, its life varies. Sometimes the iPhone 5S we were using died before the watch did.
The Apple Watch is great for accessing notifications on the fly. It physically taps your wrist to alert you when you get a text message. Just raise your wrist to see the name of the sender, and then hold it up a second longer to display the message. If the message can wait, just lower your wrist. You're not going to be using this smartwatch to consume a lot of content but rather to see quick glances of information like the weather or a reminder of when your next meeting is. They do a fine job, too, helping you track your health, steps and fitness.
Our main complaint with the Apple Watch is how it handles apps. This smartwatch has 512 MB of RAM, which is on a par with other smartwatches; however, it's still a bit sluggish. WatchOS 2.0 slightly improved performance since the apps now run natively. However, we still found ourselves oftentimes reaching for the iPhone in our pocket, annoyed by the watch's long delays.
The average person checks their smartphone 150 times a day. The Apple Watch helps rid you of this habit that many of us suffer from. The Apple Watch is cool, convenient and is arguably the best-looking smartwatch available, but does the loved one in your life really need one? Maybe not, but sometimes the best Christmas gifts are things that we don't need.