I’ve owned all of the Apple Watch models, and I’ve had one on my wrist for 2,000 straight days.
The first two Apple Watch models didn't have a defined purpose, they were unbearably slow, expensive, and they required an iPhone nearby at all times to operate properly.
But Apple Watch and watchOS have evolved into an amazing experience. Even if you only care a little bit about your mental and physical health, $199 is a steal for the Apple Watch Series 3.
I wrote this for iPhone users who want to know if Apple Watch is worth the price. I’ll give you my five favorite features, a few areas where Apple Watch struggles, then I’ll finish off by telling you the types of people who should buy one.
Five Favorite Features
#1 Fitness Motivation
I’ve always been self-motivated and a believer in being active, but Apple Watch turned me into a machine. Apple Watch gamified physical fitness with Activity Rings, workout streaks, monthly challenges, and a social element. All of these aspects work together to hold you more accountable.
You have three Activity Rings that you need to close each day:
- Stand. Stand for one minute during twelve different hours to close the ring.
- Move. Burn a set amount of active calories each day to close the ring. Apple Watch uses your heart rate and physical movements to calculate your calories burned. The standard Move goal is 450 active calories, but the number can be tailored to you, based on your age, gender, and weight. You can manually change your goal whenever you want.
- Exercise. Record 30 minutes of movement each day to close the ring. Every full minute of movement that equals or exceeds the intensity of a brisk walk counts toward your daily Exercise goal.
Apple Watch has 15 different types of workouts that you can record to count towards your goals. It has lower intensity exercises like walking, yoga, and dancing so there should be something for anyone of any fitness level. If you can't find the specific workout listed, you can track it as "Other" to get credit as if you were on a brisk walk.
You can track your friends’ activity, comment on each other's workouts, and start 7-day competitions with them. It’s just another way to hold yourself accountable because you don’t want to let your friends down.
Ideally, we shouldn't need a device to keep us active, but turning exercise into a game makes it more fun, holds me accountable, and encourages me to move more often, even if it's just an extra walk.
In 2017, I wanted to close all three rings for two consecutive weeks. After I completed my goal, I couldn't stop because I didn't want to lose my streak. I'm still in the middle of an 830-day streak, and I'm in the best physical and mental shape of my life.
#2 Leave Phone Behind
The iPhone isn’t ideal for exercise or times where you want to stay in the moment. Apple Watch acts like a dumbed-down phone because of the small screen size and limited capabilities. It gives you all the basic functionality that you need and nothing more. You can leave your phone at home during exercise or other parts of the day where you want to step away from the grid.
Four Advantages of Apple Watch over iPhone:
- Apple Watch gives you precise calorie data while you’re working out because of the heart rate monitor.
- It's always conveniently strapped to your wrist and tracks where and how far you went during a running, biking, hiking, or walking workout by utilizing its GPS. With a phone, you either have to hold your phone, have it bounce in your pocket, or strap it to your arm.
- A good workout needs audio (music, podcast, or audiobook) and a way to track it. Apple Watch delivers on both fronts without the added distractions that come with a phone. All Apple Watches have at least 8 GB of storage, so you can preload Apple Music playlists, audiobooks, or podcasts onto your watch before bed and listen to them the next day.
- The cellular version lets you go off the grid without completely going off the grid. For $15/month, you can make and receive calls and texts, and stream music without your phone present. It’s perfect for dinner dates or other activities where you want to remain in the moment without distractions. It removes the anxiety of not being able to contact someone in an emergency, but it won’t be a distraction like a phone would be.
#3 Keeps iPhone in Pocket
Each phone notification turns into a 15-minute time-wasting experience because I always do more on my phone than my initial purpose. With Apple Watch on your wrist, each notification is sent to your watch first rather than your phone. When people hear this, they immediately think the Apple Watch notifications will lead to more distractions and more screen time.
It was a major adjustment at first, but once I made adjustments on the type of notifications I wanted, my phone has stayed in my pocket for longer periods than it did even before owning the watch.
I can't immediately act on most notifications sent to me because of the small screen size and limited functionality. This lets me stay in the loop on the things that are important to me without needing to act on it unless it's urgent.
You can disable all notifications on your watch if you think it'll be a distraction. If you go this route, you can still reduce your phone's screen time by utilizing Apple Watch's watch faces. You add the weather, time, calendar, and timer starter to your watch face to give you the information you need with a glance down without losing focus on your real task.
#4 Apple Pay
Apple Pay with iPhone is great, but it requires authentication (Face ID or Touch ID) and taking your phone out of your pocket. Face ID isn’t convenient in the times of the pandemic. With Apple Watch, you double-tap the side button and your card shows on the screen, then you point your watch at the store’s card reader. Paying will never be more convenient than this.
While Apple Pay is the one feature that worked brilliantly from the first Apple Watch, it wasn’t widely accepted. Now, Apple Pay is accepted in the majority of US retail stores.
Why paying with Apple Watch is better than a traditional card or even your iPhone:
- It’s faster and more secure than a traditional card.
- It removes physical contact.
- It’s always on your wrist and a tap away.
- It doesn't require biometric authentication. As long as your Apple Watch hasn't been removed from your wrist, your Apple Watch is unlocked and ready for Apple Pay.
#5 Hey Siri
Smart speakers with digital voice assistants are fine, but you need one in every room and the results aren’t always personalized.
Two advantages to Siri on Apple Watch compared to a smart speaker’s assistant:
- Because the Apple Watch is always on you, you don't have to yell across the room. You can trigger Siri by saying “Hey Siri”, raising your watch to your face, or holding down the digital crown.
- You always have a screen interface. The watch shows you the words as you speak them and displays the command as it’s being performed.
The speed and accuracy of Siri on watchOS 7 are a huge improvement from the first version of Apple Watch. Keep in mind, Siri is still Siri. It’ll still occasionally misunderstand you or work slowly no matter the model you’re using, but Siri’s occasional hiccups are made up for by the convenience of always having it on you.
Bonus Features You Might Like
There are features on Apple Watch that I don’t regularly use that some people will love:
- Apple Watch warns you when your heart rate has been elevated for more than ten minutes while you’re inactive. This feature has saved many lives. I’ve only seen this play out once, and it was when I was winning big at the casino.
- The newest Apple Watch Series 6 can perform ECG and blood oxygen tests. While it’s not an official medical device, if you have preexisting conditions, these tests may be a huge feature for you.
- Apple Watch listens to your surroundings and warns you when the decibel level is loud enough to affect your hearing.
- The Walkie-Talkie feature lets you instantly communicate with your friends who have an Apple Watch.
- All the modern Apple Watches are waterproof up to 50 meters and you can track swimming workouts.
- You can scroll through full web pages on your watch when you search with Siri.
Where Apple Watch Falls Short
#1 Sleep Tracking
watchOS 7 introduced sleep tracking, but it's a bare-bones feature. It tracks the amount of time you were in bed and periodically records your heart rate, but it doesn't track your movement or the type of sleep cycles you go through.
There are better third-party apps to track sleep, but Apple Watch isn’t ideal for sleep tracking in general because it’s not comfortable to sleep with and you can't charge it while you sleep.
#2 Battery Life
The current lineup of Apple Watches will get you through a full day before needing a charge, but other smartwatches only need weekly charging. It’s not much work to charge your watch next to your phone when you go to sleep each night, but some people disagree.
#3 iPhone Users Only
Apple introduced "Family Setup" which lets anyone with an iPhone set up an Apple Watch for someone without an iPhone. The caveat is that it only works with the Series 6 cellular model. In the future, I'd like to see Apple let people with a Mac, iPad, or iPod Touch set up a watch on their own. Even better, it's great if the Apple Watch worked independently and didn't need to be paired with another device to open the door to more users.
Who should get one?
It seems inevitable that everyone will have some sort of wearable in the future. As wearable technology continues to improve and expand the data about our health, I can see a future where doctors and insurance providers require people to have one.
We’re not close to that future yet, but even now, I see Apple Watch as an affordable way to add extra years to your life. It seems counterintuitive that extra technology would decrease your use of technology, but if you take the proper approach, Apple Watch can remove some time from your phone.
If you care about your mental and physical well being, get Apple Watch.
If you lack the motivation to stay active, get Apple Watch.
If you want some time away from your phone without feeling like you’re completely off the grid, get Apple Watch.
If you think you can beat my streak of 830 days, get Apple Watch and add me as a friend. Although, it probably won't go well for you because I have no plans to let up.
Next week, I'll post two comparisons (SE vs. Series 3 and SE vs. Series 6) that will go in-depth on the current Apple Watch models. To keep things short, the new Apple Watch SE is what the majority of people should buy.