As we get into World Yoga Day mode, it is perhaps time to throw our minds back to the great smartwatch and fitness band revolution (the one that many called the Wearable Revolution), that seems to have suffered a slight loss of momentum. Yes, there has been the odd successful product here and there, but the whole concept of your watch becoming your fitness companion has kind of largely tailed off – Google’s wearOS is still in the woods, and while Fitbit has its moments, its numbers are dipping. Fitness bands have gone from being niche products (remember the Nike Fuel bands from a few years ago) to devices whose base models cost as much as a feature phone – Xiaomi has made making feature-rich affordable fitness bands an art form.
Of course, the one product that is bucking the trend out here is the Apple Watch, which is continuing to sell in spite of having a price tag that brings budget flagship phones into contention. In fact, at the cost of raising some hackles, I would perhaps say that it is the best health accessory around, if (and I know that is a heck of an ‘if’, I know) one has the budget for it. I do not make the claim idly. Here are the five points that I think Apple’s wearable has going for it:
Ease of use
I have seen my share of fitness bands and smart bands and I have to confess that the Apple Watch pretty much is the easiest to use of the whole lot. There are just two buttons on the side (including the crown), the touchscreen is very sensitive and there are some incredibly neat UI touches, like scrolling using the crown. A few taps and swipes are all it takes to head anywhere. Even the setting up process is incredibly simple, although it does take some time – to pair, you just have to hold the Watch in front of the iPhone you are pairing it with. Similarly, setting up mobile data on the 3G variant is a piece of cake – you pair the device and get a few text messages. No need to go for a new connection or extra SIM card, if you are already on supported operators (Airtel and Reliance Jio at the time of writing).
It looks like a watch!
I cannot stress this enough – a lot of fitness devices look like… well, fitness devices. You feel all right wearing them in a gym or on a run but then they start feeling odd. The Apple Watch is one of the rare devices that feels as much watch as a fitness accessory and that is massive. Yes, reality does kick in when you have to recharge it once every couple of days but for the rest of the time, one does not really feel as if one is wearing anything than a regular wristwatch. It blends in. And yes, it is incredibly cool how it unlocks a MacBook when you open it while wearing it!
There are stacks of apps out there for the Apple Watch. No, there has so far been no “killer app” as such but there are apps aplenty, especially for fitness buffs. And once again, the fact that apps on your iPhone get their Apple Watch avatars on the watch (if available) is kind of simple and easy. We actually even follow BBC and Flipboard on the Apple Watch. And before you ask, there are Yoga apps out there too (out current favorite is Pocket Yoga, which comes with a price tag but also has great graphics, even on the tiny Apple Watch display).
…with some very good hardware
That display is excellent and in our opinions is one of the most underrated features of the watch – it is bright enough to be visible in bright sunlight and is sharp enough to make readable an enjoyable experience. The sensors seem to be spot on too. The distance and heart rate measurements have been among the best we have seen on a wearable. And while the first Apple Watch was a bit of a battery nightmare, things have improved with the Apple Watch Series 2 and 3. Even the 3G edition can easily see off a day of usage. You can also pair headphones with it, and well, while it still makes one look silly, making and receiving calls actually works.
Proactive without being intrusive
This is perhaps the secret weapon that the Apple Watch has up its sleeve. It records data and reacts subtly to it. Yes, the Apple Watch has a loud alarm too, but everyone we have spoken to loves the quiet manner in which it “taps” your wrist for notifications. I have written about how it alerted me to an irregular heartbeat (all is well on that front, thankfully), and well, I have now grown accustomed to a little vibration on my wrist followed by advice to either stand up or to breathe (the Breathe app even comes with animations to help you on breathing patterns with the watch’s vibrations changing in time to your breath). You do not ever get a feeling that you are something that is controlling you, but rather that someone has got your back, healthwise. Make that your wrist!
At the time of writing, there really is no other fitness device that blends in with one’s life the way the Apple Watch does. It comes with a stiff price tag, giving the lie to the statement that the best things in life are free – in the digital life, they sure as hell ain’t. Of course, there will be those who will insist that all this goodness does not justify the price tag the Apple Watch carries. That is another debate for another place and story (hear ye, ed).