The other day, over drinks, a friend of mine asked me what my favorite piece of technology was. I tried to suppress a groan. Not because it’s a bad question. Not because it’s stupid or beneath me. I groaned because my answer is so unequivocally uncool that I’m embarrassed to say it out loud. My favorite piece of technology is my Apple Watch.
Cooler-than-thou gadget geeks, not to mention most normal consumers, scoff at the Apple Watch because it’s one of those dorky, in-your-face pieces of tech that practically screams Hey! Look at me! I buy Apple products! to everyone you pass by. Its functions are unclear: Is it supposed to replace your phone? Just add on to it? What do I do with it? Even the thoroughly tech-obsessed tend to dismiss or disregard the Apple Watch; generally, each new edition gets middling reviews from critics who object to its short battery life, its patchy connections, and its questionable utility.
But I’m here to tell you: The Apple Watch is absolutely wonderful.
Earlier this year, on a whim, I bought an Apple Watch Series 1, a slightly beefed-up version of the first watch Apple ever put out. It was my first-ever smartwatch, and from the get-go I was in love. I’ve always hated how much time I spend clutching my phone. Between work, friends, family, and everything else in my life, I’m constantly bombarded with messages — some of which require an immediate response, but most of which don’t. And the issue is that figuring that out requires me to fish my phone out from the depths of my purse and check my notifications every five minutes, which was frankly the bane of my Über-privileged First World existence.
However, with an Apple Watch on my wrist, I was suddenly allowed the luxury of forgetting which pocket my phone was in, and it was glorious. It connected via Bluetooth to my phone and could field calls, manage notifications, control music, and give me the weather — all without requiring much more than a simple raise of the wrist. I was hooked. And I think you should be, too.
Why you should get an Apple Watch
As paradoxical as it sounds, a smartwatch is actually a really fantastic tool for disconnecting yourself from things. Yes, you are physically joined at the wrist to the digital world, but the immediacy of it all is fantastically freeing. In the pre-Watch era, I’d usually try to delay checking my phone when at work for as long as possible, because seeing those 15-plus text messages, countless emails, and god knows what else would launch me immediately into Response Mode, which could eat up hours of my time. But now, anytime someone tries to reach me, the message appears for a brief second on my wrist, I make a snap judgement about whether or not it warrants an immediate response, and continue about my day.
I had originally thought that being this physically attuned to things (the Watch actually taps you on the wrist when certain notifications come in) would wreck my productivity, but it’s honestly done the opposite. It’s helped me realize how very few messages I receive require my immediate attention, and that’s pretty goddamned glorious. The few times I do respond right away, I do so using the Apple Watch’s unique messaging system, which only allows you to respond using either emoji, a variety of set phrases (which Siri chooses based on your speech habits), or voice-to-text dictation. I love this because it’s quick, easy, and means I can respond without opening my phone and the Pandora’s box worth of distractions it contains.
But sometimes you want distractions. I really enjoy that I can peruse the morning news on a packed subway car without having to elbow someone out of the way to get my phone out; I just look at my wrist. Or if I’m at some presentation and bored out of my mind, but don’t want to be Scrolling-Through-My-Phone-level rude, I can just tilt my watch ever so slightly toward myself and look at Twitter without seeming like a complete jackass.
There are also just countless awesome little cool things you can do with an Apple Watch, like pay for your coffee with just a wave of your wrist using Apple Pay (which frankly never stops feeling like magic), unlock your MacBook with just your presence, remotely control your iPhone’s camera so you can get that perfect group pic, set a series of silent alarms that’ll buzz you awake without bothering your partner, and so much more. I haven’t mentioned any of its various fitness uses here, because I think that smartwatches all too often get boxed into the Fitbit category, and I think the Apple Watch is so, so much more than that. (I also don’t work out nearly enough to give a comprehensive review of that.)
Which Apple Watch you should get
There are two different types of Apple Watches available at the moment: the Series 1 (the most basic model) and the Series 3 (the much fancier model). You can pick from two sizes — 38 mm or 42 mm — and a variety of band and material or color choices. There’s a lot of variety in between the different editions and sizes, so here’s a quick explainer to better choose which one is right for you:
Pros: It’s a great smartwatch with all the basic features covered above, plus an awesome 18-plus hours of battery life.
Cons: It isn’t waterproof and it only works in range of your phone.
Who should get it? If you’ve always wanted a smartwatch, and don’t feel like blowing $400 on the newest Apple Watch, the Series 1 is for you. The Series 1 is a great smartwatch for someone who isn’t going to be away from their phone for long periods of time, or someone who isn’t a heavy swimmer or runner. Like all Apple Watches, the Series 1 is great for fitness, with a variety of different workout modes programmed in, that’ll customize themselves to fit your personal routine. It also has a great battery life, connects easily and quickly with your iPhone and other Apple devices, has Siri, and just generally will make you feel like you’re living in the future. The Series 1 was the first smartwatch I ever used, and I totally loved it.
Pros: It can do everything the S1 can, but faster, plus it works underwater (or in the shower!) and can work without your phone using cellular.
Cons: Using it sans phone all the time drains the battery pretty quickly, that LTE service costs $10 a month, and it’s just generally more expensive than the S1.
Who should get it? If you’re a runner, a heavy smartwatch user, or just someone who gets wet a lot, the Series 3 is for you.The S3 comes with built-in GPS. Having LTE allows you to leave your phone behind when going on a run, or popping out to the corner store, while still being able to listen to music, make calls, and just generally keep up with the world. And that’s a pretty freeing feeling. It’s also water-resistant, which is handy if you swim, and is just generally a nice thing to not have to worry about as you’re going about your day. If you have the extra cash to splurge on a Series 3, you should definitely do it. (There’s also technically a non-LTE option for the Series 3 line, but it’s only marginally cheaper and is essentially just a more-expensive version of the Series 1, so I wouldn’t exactly recommend it.)
Which size should I get?
Technically, the 38 mm is for smaller wrists (a.k.a. ladies’) and the 42 mm for beefier ones, but I personally have wrists small for most regular watches, and I prefer the 42 mm. It has a bigger and more square-shaped screen, which makes things easier to read, and looks better on most people’s wrists, in my opinion. It also has a marginally larger battery, which is nice.
What about bands?
Unless you have cash to burn, you should get the cheapest option available at the Apple Store (generally the sports band, which is actually pretty cute), and then go on Amazon and buy third-party bands to your heart’s content at one-tenth the price. You can thank me later.