I am a big fan of wearable tech in general, especially smart watches. Any decent smart watch out in the market is a great product to own because of several factors — among other things, it makes your life easier, motivates you to stay fit, and, of course, helps you keep track of time.
While all smartwatches are great, in this article I want to talk about Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS + LTE specifically because it has added a lot of fun to my life for the last 2 and half years.
When this model was launched back in ~2017, it was the first smartwatch with LTE support that gained widespread popularity (if I remember correctly, LG had launched the first smartwatch to support 4G but it didn’t get very popular). Independent LTE support (aka eSim) allowed smartwatches to stay connected to the Internet even if they were not in range of the paired iPhones. This had some immediate benefits — people could now stay connected even if they were away from their phones (like forgetting it in their cars) or even when their phone battery died. Another cool feature was that it had its own GPS system, so people could go on hiking or cycling without their phones since the watch was enough for downloading maps from the Internet and showing your location in realtime. Above all, the best thing to happen with the launch of this model was the ability to receive calls on the watch even when the paired phone wasn’t accessible!
While the LTE functionality had limited international support (different countries have different frequency bands for 4G, so a watch purchased in one country didn’t necessarily support independent calls + Internet in other countries), I was incredibly lucky to discover that Japan and India have the same frequency bands. When I visited Tokyo in mid 2018, I was lucky enough to get a Nike+ edition of cellular Apple Watch Series 3 from the Ginza Apple Store at a significantly lower price relative to its cost in India. This store was the first Apple Store to be opened outside the US, and thus even offered tax discounts to international tourists. I’d switched my mobile network to Jio after purchasing the watch because at that time, Airtel and Jio were the only two providers of eSim networking in India. I choose Jio because it’s Apple Watch plan was free.
When I wore it for the first time, it was like having the world on my wrist — calls, messages, notifications, music, podcasts, radio, news, health tracking data, all accessible from the little screen on my wrist. One of the first heavy uses of my watch was to read notifications and send quick replies to messages. As it spent more time on my wrist, it learned more and more about my body clock and other habits. I was surprised that whenever I feel I’m in stress, the watch usually taps my wrist and a notification pops up to do a breathing exercise (on the Breathe app). It’s amazing to me how it is able to recognize more than 90% of such occurrences.
A related feature is automatic workout detection. Whenever I go for a walk the watch is able to recognize I’m walking and starts tracking my heartbeat and other health data. Whenever I cycle it recognizes I’m cycling and starts recording data similarly. Recognizing a lot of different exercises just by being on my wrist is an astonishing feature in my opinion. However, I must admit that there have been cases of false negatives — I was clapping at a birthday party and my watch started recording that as an “elliptical workout” for some reason 😂. Having said that, I have never encountered a false negative yet — it always recognizes that I’m doing some specific form of workout. A killer feature of all Apple Watches is heavily motivating the wearer to stay fit — it gamifies the entire process of staying fit. There are daily rewards for closing (achieving) certain goals (rings), monthly and yearly challenges, challenges on special occasions (like Earth day), friendly competitions with friends and so on — all these encourage users to stay in shape.
Apart from motivation to stay in shape, another thing I specifically like about Apple Watch is that it is heavily customizable. Aside from having different bands to match your different outfits, the wallpapers themselves are very “tunable” — one can select different themes, have photos (and custom variations of photos) as their “home screens”, they can change positioning of date and time as per their convenience and add different informative widgets (like moon phases, news, music, and so on). My personal favorites are the jellyfish one provided by Apple and a custom wallpaper I created using a photo I took at a museum, which integrates seamlessly with rest of the home screen:
Other features that I occasionally use are: unlocking my laptop using the watch, sending interactive iMessages to some of my friends right from the watch, calling cabs (although the Uber app is little flaky on the watch), reading news snippets and quickly turning on flight mode on my phone without having to remove it from pocket!
and experiences that make me love Apple Watch even more!
Once in Bangalore I wanted to return to my hotel after having lunch with friends at a faraway restaurant. My phone had died and the rickshaw driver that picked me up didn’t know the way to my hotel. I used the Maps app on my watch and it navigated us correctly to my place. What a lifesaver! Although I’d admit that it was more of a divine intervention because Apple Maps has a bad reputation for not working for navigating Indian streets, but somehow it magically worked back then 😛. A related experience is of cycling in an unfamiliar city, which I usually do whenever I travel to a new city. It’s very inconvenient for me to use Google Maps on my phone because these public utility cycles usually don’t have a phone holder, so I instead use the Maps app on the watch, which has different haptic-feedbacks for turning left, right and going straight, that help me cycle without having to move my eyes away from the street.
There have been occasions when I’ve left my phone in car while shopping for groceries in outdoor supermarkets, and have occasionally lost my way. In such cases, I’ve used my Apple Watch to call my parents to pick me up from a nearby landmark.
Another great experience has been to control volume from the digital crown of my watch. Whenever I connect my phone to speakers (say in car or in my room), it is really satisfying to be able to increase or decrease the volume by arbitrary amounts just by turning the digital crown on the watch. The crown is also a great way to navigate through apps on the Watch without blocking display by touching screen with fingers.
I hope Apple soon launches Apple Pay in my country (India) so that I’m able to make the most of my watch by paying for whatever I purchase in brick-and-mortar stores right from the device on my wrist. But even without that, Apple Watch has been an extremely useful addition to my life, and it feels brand new till date, everyday for the last 2 and half years!
Thank you for the ⌚!