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Apple Releases Apple Watch

May 2015

By Tom Stibolt, MD, Mobile Musings Column Editor

When Apple released the two versions of the iPhone 6 and the newest iPad in 2014, it also announced the Apple Watch which was not going to be released until early 2015. A development environment was available for software developers with the plan that many useful applications for the watch would be available by the time of its release.

The Apple Watch joins a sizeable array of wrist-mounted devices that connect to a smartphone as well as a number of fitness devices that are standalone although capable of downloading data to a computer. Although the fitness devices have been relatively successful, the wrist-mounted devices have been more a niche item with a few enthusiastic users but ultimately without many buyers. Among the Apple supporters, the Apple Watch is hoped to change this trend.

The Apple Watch is not a standalone device. To operate, it requires at least an iPhone 5. Without the iPhone, the Apple Watch will keep time, provide alarms, play music stored locally, show stored photos, and track movement. The latter only is accurate if the watch has been used with an iPhone to learn your stride distance and pace. The watch can be used with Apple Pay without the iPhone and can display purchased movie tickets or airline boarding passes.

When used with an iPhone, the watch does much more and the number of available apps is growing. It provides some obvious functions when paired, such displaying incoming calls, serving as a Bluetooth microphone/speaker for answering  calls, displaying text messages, displaying calendar information, displaying weather information, monitoring heart rate with a built in sensor, and displaying pushed phone notifications from any apps that you have enabled to do so. As noted, the list of capabilities when paired with a phone is much longer and growing.

One interesting app is from WebMD. The app includes features such as a “Medication Reminder” tool that taps you on the wrist to help you remember to take a medication. It also allows users to check personal medical information, schedules, and medication-taking instructions, and view customizable pill images of their personal medication.

The Apple Watch is not inexpensive. The least costly option is $349. The mid-range version starts at $549. For those seeking status, there is a high-end version that costs $10,000-$17,000 depending on finish and band selection. The high-end model comes with a one-hour training session and personalized help in selecting the exact model. The software and hardware features are the same on all models.

There are a number of potential problems with the initial version of the Apple Watch. The internal memory is limited to 2 GB which will limit the number of songs or photos that can be stored locally. It’s also  a completely new device for Apple so there will likely be a few problems. The battery life is quite short lasting just about a day and recharging time is slow. It also seems to be slow in communicating with the iPhone. Some of this may be addressed in later models.

Many of us hope that the Apple Watch will spur adoption of both Apple and non-Apple wrist mounted devices. The competition hopefully will result in increasing functionality and ease of use for end users.

Editor’s note: The ATS does not endorse any of the programs or products mentioned in this column.

Last Reviewed: September 2017