What kind of apps did Apple build for Apple Watch? Does it run third-party apps? Apple went all out for the watch, building in many of the common apps that we use every day: Messages, Mail, Weather, Calendar, Maps, Passbook, Music, Photos, and more. A few notable omissions: While the Apple Watch can act as a viewfinder for your iPhone’s camera, letting you snap pictures and even set the self-timer, it doesn’t have its own built-in camera. Nor does it have Safari, Apple’s Web browser—all the information you get is mediated through those apps.
Still, if what Apple builds into the Watch isn’t enough for you, the company supports more than 8,500 third-party apps and Glances. You can install these apps from the Apple Watch App Store, which is accessible through the Apple Watch app. All the usual suspects like Instagram, Uber, and Twitter are there, plus indie apps from game developers and much, much more.
Third-party apps can run natively on the watch thanks to watchOS 2. The next-gen operating system allows third-party apps to tap into the watch’s sensors, which means those apps don’t have to rely on your iPhone to do all the behind-the-scenes work.
What kind of battery life will the Watch have? The watch has all-day battery life, which means up to 18 hours of active and passive use: 90 time checks, 90 notifications, 45 minutes of nonstop app use, and a 30-minute workout with Bluetooth music playback from the watch, which can store up to 2GB of music locally. If you’ve been a bit overzealous in your watch usage and your battery starts to dwindle halfway through the day, the watch automatically defaults to a Power Reserve mode for up to 72 hours so you’ll still be able to see the time (but not anything else). Basically, if you plan to buy an Apple Watch, expect to charge it next to your iPhone every night. Apple did say that the watch battery will be replaceable, but didn’t give details as to how much replacement batteries will cost.
Does the Apple Watch charge wirelessly? No. The back of the watch has no exposed charging contacts, and the charging cable snaps on with magnets to juice it up via induction. But it’s not “true” wireless charging as you might normally think of it, where you’d drop the watch onto a charging pad and walk away—it’s more like your electric toothbrush.
We’ve seen a magnetic charging dongle similar to this on the FiLIP, which is a wearable GPS tracker and phone for kids. The first few times we used it, we loved the satisfying click as the magnets latched on, but the novelty quickly wore off, and then the charger was just another proprietary dongle we had to keep track of.
Can I choose from a whole slew of watch faces? Oh yeah, a bunch—poke around Apple’s gallery for some great examples. They look good in person, too—some are animated, like the one that gives you a fully interactive view of the moon phases and how the planets align. And yes, there’s even a Mickey Mouse watch face, a modern spin on the face we saw on that watch-like sixth-gen iPod nano. You can customize several of the watch faces, spinning the Digital Crown to select a new color scheme, or tapping at the screen to tweak what kind of information is shown. Apple is keeping tight rein over the watch’s timekeeping features for the moment, with no third-party watch faces available. The company also offers few additional photo-based watch faces in watchOS 2, so you can glance at the time and see a photo of your partner, an album from your last vacation, or a time-lapsed image of a city skyline.
What are complications? Complications are little pieces of information on the Apple Watch face that let you see the weather, how much battery life you have left, and other relevant nuggets. With watchOS 2, Apple opened up the watch face to app developers, so you can see information from your most-used apps just by raising your wrist. Some examples of useful third-party complications include sports scores, flight departure times, and the status of your smart home gadgets.
Does it have Siri? Can it make phone calls? The Apple Watch has a microphone and a speaker, so you can talk to it and it can talk to you. (You can also use the microphone to do voice dictation, send audio messages, and even communicate via walkie-talkie mode with other Apple Watch users.)
And yes, you can use it to make and receive phone calls, as well as transfer calls to your iPhone or a Bluetooth device.
Is it waterproof? Can I swim with it? The Apple Watch is water resistant, but not waterproof. You can wear it on a rainy day and have water splashed on it and it’ll survive, but you should avoid submerging it in water. Apple’s official line (in the fine print) is: “Apple Watch is splash and water resistant but not waterproof. You can, for example, wear and use Apple Watch during exercise, in the rain, and while washing your hands, but submerging Apple Watch is not recommended. Apple Watch has a water resistance rating of IPX7 under IEC standard 60529. The leather bands are not water resistant.”
An IPX7 rating officially means it can survive in water up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes. Which makes it sound pretty waterproof, but you probably don’t want to take chances. Immersion in water any deeper than 1 meter, or in any amount of water for more than 30 minutes, could spell doom. But some daredevils have pushed the company’s guidelines to the limit with extreme stress tests—and the watch always survives.
So is Apple Watch worth buying? The watch is incredibly personal, and different people love (and hate) it for all kinds of reasons. But a 38mm Apple Watch Sport is now $299—$50 cheaper than when it launched—which makes splurging a little less painful. And watchOS 2 brought a slew of improvements, including native apps, Nightstand mode (which turns the watch into a useful bedside alarm clock), Apple Pay rewards program integration, and a new interface called Time Travel, which lets you scroll through overviews of your past, present, and future. With watchOS 2.2, which arrived in March, the watch’s Maps app got a huge overhaul that makes it much easier to navigate, and the update also offers the ability to pair multiple watches to one iPhone. (Though let’s be real: It’s unlikely that anyone actually has that problem.) There’s still no cellular data capability or GPS, which means the watch can’t do much on its own.