The popularity of wearable technology has skyrocketed over the past few years, and it’s not showing signs of stopping any time soon. According to research firm CSS Insight (2018), “worldwide wearables sales will grow by an average of 20 percent each year over the next five years, becoming a $29 billion market with 243 million unit sales by 2022.” More specifically, “71 million smartwatches will be shipped this year, with that figure almost doubling to 140 million by 2022.” The Apple Watch stands out in the smartwatch category, “with its sales growing 60% in 2017 to 16 million devices.” In fact, as I am writing this article, I am getting a notification from my own Apple Watch to stand up and move around. I purchased my Apple Watch Series 3 last August, and during my research phase the biggest question on my mind was “is it worth it?” I sat down with SWAT engineer Justin Ruddick to discuss his take on the Apple Watch and how it has transformed his lifestyle.
When asked if the Apple Watch is worth its price tag (starting from $399 for the newly released Series 4), Justin said “unequivocally yes!” without hesitation. He currently has the Series 3 (like me), but also added a cellular data plan to his watch. All of the Apple Watches have GPS navigation, but adding a cellular plan is an additional $10 - $15 per month on your preexisting phone plan. Having cellular connectivity means that your watch has its own data plan and can take calls, send messages, and use apps without being anywhere near your phone. I can use all of those data features on my watch as well, but I have to be within a certain distance from my phone. Justin summed up his enthusiasm about the Apple Watch into four main categories: connectivity, health, emergency features, and security.
Justin pointed out how the Apple Watch is significantly more portable than a laptop, iPad, or even an iPhone if you have one of the larger models like the XS Max. You can easily snap the watch onto your wrist and continue worry-free to the store, gym, and beyond. The connective-ness of the device means it’s like a wrist watch, but you’re totally plugged in with features from your phone.
When Justin first started with SWAT, he was experiencing possible heart issues and receiving alerts from his Apple Watch for having an abnormally rapid heartbeat while remaining idle. The Apple Watch is a sophisticated health device that can track your heartbeat and know when you’re moving around versus when you’re sitting still. This allowed Justin to monitor his heart rate at work and note correlations between when he was feeling symptomatic and what his heart was doing. Justin had to wait a full two weeks to get an ECG (electrocardiogram testing), which is an eternity if his condition was indeed life threatening. The newest Apple Watch Series 4 (launched in September) is FDA approved to generate an ECG directly from your wrist in real time. Not only did Justin’s watch alert him to a potentially serious heart issue, but now he will also be able to run a test on the spot in the convenience of his home or office.
Another health feature Justin wants to utilize more is the Exercise tool. The Apple Watch Series 3 and 4 are water resistant up to 50 meters and track both pool and open-water workouts. This summer I wore my Apple Watch in the ocean and didn’t have any issues at all! Justin told me how our watches can tell you what swim stroke you are doing, when you are doing it, and for how long. You can even pair your watch with certain gym equipment to sync information. Even if you are not working out, the water resistance is a convenient addition; Justin described how he was floating down a river this summer with a waterproof speaker and was able to control playlists easily through his phone. Every watch also comes with an Activity tracker where you can set goals for number of steps, calories burnt, and time spent standing up every day. If you are looking for a device that easily fits into your everyday life but has powerful capabilities to help you reach your fitness goals, then the Apple Watch is a fantastic option.
Justin described a potential situation where the Apple Watch’s security features could be lifesaving: imagine you are in an accident where your car is flipped, you are strapped into your seatbelt upside down, and your phone is nowhere in reach. Justin would be able to use his Apple Watch to make an emergency call to 911 and get help. The Apple Watch Series 4 also has a fall detection feature for significant, hard falls while you’re wearing your watch. It will tap you on the wrist, sound an alarm, and display an alert where you can choose to contact emergency services or dismiss the alert. According to Apple’s website, “if your watch detects that you have been immobile for about a minute, it will make the call automatically.”
Justin uses his Apple Watch for all of his two-factor authentication to secure company websites, personal websites, Apple Pay, and more. The Apple Pay feature is more secure than a credit card, and incredibly convenient if you’re caught in the middle of checkout without your wallet. You can also download Apple Watch apps for common password management services like 1Password.
It is clear why Apple has earned so much market share in the smartwatch space. Justin says the watch is to the iPhone what the iPhone originally was to the Mac: today, the iPhone can do almost as much as a Mac for more practical purposes. The Apple Watch is also on track to significantly disrupt health and medicine. Perhaps someday it can detect early signs of cancer or monitor your blood glucose levels without needles. Anything seems possible as we eagerly anticipate what Apple’s next steps will be.