Time for a New Apple Watch

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I got my first Apple Watch almost three years ago, but it wasn’t actually mine. It belonged to work and was used to evaluate the watch as a platform. We entered a developer raffle and won the opportunity to purchase one prior to widespread availability. Apple stipulated the exact model we received, right down to the color of the band. We paid the $399 list price and received a 42mm silver Sport model with a teal band. My job was to evaluate it and see if it was platform we wanted to develop for. As a bonus I got to wear it until somebody else wanted it.

I was interested in the Apple Watch prior to the raffle and planned on buying one for myself when it came out. I knew I wanted the 42mm model in Space Gray / black, but was torn between the aluminum Sport model and more expensive stainless steel. The raffle made that decision for me. Though I didn’t want a silver case and I didn’t love the teal band I wasn’t going to drop my own money just to change the color of my watch.

It was exciting and I enjoyed it. Watch OS 1.0 was pretty limited, slow, and bug-prone, but worked well as a watch and fitness tracker. I didn’t use much else. WatchOS 2 added stability, native apps, new watch faces, better battery life, and new fitness features, but WatchOS 3 finally made it all work. WatchOS 3 improved performance so much that I didn’t need to consider purchasing the new Series 2 for its speedier CPU. I didn’t need GPS, a brighter screen, or water-proofing anyway.

Last year’s release of WatchOS 4 wasn’t so nice. The performance of my almost three-year-old wearable plummeted to WatchOS 2 levels. The battery had weakened significantly and barely lasted a day. I had scratched the screen in multiple places and it was showing its age. Series 3 was released in autumn and it was finally time to buy my own watch.

I had no interest in cellular connectivity, so I focused on the entry-level models. I considered whether or not to buy a stainless steel model this time around but they are almost $300 more than the Sport model because they only come in a cellular version. I didn’t want to spend almost double for something that would still only last three years, so I decided on the aluminum sport model in space gray. I sprung for a Nike+ version because it includes a couple of watch faces that aren’t included on the other models. It actually costs the exact same price as a sport model; the only catch is that you have to buy it directly from Apple, not from a retailer like Best Buy.

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The watch arrived a couple of weeks ago and it is wonderful. Software-wise it is exactly the same as my original watch except everything is fast and fluid. No more waiting for notifications to appear, apps to open, watch faces to switch, or the fitness app to load my last workout. The watch itself is the same shape and size as my other watch so all of my bands fit perfectly. I really like the dark case; it goes well with several of my existing bands, especially the brown leather one. The screen is brighter which is nice too. I haven’t used it in the water, but it is waterproof. There’s a GPS in there as well.

Since it’s a Nike+ watch, it comes with the Nike+ sport band. I’ve got a couple knock-offs of these bands and they are great but there is definitely a quality difference when using a real band. Apple’s fluoroelastomer bands are thicker and more smooth with a weighty-yet-comfortable feel. I was bummed that it came with a black band but its grown on me over time. It’s actually a deep slate with small holes outlined in black. Subtle but nice.

I’m enjoying my fancy Nike-specific watch faces as well. I’ve settled on a digital face with red lettering. The red against the dark case attached to a brown band just looks super cool. I’m very happy with my watch now. I was hoping Apple would have added another sensor by now but seeing as this is the first time I’ve actually bought one I can’t complain too much. I’ll probably enjoy this watch for another three years until WatchOS 7 kills it.

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