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A smartwatch is not a miniature smartphone—it won’t do everything your phone can do, or do some things quite as ably, and its usefulness will vary greatly depending on which features you take advantage of. Most people don’t need one, and only some people can actively improve their lives by wearing one. But if you’re going to buy a smartwatch to pair with your iPhone, it should be an Apple Watch. I tried most of the other smartwatches that are iPhone compatible, and i found them to be too limited on their own, as well as in how they interact with an iPhone, to be a useful alternative.
Before you buy any smartwatch, however, it’s important to determine whether it’s something you’ll use enough to justify the not-insignificant price. A smartwatch is a watch, of course, but beyond that it’s an extension of your smartphone. You pair a smartwatch with your phone (via Bluetooth) so that the watch can show, and let you interact with, some or all of your phone’s notifications. Many models, including the Apple Watch, also track your steps and activity, let you control music playback, and help you perform other non-complex tasks. Most support third-party apps that extend what you can do, including listening to music or podcasts without carrying your phone, or controlling smart-home devices. The Apple Watch even lets you make and answer phone calls directly on the watch (and with the Series 4, the call quality is finally good enough that you may actually want to do that, although it’s still a pain to hold the watch near your face for anything more than a brief call). When a smartwatch does its job well, it reduces how frequently you pull your smartphone out of your pocket to respond to notifications, send a quick text, or check apps—and we’ve found that the Apple Watch does all of that better than any other smartwatch, for any platform.
Beyond the overall experience, we really like the Apple Watch’s Taptic Engine and Force Touch screen features. The Taptic Engine physically alerts you to notifications or other important activity (such as an upcoming turn in the Maps app) by making you feel as if the watch is lightly tapping you on the wrist; we think this effect is less annoying than the binary buzzing sensation most smartwatches produce. Force Touch lets you interact with apps and notifications by pressing firmly on the watch face—a gesture that’s easy for you to forget at times but allows developers to avoid crowding apps with more buttons and controls.
Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS)
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This model offers tighter integration with iOS than any other smartwatch. It’s available in two sizes and easily customizable, too.