Apple Watch Series 7: A Review

Much like the iPhone, the Apple Watch sees a new model being introduced every year, usually at the same event as the iPhone, but if not, then sometime very close to it.  Some years the Apple Watch will bring new capabilities through sensors, while other years there are other changes, like screen size. This year is one of the years where the latter has occurred.

There are only a couple of new features to cover, the screen and color choices. We will get to those in due course, but let us look at the order process first.

Order Process

I think it is safe to say that this year’s Apple Watch Series 7 launch was bungled. The order process worked for me, and I did not have any hiccups, but it seems like the overall launch was bungled. The reason for this is quite simple, no details prior to pre-order day.

Unlike in previous years there was no gallery to see the possible combinations there might be, nor was there any sort of pricing, at least not prior to the beginning of the pre-order time. I can completely understand not having a pre-order system like they did for iPhone 13 models, but the minimum benchmark should be having the possible color combinations and pricing available before pre-orders go live. This would have allowed many to determine what they were hoping to order once pre-orders did begin.

Apple Watch Series 7 Midnight Box and Midnight Sport Band Box
Apple Watch Series 7 Midnight Box and Midnight Sport Band Box

With not having any time to look at models beforehand, anyone who might have wanted to get their Apple Watches as soon as possible had to frantically choose their watch case, color, and band as quickly as possible. Luckily, for me anyway, I was able to get the Midnight Sport model with Midnight sport band. The reason I chose this is because it was available for pickup at my local Apple Store on October 15th. I opted for pickup because, like the iPhone, I did not want to wait all day for it to arrive. I was able to get a 10am pickup time, so I could be one of the first in the store to pickup my order.

Next, let us jump onto the into color choices available.

Color Options

The Apple Watch has always come in a variety of colors. Which colors are available depend on the case material you choose. The Series 7 is the first time that Apple has not offered either a Space Gray or Silver as an option for the aluminum model. For the Series 7 aluminum models the available options are Midnight, Starlight, Green, Blue, and PRODUCT(RED).

Lack of Neutrality

As you likely surmised, there is no Space Gray or Silver color option for the aluminum models. For many they opt for the Silver because silver can generally go with anything. Starlight looks to be silver, but more of a gold-tinted Silver. For many, this is acceptable, however it is not likely to be as neutral as a Silver model would be.

Midnight 

Midnight Sport Band in its box opened up.
Midnight Sport Band in its box opened up.

As mentioned, I opted for the 45mm Midnight Apple Watch with the Midnight band. When you first look at the ‘Midnight’ watch case you may think that it is a black. But there does seem to be a tint of blue in the case. If you compare the Apple Watch Series 6 Space Gray  to the Apple Watch Series 7 in Midnight, you will notice that the Midnight is definitely darker than the Space Gray and that the Midnight might be a better overall “go with anything” type of watch.

While the Midnight case is darker, the pairing of the the Midnight watch band do not match. The Midnight band is more of a blue and it does work okay with the Midnight watch, but it is not the best pairing.

This is not all that uncommon, because often the Space Gray watch bands do not match the paired black bands. At the same time the Midnight watch band does not seem to be a good match with the Midnight watch. The case of the Midnight Watch is more of a black than the blue-black of the Midnight watch band.

Midnight Sport Band and Black Sport Band
Midnight Sport band on the left and a Black Sport Band on the right
Apple Watch Series 6 in Space Gray and Apple Watch Series 7 in Midnight
Apple Watch Series 6 in Space Gray on top and Apple Watch Series 7 in Midnight on the bottom

The ‘Midnight’ Apple Watch is not the only device with an accessory that comes in “Midnight”. There is also a MagSafe case for the the iPhone 13 line that comes in “Midnight”. At least when it comes to the “Midnight” color of the Midnight iPhone 13 Pro Max case and the Midnight Apple Watch Band, they are the exact same color. Therefore, if you are looking to match your Apple Watch band and your iPhone 13 case you can be assured that these two will match perfectly.

Midnight Aluminum Sport Band and iPhone 13 Pro Max Midnight Case

Now that we have covered the coloring, let us look at the actual setup of the Apple Watch.

Setup

If you are setting up a new Apple Watch and you have never owned an Apple Watch the setup process is pretty straight-forward because you do not have any existing settings or configuration to worry about. However, if you have a previously paired Apple Watch and you want to transfer its setting to your new Apple Watch it may be a bit cumbersome and require jumping through some hoops.

Apple Watch 45mm Series 7 in Midnight with Midnight Sport Band
Apple Watch 45mm Series 7 in Midnight with Midnight Sport Band

The reason that it may be problematic is because if the version of watchOS on your old Apple Watch is newer than the version on the new Apple Watch you will not be able to transfer your current watch to your new watch. There is a workaround though. You can use the following steps to get your old Apple Watch settings onto your new Apple Watch.

  1. Begin Pairing new Apple Watch
  2. Setup as a new watch.
  3. Complete Setup of the Apple Watch
  4. Open Settings -> Software Update
  5. Update Apple Watch to latest version
  6. Unpair Apple Watch
  7. Begin pairing of the Apple Watch
  8. Use your current watch’s settings. It will have the text “(Current Watch)” next to your current watch. It will be similar to the image below.

For most people setting up an Apple Watch as new may not be too much of a problem. This is because things like cards added to Apple Pay will all need to be added again anyway. This is because each card added to Apple Pay has its own unique device specific identifier and those cannot be transferred between devices. 

It is important to make sure that you choose the proper device since there will also be a backup of your recently unpaired Apple Watch.

Now that the Apple Watch is setup, let us see the most notable change with the Apple Watch Series 7, the screen size.

Screen Size

The screen sizes of the Apple Watches has only increased by a single millimeter, or about 0.04 inches. However, the screen resolution has increased from 368×448 to 396×484, which is a 16.3% increase in screen resolution. This increase in screen resolution is absolutely noticeable, no matter which previous model you had, including the Series 6. You will also see some slightly higher percentages for the 41mm Series 7 as well when upgrading from a 40mm or 38mm model.

Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch Series 7
44mm Series 6 on the left and 45mm Series 7 on the right

The first screen size change for the Apple Watch was with the Series 4, when the sizes went from 38mm and 42mm to 40mm and 44mm. This screen size change was an increase of 35.5%. If you are going from an Apple Watch Series 3, or earlier, to a Series 7, you will see an increase of 57.5% increase in screen resolution, which will absolutely be noticeable. 

42mm Series 3, 44mm Series 6, and 45mm Series 7 Apple Watch
42mm Series 3, 44mm Series 6, and 45mm Series 7 Apple Watch

When it comes to the Apple Watch any increase in screen size is welcome. This is because a watch cannot be nearly as large even the smallest iPhone and therefore the larger the screen size, the more easily you can see the time as well as the complications. This screen size increase has also allowed for one new feature, a full QWERTY keyboard.

Keyboard

The manner in which you are able to enter in text on an Apple Watch can vary, depending on the current context. You can use Scribble, emoji, Animoji, or even voice entry. With the new 41mm and 45mm screen sizes you can have the option of entering text in via a keyboard. 

One thing I have noticed while doing this is that I am so accustomed to the standard iOS keyboard that I forget that the backspace button is in the upper right corner. The backspace key is the same place as with the previous Apple Watches when using Scribble. The full keyboard is in the same place where Scribble was previously.

Apple Watch full QWERTY keyboard
Apple Watch full QWERTY keyboard

By default, Scribble is replaced by the full keyboard. This makes some sense given that you can be much quicker with the full keyboard than with Scribble. With the keyboard you can either tap on the individual characters or even use swiping between characters to enter in the text. When you use Swipe the Apple Watch will use predictive text to try and provide the correct word.

Scribble is still available if you want to use it. This is accessed by swiping up from the bottom of the Apple Watch to bring up the option of using Scribble or the full keyboard (Thanks to Michael @bearsfan34 on twitter for pointing me in the right direction). You can easily switch between the two depending on your preferred input method. 

Series 7 Only

Not having a full keyboard on the 38, 40, and 42mm makes sense given that the screens would be too small. Having the 41mm support a full keyboard does make sense given that the screen is more edge to edge. Yet, what seems odd is that the the full keyboard is not supported on the 44mm screen. Sure, it would be a slightly more cramped, but it would still likely be quite useable. My guess is that the full keyboard is designed to be exclusive to the Series 7 Apple Watch as a differentiating factor for the Watches.

Personally, I do not know how often I will end up using the full keyboard, but it is inevitable that having a full keyboard on the Apple Watch Series 7 will come in handy at some point. Let us now look at the new watch faces on the Series 7 Apple Watches.

New Watch Faces

Add Watch Faces - New Watch Faces
Add Watch Faces – New Watch Faces option

The biggest aspect of the Apple Watch is the ability to customize the faces of the Apple Watch. All watch faces, regardless of them being digital or analog watches, have a thing called complications. Complications can display a number of things, like the current date, a calendar, or even the phase of the moon. Complications on an analog watch, as the name indicates, makes the watch more complicated to create. 

Similarly on the Apple Watch complications allow you to show items on the face of the Apple Watch. There are a number of different complication sizes, small, medium, large. Apple has a set of built-in complications, but third-party applications can also provide their own complications for people to use.

Apple adds new watch faces periodically. There are generally two instances when Apple adds new watch faces, either with a new version of watchOS or a when there is a new Apple Watch screen size. watchOS 8 includes two new watch faces, called “Portraits” and “World Time”. These watch faces are available to any Apple Watch that can support watchOS 8, meaning anything introduced after the Apple Watch Series 3.

As mentioned, the second possible instance for a new watch face is with a change in screen size. When there is a new screen size it is likely that new watch faces are introduced, or existing watch faces are modified, to take full advantage of the new screen size. The Apple Watch Series 7 has a couple new watch faces that are designed for the new screen sizes. Let us look at each one individually.

Contour

Contour watch face
Contour watch face with color dial

The Contour watch face is an interesting one. The Contour watch face is an analog watch face that has the hours around the outside edge of the watch face. As the name suggests the hours contour to the screen while the analog watch hands move around the watch face to provide the current time.

The Contour watch face allows you to set a specific color as well as add two sub-dial complications. One small complication that is towards the bottom of the screen as well a personalization complication. The personalization complication can be one of the following items:

  • Today’s Date (default)
  • Monogram
  • Stopwatch
  • Digital Time
  • Timer

There are some other options that you can set, including the style as well as the dial color. There are two style options, “Regular” and “Rounded”. These watch face are different, but only subtly. The “Rounded” style takes the bottom portion of the hours and rounds them out so that the edges of each hour will be rounded. This is a very subtle difference. The easiest number to notice the difference is the “10”, but other numbers also change.

There is one last option called “Dial Color”. The “Dial Color” option will allow you to set the entire dial to your selected color or even a multi-color. Let us look at the other new watch face, Module Duo.

Modular Duo

Apple Watch Modular Duo watch face
Apple Watch Modular Duo watch face with Activity rings at the top, Weather in the middle, and Now Playing at the bottom

One of the watch faces that has been available since the original Apple Watch running watchOS 1 has been the Modular face. The Modular face allows you to choose the complications that will appear on the watch face. You can choose up to six complications, four small, one large, and an optional date in the upper right corner. On the Modular face there are three complications on the bottom row, the large complication in the middle, and one more small complication in the upper left corner. 

The Modular Duo face allows you the choice of three complications. There are two large complications and one small complication. The large complications take up the bottom two thirds of the Apple Watch face and the small complication is in the upper left corner. 

The Modular Duo watch face is a decent face that will help you quickly see information if you only have two large items and one small item you want to be able to see at a glance.

While I like the Modular Duo watch face, I think I am going to stick with my Infograph Modular watch face which was introduced with the Series 4. It provides me with the most number of complications so I can quickly get the information that I need. If you need only a couple of large complications, then the Modular Duo is a great choice.

Both of these new watch faces work well with the new 45mm Apple Watch Series 7 screen. There is one last feature to cover and that is around charging.

Fast charging

Apple Watch charger with metal base
Apple Watch charger with Metal Base that supports Fast Charging

All of the Apple Watches have been capable of getting a decent level of charge fairly quickly. How quickly you can get an 80% charge, as well as a full charge, depends on the model. For the Apple Watch Series 3 you can get an 80% charge in about 90 minutes with a full charge in about 120 minutes. The Apple Watch SE takes about 90 minutes for an 80% charge and 150 minutes for a full charge. These charge times also similar for the other models as well. 

The Apple Watch Series 7 is different. It is capable of charging to 80% in 45 minutes and a full charge in 75 minutes. This means that you can charge the Apple Watch in half the time. This is great particularly if you do not have a lot of time to charge your watch, but you want to make sure it has enough charge. There are some limitations to this though.

First, you need a Fast Charge Apple Watch charger. This part is taken care of, because one is included in the box of your Apple Watch Series 7, so that will not cost you anything extra. The Apple Watch chargers that support fast charging can be easily identified because they have band of metal around the charging puck as well as around the USB-C plug.

The second thing you need is a USB-C charger capable of supporting USB Power Delivery, or USB-PD. This will need to be 5-watts or higher. This does not need to be an Apple USB-C adapter, but some of those are supported as well. The list of Apple power adapters that is supported include: 18W, 20W, 29W, 30W, 61W, 87W, and 96W USB-C adapters. If you have one of these adapters it will work. 

You can still use your other Apple Watch chargers, they just will not allow for fast charging. Therefore, if you have a favorite charger, you can continue to use it. You can replace them when the time is right for you.

Fast charging is a great addition to the Apple Watch given that there are no new sensors on the Apple Watch Series 7.

Closing Thoughts

If you currently have an Apple Watch Series 5 or Series 6, I am not sure how much of an upgrade you would notice. There are no new “must have” features that most users would notice, outside of the screen and full keyboard. However, if you upgrading from a Series 4, or as one person I talked to at the Apple Store, a Series 2, this will be a fantastic upgrade.

The increase in screen size will be very welcome and noticeable right away. The faster charging may not be immediately noticeable, but if you need to get a charge of 80%, it will take half the time, provided you use a compatible adapter that support USB Power Delivery, also known as USB-PD.

If you are in the market for a new Apple Watch the Series 7 is a great choice, whether you go with the 41mm or 45mm, you cannot go wrong. As of this writing there are many models that have a delivery date of early December, so you should order an Apple Watch sooner rather than later, if you are intending to order from Apple in time for the holidays. If you are new to the Apple Watch you will not be disappointed.

Apple Announces Apple Watch Series 7 Pre-orders

At their ‘California Streaming’ Apple announced the Apple Watch Series 7. At the time they announced that the Series 7 Apple Watch would be “available later this fall”. Today, they have announced that pre-orders will begin this Friday, October 8th with devices beginning to arrive or be picked up October 15th.

Pre-orders will begin at 5:00am Pacific Time. The Apple Watch Series 7 starts at $399 for the 41mm, and $429 for the 45mm, with the cellular versions costing a bit more.

Source: Apple Newsroom

Apple Watch Series 6: A Review

From time to time, new product lines are announced by a company. In September of 2014 Apple announced a whole new product line, the Apple Watch. It took a bit more than six months until the first Apple Watch was released, but it did arrive in April of 2015.

When it was introduced the Apple Watch was positioned as a replacement for the iPhone, however that is not the focus of the Apple Watch today. Recently, Apple announced new watch, The Apple Watch Series 6.

Each year I have purchased a new Apple Watch and I have always purchased the Space Gray aluminum model. For the first Apple Watch through the Apple Watch Series 4, I ordered it with the Black Sport Band. With the Apple Watch Series 5, I ordered the Anchor Gray Sport Loop.

The reason I ordered the Gray Sport Loop was because I purchased and reviewed the Black Sport Loop and I liked the Sport Loop. Apple no longer sold the Black Sport Loop, so I went with something as close as I could. Therefore, I ordered the Apple Watch with the Anchor Gray Sport Loop. If they would have had the Black Sport Loop, I would have ordered that.

When the Apple Watch Series 6 was announced it was available for ordering that day and would begin arriving on September 18th. I ordered an Apple Watch Series 6. As mentioned above, I have always ordered the Aluminum Space Gray, but this year I have done something a bit different. Instead of getting the standard Aluminum Space Gray, I went with the Aluminum Space Gray Nike Apple Watch.

Specifically, I ordered the Space Gray Nike Watch with the Anthracite/Black Nike Sport Band. Along with this, I also ordered a Nike Black Sport Loop, as well as one of the new Black Sport Loop. All of this provides me a couple of new areas to review. The areas that I will review are:

  • Series 6 Watch
  • Sport Bands
  • Sport Loops
  • Solo Loop

Each of these will be looked at in turn starting with the Apple Watch Series 6.

Apple Watch Series 6

If you were to upgrade your Apple Watch year over year, as I have done, you will only see incremental updates over the previous year. However, if you upgrade from an older model, you might notice significant changes. Each new Apple Watch has some change that goes along with it. Typically, these updates are hardware. The Apple Watch Series 6 is no exception. The biggest feature of the Apple Watch Series 6 is a new sensor for testing your blood oxygen levels.

Blood Oxygen

The Apple Watch Series 6 has a new sensor that allows you to determine the amount of oxygen within your blood. This is done by shining a bright infrared light through your skin. The amount of reflected light that is reflected back is put through an algorithm that will determine how much oxygen is in your blood.

The way that you test your blood oxygen is by opening up the “Blood Oxygen” app. When you open up the Blood Oxygen app you will be presented with an animation. Additionally, you will see the last time that your blood oxygen was taken and the recorded ratio. You can start measuring your blood oxygen by tapping on the “Start” button.

The test will take 15 seconds. In order to get the best results, you will want to rest your wrist on a table or flat surface. This is because movement can cause the test to be inconclusive and not be able to be taken. Furthermore, it is best to not tap your fingers, because this can also cause the test to not be able to be done properly.

The result that you will get is a percentage.Obviously, the higher the percentage, the more oxygen that is present in your blood. A majority of individuals have a level between 95% and 100%. There are those who may have a lower blood oxygen level.

Blood Oxygen levels are not only recorded when you take the test. They are also performed in the background, particularly while you are sleeping. All of your tests are stored in the Health app. You can get to this data by performing the following steps:

  1. Open the Health App.
  2. Tap on the “Summary” tab.
  3. At the bottom of “Favorites” tap on “Show All Health Data”.
  4. Scroll down to “Blood Oxygen”.
  5. Tap on “Blood Oxygen” to open up the Blood Oxygen data.

Here you will see a standard Health data chart with the Daily, Weekly, Monthly, and Yearly options. You can also select any of the options at the bottom, which will highlight the necessary information or a line to the graph so you can see the variations throughout the day.

The Blood Oxygen sensor in the Apple Watch Series 6 is a nice addition for users to be able to add one additional data point to their health records. Apple is very cautious when it comes to health-related items, and it makes sense to be cautious. The data from the blood oxygen sensor will help users, and their physicians, have a record of blood oxygen levels and can help should any issues arise in the future. Let us now turn to a couple of other hardware changes.

Other Hardware Changes

The Apple Watch Series 6 has a coupe lot other hardware-specific items. With each new version of the Apple Watch, there is a new chip that powers the Apple Watch. The Apple Watch Series 6 has an S6 chip. The S6 Chip has some new features which are not present on the S4 and S5. The S6 has an always-on Altimeter.

The always on Altimeter will allow you to see your current altitude above sea level. You can add a complication to your Apple Watch face so you can see your current altitude. This is great addition particularly if you are on a hike that will bring you up or down a hill with significant change in elevation.

Another new feature of the S6, which does not have much usage right now, is the inclusion of the U1, which is Apple’s ultra Wideband chip. The U1 is present in the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max. The U1 is used for spatial awareness, which currently only used with Air Drop. It might be used for other features in the future though.

The U1 chip is capable of allowing you to communicate between devices that are local. There are other ways of communicating. One feature that the Apple Watch has had since the first version is the ability to connect to the Apple Watch to Wifi. Every Apple Watch has had the ability to connect via Wifi, except this is only able to use the 2.4GHz spectrum. For most uses this is acceptable, however the 2.4GHz Wifi can be quite crowded and a crowded

The last hardware change is the screen. The Apple Watch Series 6 has a brighter screen. According to Apple it is 2.5x brighter while in sunlight. With previous models it may have been difficult to see the items on your watch face while using your watch in direct sunlight. This should be reduced with the Series 6. An additional change with the Series 6 Apple Watch, which has not necessarily been mentioned by other reviews. While your wrist is down you are now able to access complications

Nike Watch Specific Features

This year I ended up getting a Nike Apple Watch Series 6. The reason for this was two fold. First, I have actually wanted to get the Nike version of the Apple Watch just to see what the differences were. It is not likely that I will use the Nike specific features, like the Nike Run Club, but I still want to see the differences.

The second reason is that it was available for release day delivery. I had not gotten any of the Nike models in the past is because they were not usually available until two weeks after the other models. I generally like to have the devices the day they are released, so I just always got the standard model. This year though, the Nike version was available for release day delivery, so I opted for that model.

The Nike Apple Watch Series 6 does not have any hardware difference from the standard Apple Watch. Instead, the changes are only software related. There are a couple of specific differences.

The first software change is that when you look at the settings within the Watch app on your iPhone, you will see a new option, the “Nike Run Club” app. This is a direct shortcut to install the app. If you do not have it installed, you are able to install it with a single tap.

The biggest change software change is the inclusion of Nike-specific Apple Watch faces. There are a variety of unique watch faces that are not present on the standard Apple Watch. The additional watch faces available are:

  • Nike Compact
  • Nike Hybrid
  • Nike Analog
  • Nike Digital

Nike Compact

The Nike Compact Watch Face allows you to have three complications and a clock. The three different complication spots are Top, Middle, and Bottom. These are small, small, and large complications respectively.

The clock is in the upper right corner and can be either an analog clock or a digital one. For the analog clock, there are two different options. One of the analog faces has large numerals for 12, 3, 6, and 9. The hour, minute, and second hands will sweep around the clock face. The second analog watch face only has the watch hands, and is two tones. The upper portion is one color and the bottom portion is another color.

With the Nike Compact face you have an option for selecting the color of the face, just as you would with other watch faces. There are 27 different color options. You have 13 different sets, that all match the various Nike Watch bands. As an example, one of the sets is Pure Platinum/Black. With this color option the clock face color will be Platinum, as will the tint for all of your complications also being Platinum. The color of the digits of the analog and digits of the clock will be black. If you choose Black/Pure Platinum, the background of the clock face switches and the color of the digits will flip. This is the same for all of the other 24 colors. There is one last color option, Multicolor. This color will show your complications in color and the clock faces will be the same as Platinum/Black.

Nike Hybrid

The Nike Hybrid watch face has the same three options for the clock. However, each clock face has two options for the dial itself, Rectangle or Circle. The Rectangle option does not have any room for complications. However, the Circle option allows for five complication options. Four of these options are the ones around the outside corners. The fifth option is along the top of the dial.

As is the case with the Nike Compact watch face, you have a variety of choices for color options. There are 40 different options. It does not make sense to list all of the possible combinations. However, many of the colors have three options. As an example there is Obsidian Mist/Black, Black/Obsidian Mist, and just Obsidian Mist. The last item listed is a single color but with two different shades of the color. There are some color options that do not have this last choice. Anthricite/Black and Lime Blast/Black are only available in the two choices. Let us turn to the next Nike Watch Face, Nike Analog.

Nike Analog

The Nike Analog provides places for three complications. These are in the top left, top right, and bottom. The top left and top right that are small complications while the bottom is just a line of text.

You can choose amongst four different styles of analog watch face. Style 1 does not have any numbers, just indicators. Style 2 had small numbers for hours 12, 3, 6, and 9. Style 3 has small numbers for hours 12, 2, 4, 6, 8, and 19. Style 4, the last style, has the standard large numbers for hours 12, 3, 6, and 9.

There are 35 different color choices, 32 of these are solid colors. While three of these, White/Volt, White/Red, and Rainbow provide multiple color options for the watch face.

Nike Digital

The Nike Digital Watch Face has the time in large font along the left and three complications. The complication locations are Middle Left, Bottom Left, and Bottom. The Middle Left and Middle Right options allow you to select a small complication. Just like the Nike Analog, the “bottom” option will allow a complication that is a line of text.

There are three style choices, Solid, Two-Tone, and Outline. The Solid style will display the time with a solid fill color. The Two-Tone option will show the hour with a solid fill and the minutes will have an outline. The Outline style will display both the hour and minute in an outline.

There are a number of different options for the Nike Digital face, 32 to be exact. 30 of these are solid colors, and there are two dual-color choices. The two dual-color choices are Volt/White and Red/White. If you select one of these dual-tone colors, the displayed time will appear white and the complications will be either Volt or Red, depending on your choice.

All of the Nike Watch Faces offer a unique style and option for your Apple Watch which can help differentiate your watch from other Apple Watches. Now that we have covered all of the Nike-specific watch faces, let us look at various bands for the Apple Watch.

Apple Watch Bands

Not everything is a “one size fits all” type of situation. People like the ability to customize things and the Apple Watch is designed to be a fashion item. While there are plenty of ways to customize the watch face, not everyone may notice this. However, others may notice if you are wearing a specific Watch Band. Watch Bands are an easy way to customize the look and feel of your Apple Watch. There are a number of Apple Watch Bands, as well as many third-party bands available. One thing that has remained the same throughout all of the generations of the Apple Watch is that bands that were purchased early in the lifespan of the Apple Watch may work with the newest watches, provided you are using the same size watch.

For instance, if you bought the 38mm Apple Watch Series 2 and bought a 40mm Apple Watch Series 5, the watch bands should, for the most part, work with both watches. However, if you bought a 38MM Apple Watch Series 2, but then got the 44MM Apple Watch Series 5, the bands would not work between the two models, due to the size differences. Let us look at some of the available bands from Apple and the differences between the standard models and the Nike models. Then we will look at a brand new band from Apple.

Sport Bands

The sport sand has been around since the first Apple Watch was released. Until the Series 4, the default band was the sport band. The sport band is made of Fluoroelastomer. Fluoroelastomer is a rubber product. The sport band is designed to be comfortable and used all day. The fact that the sport band is rubber, it is odor resistant.

The sport band can be worn while swimming, exercising, or any other activity. Due to its ability to be done doing just about any activity, it means that its designed to stand up to use. Even though, by its very name, it is usable in sports, it means that it is designed to be cleaned. The sport band can be cleaned with mild soap and water.

The Nike Sport Band is similar to the standard sport band. The biggest difference between the two, outside of the available colors, is that the Nike Sport Band has additional holes along the left and right side of the central holes. The additional holes are designed to help wick away sweat and provides a bit more air around your wrist.

The Nike Sport Band that came with my Apple Watch Series 6, it is my first time using the Nike version of the sport band. The Nike Sport Band is a pretty good band and just like the standard sport band.

With the additional holes, you technically can use any of the other holes, but then you would have to bend the sport band a bit to get the clasp to fit into the clasp where the excess Since the sport band is two pieces, you can mix and match them. So you can mix and match the parts of the bands, which can allow you to create your own design.

You might expect that all sport bands are the same. However, they are not. The Nike Sport Band feels just a tad bit lighter weight than the regular sport band. This makes sense given that there is less material than the standard sport band. If you are using the Nike Sport Band for exercise, being able to have a lighter band can help make exercising a bit nicer.

The sport band, no matter which specific model, is the standard band and a great overall band to use with the Apple Watch. The various holes allow each person to adjust it to their wrist, but the preset holes can result in some people not getting the exact fit they need. Let us turn to a slightly different take on the Sport Band to a band that has been around for a while, the Sport Loop.

Sport Loops

The Sport Loops are made of two layers of woven nylon. The sport loop uses a hook and loop fastener that will keep the band classed. The hook and loop mechanism allows for the Apple Watch to easily be removed and put on. Additionally, the sport loop band allows you to fit the band even better than other bands, because you can adjust it to the size you need.

There is only one subtle difference between the standard Sport Loop and the Nike Sport Loop, and that difference is that the Nike Sport Loop includes reflective nylon that is woven throughout the band. This is designed to be reflective when light is shown on the band. This is particularly useful for those who exercise when the light may not be the best. While you will likely have other items to indicate your presence, like neon clothing, a head lamp, or flashing light, it is one more item that will allow vehicles and others to see your while exercising.

After a year of usage, and even with regular cleaning, the Sport loop can accumulate odors. Apple indicates that you can clean the sport loops with water and a lint-free cloth, but this does not work in practice. Instead, you may want to let the band soak with a touch of soap for a while. Once the band is soaked, a light scrubbing may help with the cleaning to remove the odors. Another possible option, which may sound strange, is to shower with your watch band. The soap that you use should help a bit as well. Plus, the Apple Watch can certainly handle getting wet in the shower.

Overall, the sport loop is a lightweight band that is much easier to take off and put on than the sport loop. Over time, the clasping mechanism does seem to reduce the strength of the clasping mechanism. So this is something to keep in mind.

The Sport Loop is probably one of the more comfortable bands and the infinite adjustability allows the band to be versatile as band that can be used throughout the day and that you can adjust throughout the day, if needed. Next, let us look at one of the newest additions to the selection of Apple Watch Bands, the Solo Loop.

Solo Loop

The Solo Loop is a new type of Apple Watch Band. The Solo Loop is compatible with the Series 4 and newer. The Solo Loop is a single piece band that is made with silicone rubber. This is similar to the fluoroelastomer of the Sport Band.

The Sport Loop does not have any clasps, buckles, or any sort of mechanism that allows for adjustment. So it is important to choose the proper size. Apple has a printable tool to be able to help size the Solo Loop. If you visit an Apple Store, you may be able to obtain one.

The Sport Loop comes in one of twelve sizes, 1 to 12. Sizes 1 to 8 are available for the 40mm Apple Watch, and sizes 4 to 12 are available for the 44mm. The difference between each size of the Sport Loop band is very little, hence why there are a bunch of different sizes.

There are actually two methods for the tool. The first is to print out an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper, cut out the measurement tool, and then wrap it around your wrist to determine the proper band size. The second method is to use a piece of paper and a measuring tape. You measure from the end of the paper to the point where the paper matches the end. Once you have this, you can then enter in the length into Apple’s conversion tool, which on the page, and it will provide you with the proper band size.

I tried both methods. First, I used the tape measure approach and it said it could either be a size 8 or a size 9. I then tried with the print-out and it said 8. With the physical measuring tool from the Apple Store, it would be between 7 and 8.

It is important to make sure that you have the correct size. Having a Sport Loop that is too loose will not allow the watch to sit properly on your wrist. You may be able to get a Sport Loop that is one size larger than what the tool indicates. When I did the measurement with Apple’s tool, it indicated that I was a size 8. I was able to order one for pickup at my local Apple Store.

When I opened the package, and put the Sport Loop on my Apple Watch, it seemed like it might be too small, but once I put on my Apple Watch, it did fit, although it was a bit loose. I would probably be better with a size 7, but the size 8 that I have does fit. Even though the Sport Loop is a bit loose, it is not too loose that it stops the Apple Watch from functioning. Furthermore, if the Sport Loop was too loose, the Apple Watch would lock because it lost contact with the skin. So far, I haven to experienced that.

While having a Sport Loop that is too loose could be a problem, you also do not want a super tight band either. This is for a few of reasons. The first is that a band that is too tight can cut off circulation and would be quite uncomfortable. The size of ones wrist can change over time depending on my factors, including but not limited to, heat, hydration levels, and just natural body cycles. The second reason is that if the band is too tight, the blood oxygen sensor will not work properly.

There is one last item to note about the Solo Loop. According to its support document for Apple Watch bands, quote:

If you have a Solo Loop or Braided Solo Loop, the band size should be comfortable, but snug against your wrist. Simply pull from the bottom of the band to stretch it over your wrist when you put it on and take it off. Solo Loop may increase in length over time.

I would guess that this may take some time to occur, but it is something to be cognizant of when purchasing a Solo Loop.

Overall, the Sport Loop is a pretty good band and a great addition to the various bands available for the Apple Watch. The lack of a clasp is nice, however its biggest downside is that you need to get the size correct. The only problem will be finding the right fit. If you have an Apple Store nearby, you can see if they have a measuring tool and you can get the proper size. The Sport Loop comes in a variety of colors. The available options are:

  • Deep Navy
  • Ginger
  • Cyprus Green
  • Pink Citrus
  • White
  • Black
  • PRODUCT(RED)

Closing Thoughts

Overall the Apple Watch Series 6 is a solid upgrade, provided that you are upgrading from certain Apple Watches. If you have an Original Apple Watch, a Series 1, 2, or 3, and you are looking to upgrade, the Apple Watch Series 6 is a worthwhile upgrade. However, if you have an Apple Watch Series 4, the new Blood Oxygen sensor and speed increase may be enough to persuade you to upgrade. For Apple Watch Series 5 owners, the only changes are the inclusion of the Blood Oxygen sensor. For some, and particular during these times, it may be a worthwhile upgrade.

With the Series 6 being my first Nike edition of the Apple Watch, it is different to see the distinct Nike Watch Faces in person. I am not sure if I will end up using them on a daily basis, because I do like my Apple Watch to be a mini computer on my wrist, where I can quickly glance at information and the Nike Watch Faces do not allow the breadth of complications on the watch faces. The best part though, is that the Nike Apple Watch does not restrict you to using just the Nike Watch Faces, but you can use any of the Watch Faces that are included in watchOS.

Customizing your Apps Watch face is huge, but a lot of people may not see your watch face unless you show them specifically. What many others can see though, is the Watch Band that is attached to your Apple Watch. There are a variety of bands available. The newest one, the Solo Loop is a great choice if you do not want to use a clasp of any sort. The biggest downside to the Solo Loop is that you need to get the size exactly correct, otherwise it may end up being too tight or too loose. There is one last thing to note, if you purchase an Apple Watch Series 6, or an Apple Watch SE, with the Solo Loop and the Solo Loop is the wrong size, you may have to wait for a replacement, because they are popular.

The differences between the standard Sport Band, and the Nike Sport Band, as well as the standard Sport Loop, and the Nike Sport Loop are very minimal. The Nike Sport Band feels a bit lighter than the standard Sport Band. The lighter weight of the Nike Sport Band is due to the band not having as much material. The only difference with Nike Sport Loop, as compared to the original, is that the Nike version has reflective threads woven in so that in the dark vehicles are able to identify that there is someone there.

I am not sure if I will end up settling on a single band. I do like the Sport Loops due to their overall comfort and adjustability, but the Solo Loop is also quite comfortable and can allow me to easily rest my wrist anywhere without worrying about a clasp. I guess only time will tell which one, or ones, I end up using the most.

The Apple Watch Series 6 is quite popular and some models have longer lead times than others. If you are planning on getting one for the holidays, ordering now is prudent. The Apple Watch Series 6 starts at $399 for the 40mm GPS model, and $429 for the 42mm model. You can add cellular for $100 more on either size.

You can read a lot more about watchOS 7 in my book, iOS 14, iPadOS 14, tvOS 14, and watchOS 7 for Users and Developers. It is available on Apple, Amazon, for $3.99 each, as a black & white paperback for $14.99 or a color paperback for $39.99.

Developer Changes for In-App Purchases

When Apple introduced the ability to publish apps to the iOS App Store in 2008, it was a very different landscape from what we have now. Back then you had either apps that you published for free or ones that were paid up front. Now, free apps are far more common than paid up-front apps.

In 2010, Apple introduced a new product, the iPad, which allowed for more opportunities within the App Store. With the introduction of the iPad you had two options, create a universal app, one that would work on both the iPhone and the iPad, or create two separate apps; one built for each platform.

While the possibility to build two distinct apps remained for a while, the introduction of the Apple Watch and the Apple TV have made the idea of creating distinct apps for each platform a bit harder to accomplish. The interfaces should be tailored for each platform, but the app itself would likely be shared amongst iOS and iPadOS.

Last year with the introduction of macOS Catalina, there was a new way to distribute your existing iOS apps, to macOS, through a project called Catalyst.

With free apps there are a number of different strategies for supporting free apps. These can be, ad-based, subscriptions, or in-app purchase. It has become more and more common for the latter two of these to be used. With in-app purchases, if you built an application for both iOS and macOS, using Catalyst or native frameworks, you would have to create two different in-app purchases, because they could not be shared between the platforms.

With the introduction of iOS 13.4 and macOS Catalina 10.15.4 you will

be allowing customers to enjoy your app and in‑app purchases across platforms by purchasing only once. You can choose to create a new app for these platforms using a single app record in App Store Connect or add platforms to your existing app record.

This is a huge change for the App Store and the distribution of apps in general. Users have been requesting the ability to purchase an app once and have it work on all of their devices. While this works for users, this can have some implications for developers.

Developer Implications

While the option to distribute a single application to all of the platforms is optional, it is likely something that users will quickly come to expect from developers. Yes, there are tools like Catalyst for macOS, it is still not at its full maturity in terms of having iOS apps ported to the Mac look and behave like native macOS apps that use AppKit.

This can have some ramifications for the developer. The first being that this can easily cut into profits for a developer. For larger companies, this may not be a big problem, but for the smaller independent developers this can have a huge impact.

With the pressure to make your application available on all platforms, and in-app purchases being good across all platforms, this will likely reduce the income for developers.

There are some developers who have wanted to have universal in-app purchases available because they want their users to be able to have the same experience on all platforms, plus users also question why they have to make the same purchase on multiple platforms. Therefore, this will be a great addition for both users and developers.

In-App Purchases on watchOS

Starting with watchOS 6.2, developers will be able to provide in-app purchases directly from watchOS. This will have a huge benefit to the watchOS platform as developers will not need to have users use their paired iPhone to perform in-app purchases, but instead have it possible to purchase them directly on the Apple Watch. This should provide a better experience for Apple Watch users and the in-app purchase workflow.

Closing Thoughts

While the addition of universal apps as well as universal in-app purchase will create a better experience for users, it could have some ramifications for developers in that they will be expected to support universal in-app purchase, which developers may want to do, as well as supporting universal app purchase, which may reduce their income.

I cannot say that this is not altogether unexpected, because it is something that both users and developers have been asking for for a while. It may take some time for applications to come to support universal in-app purchases as well as universal app purchases. This should be available starting with iOS 13.4, macOS 10.15.,4, tvOS 13.4, and watchOS 6.2.

Apple Watch Series 5: A Review

It is strange to think that only five years ago Apple introduced a whole new product line, the Apple Watch. While it was introduced in September of 2014, it was not actually available for purchase until April of 2015.

In the past almost five years, both the Apple Watch hardware, as well the accompanying software, watchOS, has seen some significant upgrades. If you owned an original Apple Watch, retroactively dubbed the Series 0, you knew that it was not exactly the fastest piece of hardware around. Besides the hardware being slow, all of the interactions relied upon the paired iPhone for communications.

If it was merely a matter of having slow hardware and slow software, it may have been tolerable, given that it was a first-generation product. However, to add even more third-party applications were very limited in what they could do even on the watch. The overall experience for the first Apple Watch was, in a word, limited.

Apple recognized this limitation by creating the Series 1 Apple Watch, which was effectively a Series 0 watch, but had double the processing power. This upgrade vastly improved the functionality. At the same time, the Apple Watch Series 2 was released. The improvements with the Series 2 included water resistance, GPS, a brighter screen, and Nike+ Editions.

The next big upgrade was with the Apple Watch Series 3 when Apple introduced a cellular option for the Apple Watch, Blush Gold, and a barometric altimeter. Last year’s Series 4 Apple Watch included a new ECG sensor, with a companion digital sensor, a whole new set of sizes, 40mm and 44mm, and a gyroscope.

Series 5

The Apple Watch Series 5 does not have nearly as many new hardware specific features that the Series 4 watch did, However, there are a couple of very welcome improvements. The improvements with the Series 5 watch include an Always On Display, a Compass, and additional storage. Let us look at each of these.

Always On Display

One of the features that traditional watches have is the ability to always see the time. This has not been available on the Apple Watch, until the Series 5. The Always On Display, is, as the name states, always on. The Always On Display was definitely not possible on the original Apple Watch, the Series 1 nor the Series 2 Apple Watch. The battery life on the Series 4 could have handled it, but it likely was not ready with the Series 4.

When you have the “Always On” display enabled a few things will happen. First, the display will always be on. Secondly, any complications that have “sensitive” data will be hidden when your wrist is down. Sensitive Data is defined as health, calendar appointments, mail, and heart rate. The reason for this is to make sure that your private information is not shown to others. In the case of Activity data, all of the rings are turned black, so the data cannot be seen.

Additionally, when your wrist is down, the size of the screen will shrink a bit and the display will dim. This allows you an easy way to recognize that the display is off. Furthermore, when your wrist is down, you are not able to take screenshots. Again, this is to protect your data.

You can disable the Always On display, if you so choose to do so. To disable the Always On display perform the following steps:

  1. On the Apple Watch,, or use the Watch app on an iPhone,. open the Settings app.
  2. Scroll down “Display & Brightness”.
  3. Tap on “Display & Brightness” to open the setting.
  4. Tap on “Always On” to open the Always On setting.
  5. Tap on the “Always On” toggle to disable the “Always On” display.

If you disable the Always On display, your Apple Watch will work similarly to the Series 4, and earlier models, and the display will only be turned on when you raise your wrist.

The last change with the Always On Display, while your wrist is down, is that the screen will refresh much slower than the Series 4. In fact, the screen refresh rate may be reduced to as low as 1 Hertz. This means that the screen will refresh once per second, which should, in theory, significantly improve battery life. On the topic of battery life, let us look at that next.

Battery Life

With each subsequent version of a product, it is quite likely for the battery life to improve. This is typically done by improving efficiency, increasing battery size, or both. In the case of the Series 5, the size of the battery has increased, but not for the 44mm watch, just the 40mm one.

As alluded to above, the battery life on the Series 4 Apple Watch was absolutely tremendous. I could easily go all day without needing worry about the battery running low. Most days the battery would be at above 50%. That has not my experience with the Series 5.

While I would suspect the Series 5 to have slightly worse battery life, due to the Always On Display, my battery life has been significantly worse than the Series 4. There are some days that my 44mm Series 5 Apple Watch is down to 25% when I put it on the charger. I have not been using the Series 5 in any different manner than I did with the Series 4.

To me, this is not acceptable. Yes, there is technically enough battery life to get through the day, that is only with approximately 30 minutes of exercise. If I end up doing a longer workout this results in even less battery life remaining. If I had been running a beta, I might have expected this, but this is the release version of watchOS, so it is not that. Hopefully, Apple will be able to improve the battery life with a subsequent update. Let us look at the another new feature, the Compass.

Compass

The Compass is a brand new feature of the Series 5 Apple Watch. The Compass allows you to determine your current heading; just as a handheld compass would do. The digital compass provides more than just the current heading. You can also see the current degree of inline, elevation, latitude and longitude. Even though this is a great feature, there may be some possible issues with it.

Possible Issues

The compass is not foolproof. This is because the Compass in the Apple Watch Series 5 can be affected by any magnet. This includes magnets within Watch Bands.

Per Apple’s support page for the Compass:

The presence of magnets can affect the accuracy of any compass sensor. Apple’s Leather Loop, Milanese Loop, and earlier Sport Loop watch bands use magnets or magnetic material that might interfere with the Apple Watch compass. The compass isn’t affected by Sport Loop bands introduced in September 2019, or any version of the Sport Band.

What this means is that if you have a Milanese Loop, a Leather Loop, and older Apple Watch Sport Loop, and possibly even third-party watch bands, they may interfere with the Compass on the Apple Watch. It is not guaranteed to do so, but it might cause a problem. This is something to be aware of, in case you need to rely on the Compass.

Storage

The storage for the Apple Watch has steadily increased since the original Apple Watch. For the first three generations you had 8GB of storage on the Apple Watch. If you had a Series 3 Cellular model, this was doubled to 16GB. The Series 4 made 16GB standard, and the Series 5 Apple Watch has 32GB of storage standard.

This rapid increase in storage has is great if you want to store additional media, like voice memos, music, and photos. I do not see Apple adding additional storage beyond 32GB, unless there is a significant reason to add storage. There is one last thing to cover, the included watch band.

Purchasing Experience

Apple has done something different when you purchase an Apple Watch. With the release of the Series 4 Apple Watch, you had to choose one of the pre-defined Apple Watch and Watch Band. Even if you did this, the two items would come in separate boxes. That is not the case with the Series 5. You can now pair any Apple Watch with any Apple Watch band.

This has a couple of different benefits. The first is that you can get the exact pairing that you want. This means that you can get the exact pairing of Apple Watch and band that meets your style. Additionally, this also means that you will not need to have a band that you will not end up using. This is not only good for your wallet, but also for the environment, because Apple does not have to produce an additional watch band that may just end up in the landfill. Next, let us look at the Sport Loop.

Sport Loop

I will not do a whole review of the Apple Watch Sport Loop, because I did one in 2018. Instead, I want to comment on the design of the 2019 Sport Loops.

This year Apple has gone with a two-tone color scheme for the sport loops. The sport loop that I chose this year is the Anchor Gray. In the picture this looks like a black and gray band, however when you look at it in person, it is actually two different shades of gray. The darker of the two colors is on the outside while the lighter of the two is on the inside of the band.

This is a nice look overall and I think the two-tone color scheme has a second utility, besides new colors. I think it is related to the Compass feature and allows Apple employees to easily identify the band as one that does not interfere with the Compass feature on the Series 5 Apple Watch.

Closing Thoughts

The Apple Watch Series 5 is a decent upgrade, particularly with the Always On display. While the battery life has been significantly degraded, it still does make it though the day. The battery life may improve with a software upgrade, but only time will tell on that.

The new Compass is a nice feature, particularly since it provides you with the current latitude and longitude. The new 2019 Sport Loops will not interfere with the compass, but some other bands may interfere. The additional storage that is available should come in handy if you want to load up your Apple Watch with any type of media.

If you have an original Apple Watch, a Series 1, or even a Series 2, the Apple Watch Series 5 will be a great upgrade. If you have a Series 4, it may not be necessary to upgrade, unless you absolutely must have the Always On display.