I've been using smartwatches from the beginning, going all the way back to the Pebble. I've sung the praises of the product category for years, even when things were pretty rough. But when Apple stepped in with the first Apple Watch, we all knew that smartwatches were about to soar in popularity simply because of the Apple effect.
When I fully made my switch to iPhone last year, I pined for a top-tier smartwatch experience. I tried using my Samsung Galaxy Watch Active (Tizen) and Misfit Vapor X (Wear OS) and while both were technically functional, the connection and usage experiences felt clunky. Meanwhile, from the minute I turned on my new 45mm Apple Watch Series 7, the process was practically seamless.
Even setting up all of the Health stuff was a smooth experience, despite the shoddy cell signal I had outside the Micro Center where I bought the watch (and where I found it on a very good Apple Watch deal). Honestly, the only problem I had was figuring out how to fasten the sport band, since I was used to more traditional watch bands.
I'm been using it for a little more than a week now and I can unequivocally say that the Apple Watch is the best smartwatch experience I've ever had. After years of Pebble, Android Wear, Tizen, and Wear OS, watchOS is the king. The sheer amount of features is almost overwhelming and I don't think I'll use them all, but the fact that Apple has managed to pack so much into the watch is incredible.
Even the app experience is better than anything I've ever had. Most of the apps on my iPhone 13 Pro Max installed their watch versions automatically and I like the functionality. Whether it's using my pomodoro timer, fiddling with my Home Assistant controls, or viewing my Pi-Hole server's stats, my Apple Watch is a powerful device all on its own. Though not exclusive to Apple, I also loved paying for my groceries with my watch at Trader Joe's — it was so much quicker than pulling out my phone or wallet.
The workout tracking is also top-notch, with my watch recognizing when I'm out for a walk, running on the treadmill, or pushing my body to the max on a water rower. The stats I receive are incredibly helpful. Just this week, I finally learned that my typical twice-daily walk route is just over half a mile.
Of course, the Apple Watch does its primary jobs well, too: telling the time and showing me my notifications. On the Galaxy Watch Active and Vapor X, I was very limited in what I could do with notifications on my wrist. It threw me back to the Pebble days, where I could just see what had come through.
I love my Apple Watch and if I had one complaint, it'd be that two days is the most I can squeeze out of the battery. If I turn Always-on Display off, I get a few more hours, but otherwise, I'm charging my watch every other day. That's not a shock to me, but it's such a small complaint.
The Apple Watch isn't perfect for everyone, but if you're looking for the best smartwatch experience for your iPhone, this is it. It's just a bummer that Android users can't use an Apple Watch, because I think that crowd is missing out.