The Apple Watch is Here—But Should Travelers Buy In?
Given that the iPhone is likely the most ubiquitous travel accessory in the world, today’s announcement of the Apple Watch stands to be big news (even bigger news, perhaps than the annoucement of its new MacBook) for globetrotters. Here’s what you need to know about the hottest new tech toy:
Interchangeable faces and bands: Depending on where you go, and how you’re dressing (edgy in New York; romantic in Paris), the watch face and band are changeable. For followers of the smartwatch category, this shouldn’t come as a surprise—the Android Wear-powered Moto360 sports a similar advantage. How Apple is taking it one step further? Allowing you to add on key pieces of information to your watch face, showing you your next meeting or itinerary detail in-line with the time.
Detailed health info: Track the distance you’re traveling, and, crucially, the calories you’re burning, while romping around Rome. A helpful reference that will make you feel less guilty about eating yet another bowl of carbonara.
Travel-centric apps and ApplePay: Wherever ApplePay is supported, you can make transactions with a scan of the wrist (this feature is still limited abroad). Perhaps more useful are apps like Starwood’s SPG app, which sends you reminders of your room number or provides turn-by-turn directions back to your hotel (particularly useful in Asia, where street signs aren’t always easy to interpret). Passbook can provide up-to-the-minute flight details and boarding passes as you pull up to the airport. And Uber’s app makes it easy to hail a cab without digging your phone out of your tightly-packed carry-on.
All-day battery life: 18 hours of battery life will last most people a full day on the road, and a small, magnetic charger is easy to stash in any pocket.
Beautiful craftsmanship (and a price to match): Unlike most other smartwatches, you won’t feel like a tech nerd wearing this timepiece. Apple considered every detail in sourcing and custom-creating the materials for each model (super-strong but lightweight aluminum for the Apple Watch Sport; cold-forged stainless steel in traditional and space-black finishes for the Apple Watch Collection; and 18-karat yellow and rose gold for the Apple Watch Edition). The prices reflect the materials: an entry-level Sport model will start at $349, with gold models starting at a cool $10,000.
The Stuff Worth Skipping: Any function that requires you to talk to my wrist is plain old awkward (sorry, Siri). And Apple Watch’s digital touch features are worth playing with once or twice—they allow you to transmit your heartbeat to a loved one from far away, or send along a custom doodle—but this feature may be more captivating for the emoji-obsessed.
A Categorical Caveat: Having tested out a few smartwatches already, T+L can attest to the fact that having emails or answering calls on your wrist is a double-edged sword. It’s nice see texts without pulling out your cell phone at the dinner table, but now we have yet another device to pull us from conversations—and it’s even harder to ignore.
Is it the “most advanced timepiece on the market,” as Tim Cook announced today? You have until April 10 to decide—when the devices will be ready for pre-order.
Nikki Ekstein is the Assistant Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter @nikkiekstein.