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6 compelling reasons to buy an Apple Watch, according to a wearables expert

These reasons prove why I wear the Apple Watch every day - and why you should buy one, too.
Written by Max Buondonno, Contributing Writer
The Apple Watch Ultra 2 with an Atlantic Blue Nomad Rugged Band.
Max Buondonno/ZDNET

I test a lot of cool gadgets, some of which are better than others. This rule can be applied to the usual suspects like phones and laptops, but it couldn't be any more accurate than for smartwatches, a category full of decent wearables -- and devices you can't wait to get off your wrist.

Also: Your Apple Watch is getting an upgrade - here are the best features in WatchOS 11

During my prolonged period of testing new watches, from traditional touchscreens to analog hybrids, there's one watch I continue to return to, despite promising myself I wouldn't: the Apple Watch.

It sits on my desk and stares blankly at me while I test one of its competitors for the first time. The temptation to put it back on subsides for the first few days, then over time, I begin to miss what I like about the Apple Watch.

There's a reason the Apple Watch is acclaimed as one of the best smartwatches in the world, perhaps the best, depending on who you ask. It's easily my favorite smartwatch, and there are six reasons why.

(By the way, these reasons apply to all Apple Watches, whether it's a baseline SE or the fancy new Ultra 2.)

1. A less-distracting extension of your iPhone

Jason Hiner/ZDNET

When making this list, I didn't expect to make this aspect of the Apple Watch my number one reason for using the device. The Apple Watch, when connected to a cellular plan, is an extension of your iPhone. It integrates all the core services of your iPhone and leaves you feeling connected, even when you don't have your phone on you.

Here's a great example: when I took a mini vacation in Florida this past March, I would leave my iPhone in random places, whether in my bedroom, at a table by the pool, or on a towel at the beach. Then, I'd roam around with my Apple Watch and enjoy whatever I was doing, knowing I wouldn't miss an important text or email.

Also: How to set up an Apple Watch

This benefit was especially true on the beach. My brother and I ventured out into the water to toss a frisbee (about knee-high, mind you) and I didn't want to risk dropping my phone into the gulf, so I left it on the shore and relied on my Apple Watch to deliver notifications, texts, phone calls, and more.

The watch is also a great way to reduce distractions. When you have your phone on you, the temptation to "open Instagram quickly to see what's going on" is real. An Apple Watch can't entertain those same temptations and limits what you can do. Those restrictions may be inconvenient, but it's also freeing. I love walking around with my watch on instead of carrying my phone, knowing I'll eventually check the non-important apps on my phone while staying current with what's really important.

Of course, your mileage may vary with this experience. Not everyone has or wants a cellular-connected Apple Watch, and all the dings and buzzes you get during the day can be distracting. But for me, having the watch strapped to my wrist and paired with my phone number makes it incredibly easy to cut the reliance on my phone and reduce the temptation to get carried away with all the apps I have installed. It's great.

2. A truly great fitness-tracking experience

Apple Watch Series 9 at trail entrance, taken with iPhone 15 Pro Max
Jason Hiner/ZDNET

As I said, I've used a lot of smartwatches, so I have a good grasp on what it's like tracking your fitness with different platforms, and I've got to give it to Apple -- they have one of the best.

From the concept of "closing your rings" every day (and the various awards you can earn), to starting fitness competitions with friends and comparing your data, using the Apple Watch and Apple Health for fitness tracking is fun and informative. Plus, all the various sensors built into the Apple Watch help to collect a lot of information about your health and progress.

Also: Apple Watch Series 9 vs Ultra 2: Which smartwatch should you buy?

Apple's platform isn't perfect, mind you. You'll find better sleep-tracking information on other watches, like the Google Pixel Watch 2, you don't get any recovery information at all, and the Health app doesn't proactively tell you whether you're improving during your fitness journey. Still, for general consumers and fitness enthusiasts, using the Apple Watch for health tracking is a fantastic experience.

3. Notifications you want to interact with

I can't tell you how many times I've used a smartwatch and wanted it to replicate the notification experience of the Apple Watch. From how alerts pop up on your wrist to the sounds and vibrations they make, everyone else should copy what Apple is doing.

Also: Apple Watch Fall Detection: How and why to enable it

Seriously, the Apple Watch's notification system is excellent. A gentle tap on the wrist lets you know something has just popped up, while the animation from app icon to notification is fast and clear. You can swipe the alert away with minimal effort, the notification shade is tight yet descriptive, and any notification you dismiss is also dismissed from your phone (a synchronization many Android phones don't have when paired with a smartwatch). The Apple Watch has the best notifications in the game, bar none.

4. The greatest haptics on any watch

Apple Watch Series 9
Jason Hiner/ZDNET

One reason notifications are so good is the Apple Watch's Taptic Engine, which delivers the most precise haptics on any smartwatch. Apple-engineered lighter vibrations feel like someone's tapping you on the wrist, while longer buzzes are perfect for alarms and phone calls to grab your attention. Other watches are starting to get kind of close to the Apple Watch's quality, but Apple still has a huge lead.

Also: Apple Watch Series 9 review: Why I'm not settling for the less expensive models in 2024

The feel of haptics on a watch can set the tone for how you perceive the quality of the device. My ScanWatch from Withings, for example, buzzes like a cheap cell phone from 2014. My Galaxy Watch's vibrations are stronger and not as buzzy, but feel unnatural. The Apple Watch's haptics feel the most natural by far, which makes the watch feel great to wear by extension.

5. Navigating with Apple Maps

Can you use other smartwatches to navigate to a new destination? You absolutely can. Am I unjustifiably biased towards the Apple Watch for having my favorite navigation experience? Yes, I am.

So, what makes navigating with Apple Maps on my Apple Watch so good? I like Siri's more pleasant approach to dictating directions over Google Assistant's, I enjoy the unique haptics the watch gives you when it's time to turn left or right (did you know there's a difference between the two?), I like the layout of the turn-by-turn directions on the watch, and it feels smoother (almost elegant) to use Apple Maps compared to Google Maps.

Also: Apple Maps vs. Google Maps, which is best?

If I'm going somewhere I've never been, I wear my Apple Watch simply for the navigation perks. Yes, you'll find a similar experience on other smartwatch platforms, but I like Apple's the most. Sue me.

6. watchOS is the best smartwatch platform 

Apple Watch with OS 11
Adam Breeden/ZDNET

Speaking of other smartwatch platforms, I don't think it's any secret that watchOS is by far the best.

Everything about watchOS is amazing. It's fast, fluid, easy to use, and has a huge library of third-party apps. The watch faces are simple, clean, and informative, while the new Smart Stack in watchOS 10 is great for quickly glancing at upcoming appointments, the weather, and more.

Also: The best Apple Watches: Expert tested and reviewed

The platform just works the way you'd expect. When paired to your iPhone, so many of your settings will sync with your Apple Watch that it'll feel like you've customized the device without diving into settings. App notifications, Focus modes, Wi-Fi networks, and more all sync with your watch automatically, allowing you to hit the ground running when you strap your Apple Watch to your wrist.

When I have to test a new Wear OS watch, I immediately miss using watchOS. It feels clunkier and slower, the watch faces aren't as nice (although there are some decent third-party options), and the apps aren't as good. If you want the best smartwatch software experience and have to ditch your Android phone for an iPhone, making that switch is worth it. I have friends who have switched to the iPhone simply because the Apple Watch and watchOS are so good.

Bottom line

While the Apple Watch isn't a perfect smartwatch, many qualities keep me using it. Sure, I enjoy wearing traditional analog timepieces just as much as the next person, but when I have my Apple Watch on, I question why I ever take it off. It's become part of my everyday life, my daily carry, and I love every minute of rocking it.

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