As you’ll come to see with many of my posts for Dirt Road Trip, I’ll be covering different IT platforms I utilize during my back county trips. I don’t call myself an IT expert and don’t think of myself as a geek per se, but I’m always the guy with the latest and greatest software and devices. With that being said, when Apple announced the Apple Watch earlier this year, I eagerly responded with “TAKE MY MONEY!”
I’ve had my watch (42mm, Sport edition) for a little over a month and I’ve taken some serious licks from a few buddies—I think they’re secretly jealous, but they’ll never admit it. Yet after the past few months, I quickly realized I would never go back to a mechanical watch; nothing beats being able to get real-time messages or alerts without handling your phone. The multiple watch face selections and utilities simply annihilate any functional reason for having a wristwatch that just displays a date/time.
What excites me…
From an overlanding perspective, the watch integrates well with Gaia Maps when paired with your iPhone. You can quickly start or pause a track, mark a waypoint, pull position stats, and view your location on a map of your choosing. If you’ve used Gaia before, you’ll know that you can quick flip between versions of maps (topo, google maps, elevation shading, etc). Depending on the map selection you’ve made on your iPhone, it can/will display that map set on your Watch. When I have used Gaia on my watch, it worked flawlessly without flipping through the phone to work with the application.
A couple other notable apps that are useful in the field: Night Sky, Cyclemeter, & The Weather Channel
What it needs…
Make no mistake about it; the Apple Watch absolutely needs its mated iPhone in order for the user to take advantage of all its capabilities. This severely limits a number of capabilities in the event that you become separated from your phone or if your phone just runs out of juice after a long day on the trail (make sure you have your Goal Zero Flip 10 or 20 charger as backup).
Apple seems to always leave users desiring just a bit more capability from their devices. As for the Apple Watch, I can only hope that 1, 2 or all of the following suggested capabilities are incorporated into the next version of the device.
1) Integrated GPS
2) Larger Screen
3) Water/Dust Resistance (Mil Spec 810g)
4) A GoPro App
For our community, I think each of these features is fairly straightforward. Including a GPS capability would put the device over the top from its current format. The screen is basically 1×1 inch and as some will say, “that’ pretty big for a watch,” it just leaves a lot to be desired when viewing maps and general content. Providing a ruggedized version of the Apple Watch is just a “no brainer”. Allowing the user the ability to use Apple Watch while swimming, winching or in extremely dusty environments would just make a lot of sense. Last, the Watch integrates well with the iPhone Camera to take remote photos; enabling this capability with your wireless GoPro cameras would be amazing!
If you’re on the fence about using this device for possible overlanding activities, I would say maybe wait until the next generation device hits the streets (possibly early 2016). I expect the next version to be lighter, provide improved battery life (which is actually great now), and hopefully includes my suggestions from above. If you have to “have it now”, I say go for it. Overall, you will be very pleased with the functionality, appearance, and as more developers produce Watch apps, the possibilities!