With Apple Watch shipping to consumers later this month (April 24th, to be exact), it’s fair to say that the smartwatch revolution is officially underway. Even in Apple’s promotional keynote, it leaned heavily on travel-related examples to prove the product’s value. Many have questioned whether or not you truly need wearable tech like this -- particularly if you’re already a savvy smartphone user -- but there are indeed useful amenities that make it worth considering for road warriors and leisure travelers alike.Of course, the Apple Watch starts at $349, placing it well outside of impulse buy territory. And at launch, limitations do still exist. First and foremost, it's not a standalone product -- it's meant to be paired with, not replace, your smartphone (at least for now.) Moreover, you’ll have to bring a charger along for anything more involved than a day trip, since the battery won’t get you beyond the 24-hour mark.
Still, the groundwork here is impressive. It might not be perfect right now, and apps are still limited, but developers everywhere are working overtime to publish Watch functionality. And we're guessing it won’t be long before foreign language dictionaries will speak aloud for you in a restaurant and hotel room doors unlock as you approach -- without you having to dig around in your pockets and take out your phone.
In the meantime, here are just a few ways in which the conventional timepiece is becoming a multifaceted tool.
1. Airline Travel: It’s common to see travelers scan their phone rather than a paper boarding pass nowadays, and if even that’s too much of a hassle when you're clutching all of your bags, Apple Watch senses when you’re in an airport and pulls up your boarding pass to make the process even easier. All of the major U.S. airlines either have or will soon update their apps to support Apple Watch boarding.
2. Navigation: Walking around a new city with a phone in one hand isn’t just a hassle; it’s also quite dangerous. With Watch, you’re able to pipe navigation to your wrist, with a gentle pulse alerting you to when you need to look down for information on an upcoming turn or cross-section.
3. Fitness: Keeping up an exercise routine while on the road can be a challenge, but when your pedometer and heart rate monitor are built right into the watch you’re wearing, it’s far easier to maintain momentum. Apple Watch tracks your heart rate and step count, and the built-in Fitness app lets you trigger an outdoor (or indoor) walk for keeping tabs of workouts away from home.
4. Trip Organization: For perennial planners, it’s not uncommon to keep one’s confirmation numbers and even a proposed list of things to do in an app. Be it Notes, Evernote, or some other archiving and journaling app, Watch owners will be able to more easily reference important material without having to fumble around with their phone. To boot, it’ll be far easier to jot down places to revisit or tidbits to remember -- the Watch listens for your voice and then transcribes those notes into text in real time.
5. Wallet-Less Payment: In tens of thousands of stores around the globe -- and soon on JetBlue flights -- tap-to-pay terminals now accept Apple Pay. While a nifty feature on the latest iPhones, it really shines on the Watch. You simply hold your wrist over the pay terminal, and the default credit or debit card that you load into your account will be used to handle the transaction. This helps your wallet stay safe and tucked away and your transactions secure (all your info is encrypted, so no credit or debit card numbers are even shared).