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Why The Apple Watch May Be Great For Travelers

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I’m admittedly a big Apple user. I’m currently typing this post on my iMac as my iPhone 6 Plus buzzes in the background from activity and I’ll probably go home tonight and watch some AppleTV while surfing Facebook on my Macbook Air. For many of us, Apple is a part of life- especially when we travel. I once tried to switch to an Android phone and while the technology was arguably better and more reliable (at least battery-wise), it was such a hassle to sync my computers and music, that I eventually switched back to the iPhone and have actually been really happy with my 6 Plus.

The Apple Watch comes in a standard, sport, and edition series.
The Apple Watch comes in a standard, sport, and edition series.

Today, Apple announced the Apple Watch, which I haven’t been that excited or interested in, until today when I really thought about how it would make my life easier- especially when it comes to travel. Pre-orders begin April 10, 2015 and it officially launches April 24, 2015. There are three models:

Apple Watch Sport: $349- $399 which comes in either space grey or silver, similar to the iPhone 6, all with a band made of rubber material.

Apple Watch: $549- $1,099 which has a stainless steel finish and a crystal cover for scratch protection. The type of band affects the cost of the watch (sport material vs leather vs steel)

Apple Watch Edition: $10,000+ and comes in either Rose or 18k Gold

Key Features
To me, Apple Watch’s most unique feature is the “taptic engine”, which can slightly tap your wrist as an alert. I see this being extremely useful when traveling and your flight is delayed or gate changes. I often get those alerts on my iPhone, but even when it is on vibrate, I often don’t feel the taps and miss some important alerts. I’ll be curious to know if you’ll be able to wear it through TSA security- most watches don’t set off metal detectors, but I’m guessing the Apple Watch may. Even so, you can usually wear a watch when going through the full body scanner, so it could be nice to be connected at all times. Even though security should only take a few minutes, if you’re about to close a deal, it could be nice to stay connected while going through security.

Apple Watch
The most important aspect of the Apple Watch is the health and fitness angle.

Health and Wellness
The most important aspect of the Apple Watch is the health and fitness angle. I recently started wearing a Fitbit Charge and it opened my eyes to my real levels of daily activity and sleep. The latter is a huge thing when traveling. It is extremely important to get sleep in general, but especially when crossing timezones and traveling for work. Road warriors understand the grind of sleep deprivation and stress and its the cause of many illnesses, including some nasty ones like shingles. Understanding your sleep and monitoring it is huge and the Apple Watch has that capability, plus much more insight like how much you’ve moved and helps set goals for activities and calories burned. There are more and more studies showing how negative sitting can be (which is inevitable for travelers) and the Apple Watch helps visualize activity.

Travel Apps

The Apple Watch will serve as your room key at many Starwood properties including the W Singapore- Sentosa Cove.
The Apple Watch will serve as your room key at many Starwood properties including the W Singapore- Sentosa Cove.

Starwood Preferred Guest– This is perhaps the one I’m most interested in- having the ability to open a hotel room with your watch. I truly believe the time is here to get rid of actual room keys, which can easily get deactivated or simply stop working. I like where SPG is going with mobile check-in and skipping the front desk all-together. Skipping the line of having to talk to a chatty (or clueless) front desk agent is valuable. Yes, you can still do this with a phone, but having the Apple Watch and being able to automatically turn a door-knob would be amazing.

Uber– There isn’t information on this App Store yet about the Uber app, but I suspect you’ll be able to hail an Uber with the click of a button. Hopefully the GPS is better than the iPhone, but having it on your wrist would be awesome, especially if you have Verizon and can’t use data while on a phone call.

With the Apple Watch, you'll be able to see all your American Airlines flight info on your wrist.
With the Apple Watch, you’ll be able to see all your American Airlines flight info on your wrist.

American Airlines– American is the launch airline partner and it appears that you’ll be able to get flight, gate and baggage information, but not actually get your mobile boarding pass. My guess is that the Apple Watch screen is too small for the current boarding pass scanners, but I’ve followed up with AA to see if that is something that will be added in the future and they’ve simply said they’ll share more information when the Apple Watch launches on April 24, 2015.

Key Concerns

The biggest concern I see is battery life. Apple touts an 18 hour battery life, but for super-users like myself, I’m nervous that the Apple Watch will need to be charged frequently and it will be annoying to have to take it off in-flight or at night (when you should be monitoring your sleep) to do so. In contrast, my Fitbit lasts for over a week, but of course has a fraction of the capability. I’d love to see a several day battery-life- 18 hours is nothing, especially when traveling across the globe.

I’m also interested to see the actual size and design in person. The high-resolution images look nice, but with all jewelry, you need to see it in person to see how it looks on you. For many, watches are fashion and part of their identity, so having only three main models that many people will have loses the individuality that many people like in a watch. As time goes on, I bet there will be many improvements to the Apple Watch an hopefully some intersecting designer partnerships.

But overall, as a traveler, I’m excited about the Apple Watch and the possibilities it has to improve the travel experience and help people better understand their activity and sleep- something most busy travelers struggle with understanding.

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