7 Ways The Apple Watch Will Benefit Travelers, And 2 Big Ways It Won’t
When Apple announced details of its Apple Watch this week, the buzz among travelers was strong. I spoke with travel experts about what it all means.
First things first: “I don’t think the point of the watch is to outdo the iPhone in terms of functionality,” says Brian Kelly of thePointsGuy.com – but it does it differently in some significant ways.
Below are 7 reasons travelers will probably like the Apple Watch – and two reasons they may not. The Apple Watch is set to launch this April 24, priced from $349.
Good Vibrations: Probably the biggest innovation is what Apple calls the Taptic Engine. It will tap you on the wrist when an alert or notification comes in and can be combined with audible alerts.
Your iPhone already gives you notifications, you say? Yes, but…
Travel experts dig the Apple Watch’s beauty and functionality – and acknowledge some drawbacks.
“Personally, I don’t even notice the vibrating buzz of a phone in my pocket,” says Kelly. “Getting an update vibration on your wrist when your flight is canceled can give you an edge over other travelers.” Even a few seconds’ lead time can make a big difference if you need to call the airline to rebook, for example.
Apps from American Airlines and Expedia have already been announced, with no doubt more to come.
Getting You Info: Apps including TripAdvisor and OpenTable provide reviews and a booking engine on your wrist.
Getting You Moving: For transit users, the CityMapper app provides real time transit, bicycle and walking directions, and the Taptic Engine can buzz when your bus or train is coming and when you’re arriving at your stop. CityMapper is available in major U.S. and undefinedoverseas markets.
The ride share company Uber also has an app for the Apple Watch. “Not having to open the phone, open the app and wait for it to load can save you time,” says Kelly, especially useful in high demand periods.
Getting You There: The Apple Watch’s navigation tools are also useful for drivers. “I’m intrigued by its ability to vibrate to signal a turn, or perhaps to call attention to a stirring sight,” says veteran travel writer Bob Howells, editor/lead writer for Just Ahead mobile audio guides.
Getting You In: “The coolest travel app that I can find is that Starwood will let its guests wearing an Apple Watch use it as a room key at over 150 of their hotels (Aloft, W Hotels and Element) properties around the world,” says John DiScala, the force behind JohnnyJet.com. Wave your watch over the sensor on the door, wait for the green light, and you’re in.
“A hotel room key on my wrist isn’t my greatest need,” says Howells, but “that functionality does portend more useful uses.”
Getting You Noticed: Social Media apps such as Instagram will work on the Apple Watch, to keep your friends, colleagues and anyone else you need to impress up with your travels.
Getting Sleep: Health and fitness apps will let the Apple Watch monitor exercise and sleep patterns. Kelly says it’s particularly useful for travelers battling jet lag. “As a traveler crossing multiple time zones, it can be virtually impossible to track how much sleep you’re actually getting.”
Although FitBit and other health and fitness technologies do something similar, “of course the FitBit does one-100th of what the Apple Watch does,” Kelly says.
All that said, two aspects of the Apple Watch are causing concern.
Battery Life: In announcing the new Apple Watch, CEO Tim Cook put the time between charges at 18 hours, but anyone who’s ever used another e-device will tell you that can vary, and there’s no clear indication of what using apps will do the battery life.
“If you have to take off the Apple Watch to charge, it defeats the purpose,” says Kelly, particularly if you’re on a long trip where a charger might not be easily available.
No GPS: The Apple Watch is not equipped with a global positioning system, so to use navigation apps it will need to be tethered to another, GPS-enabled device like the iPhone.
In other words, for many purposes, you’re going to need to pack two devices. On the other hand, many travelers already do this, so what’s one more device on your wrist?