The only two reasons to buy an Apple Watch, for now

The Apple Watch's biggest challenge is living up to its own hype. We cut through the euphoric Apple rhetoric and break down the two things it does best.

Video: The two things the Apple Watch does best

In its first month, the Apple Watch quickly became the best-selling smartwatch on the planet -- even if that's not saying much yet. But, there are still plenty of people trying to decide whether it's worth getting one. There are only two reasons to buy an Apple Watch at this point. Let's break them down.

1. Better activity and health tracking

The No. 1 reason to get an Apple Watch is better activity and health tracking. One of the biggest challenges of professional life is too much sitting and not enough movement. In addition to the negative health issues this can lead to, the benefits of both standing and walking have been widely reported in recent years. Both can help boost your creativity and productivity.

Health trackers like the FitBit have helped people be more active by making them aware of how much -- or how little -- they are moving during the day. While the FitBit has straightforward daily goals around steps, miles traveled, and calories burned, the Apple Watch takes a slightly different approach. It focuses on a Move goal (calories burned by moving around), an Exercise goal (how much time you spend being active), and a Stand goal (how much you spend not having your butt planted in a chair). But, the best thing the Apple Watch does is turn this into a circular graphic that gives you a quick visual of your daily progress.

The other great thing about health and activity tracking on the Apple Watch is Apple's HealthKit, which you may know simply as the Health app. This acts as a data hub of health and activity data from your Apple Watch and various iPhone apps, and it can feed that data into other apps that you give permission. For example, if you use a great app like Lose It! to track what you eat every day, the Heath app can feed in data from Workouts on the Apple Watch as well as something like the awesome little exercise app Seven on the iPhone. Then, Lose It! will give you credit for those activities and up the number of calories you can consume for the day. So you can eat that donut without any guilt.

The one big drawback to the Apple Watch as an activity tracker is that it does not have GPS. That will rule it out for many serious runners. They'll likely have to wait for a future version of the product. But, as a standard activity tracker, CNET tests found the Apple Watch to be among the most accurate on the market (when it's calibrated).

Apple Watch activity tracking
Apple uses a glanceable graphic to show progress toward daily activity goals.
Image: TechRepublic

2. More efficient notifications

The second thing the iPhone excels at is notifications. A 2014 study by Tecmark found that the average smartphone user checks their phone 221 times a day. A lot of that happens when a notification or an alert triggers us to pick up the phone, and then we can get sidetracked on other things while we're looking at it. Getting notifications on the watch does three things:

  1. It keeps you from missing important calls or texts, if you are polite and you keep your phone on vibrate when you're in the office
  2. It allows you to send quick responses to text messages so that you don't have to pull out your phone
  3. It lets you glance at your notifications, dismiss them if they are not important, and keep your phone in your pocket so that you can keep working

Apple Watch notifications aren't perfect. Apple tries to be smart and not send the same notification to the phone and the watch, but this leads to notification fails at times. It would be better if it just did like Android Wear and always sent the alert to both, or at least made that an option in settings. Apple Watch notifications are also less interactive and full-featured than Android Wear, where you can actually expand an Gmail notification, for example, and quickly scroll the entire message. On Apple, you can only get a similar experience if have your email configured through Apple's Mail app.

But what the Apple Watch lacks in detailed notifications, it makes up for in offering a lot of different types of notifications because of the breadth of third party apps. And, we should only expect that to expand in the months and years ahead.

It will also be worth watching to see the extent to which the Apple Watch becomes a true internet of things platform for checking into flights, making mobile payments, controlling your smart home, and becoming a key fob for your hotel room, your car, and your house, for example.

Final word

Keep in mind that the Apple Watch is an expensive smartphone accessory at this point and it's not a must-have. But, it is a good tool to help make you more accountable for your daily health. And, it can also help avoid missing important messages -- and even better, not get sidetracked by unimportant ones. Naturally, it's up to you to decide if that's worth $350 to $1,000 to you -- depending on your style.

Also see