First things first—I love Apple. I have owned every model of the iPhone (which includes multiple versions of the same model, if you account for the many times I’ve dropped, and subsequently needed to replace, my phone), a couple of iPads, and I spend most of my working hours on a MacBook. If Apple makes it, I’m going to buy it. Everything, that is, except the Apple Watch.
After years of rumors and waiting, Tim Cook unveiled Apple’s latest world-changing device to a collective “What?! That’s it!?” that reverberated around the world. Sure, for many, the Apple Watch was a no-brainer. “It’s out; I’m getting it.” But for me, it was the first time I decided to pass on an Apple product, and I love watches! It’s the only piece of jewelry a man should wear, in my opinion (with the obvious exception of a wedding band).
The Apple Watch looked to me like someone snuck an iPhone into Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory and placed it in that machine that turned Mike Teavee into a miniaturized version of himself. It’s simply the iPhone, only smaller, and for this we waited years. No thanks…
Then, recently, Apple announced a new and improved software update to the Apple Watch. One of the big features is basically a medical alert system, built right into the Apple Watch.
Being an expert in medical alert devices and hearing of countless occasions of medical alert devices saving lives, I had to check it out.
So, I ventured to the Apple Store and picked up my Apple Watch—a 42mm space gray sport edition with a woven nylon band. For a watch that looks like the Casio calculator I wore on my wrist as a kid, it at least had some style. Now, I wanted to see what the watch could do, and more importantly, if it could provide the same features and functionality of a medical alert system.
So, without further ado, this is part 1 of a series where I focus solely on the watch and how it compares to a medical alert device. Part 2 will include a head-to-head comparison of the Apple Watch Bay Alarm Medical.
I’ll review the Apple Watch by using the same criteria we use to review all of our Medical Alert Systems.
I give Apple 6 stars out of 5, mainly because it gave me an excuse to go to the Apple Store. Although you can also purchase the watch online, the in-store experience is always fun.
The Apple Watch was presented differently than other Apple products. In the middle of the store, on a large table with a glass top, a seemingly endless display of Apple Watches looked up at me. Rose gold, silver, space gray, with bands made of nylon, steel, even gold. For the wealthy 1 percent, there is a version of the Apple Watch that will cost you $17,000. For that price, you’ll get plenty of real gold in the casing of the watch, but it works exactly the same.. Personally, I’d invest that type of money in a Rolex, but to each his own.
As mentioned above, I decided on the sport version and immediately went home to take it out of the box.
Equipment and Setup
As with all Apple products, a simple, yet elegant white box housed my device. Opening it, I saw my watch packaged perfectly. I removed it, pressed a button to turn it on, and was greeted with nothing—I needed to charge it. I unpacked the charger, set the Apple Watch on its cradle, and saw that a full charge would take an entire day. One day! Surely they must be joking. My Casio from 30 years ago lasted several years before dying, why in the world would I want to charge a watch on a daily basis?!
I joke, but for a medical alert system, this is red flag number 1. Medical emergencies don’t wait for your device to charge; a device must always be on, charged, and ready to go.
After the charge, I was instructed to install the Apple Watch App on my iPhone. Easy enough—sort of. I read the reviews and heard the whispers, and they are true. The Apple Watch is the least intuitive product Apple has ever released. Perhaps Apple was trying to cram too much into the watch, or perhaps they simply swung and missed, but getting your watch setup and synced to your phone is no small feat.
This brings up red flag number 2. Every Medical Alert System provider we recommend is simple to set up. Plug it in, try a test call, and you’re set. The Apple Watch could not provide a more complicated setup experience if it tried.
Next, I searched for the medical alert app, but what I found instead was a handful of apps all promising the same thing, and none of them compared to a medical alert device. Had Apple not released the app yet? Was it buried within the results of my search? I did not know. I went to my laptop and did some research, but either I’m very dumb or this app is elusive. I could not find it. Finally, I realized the App needed for the medical alert system functionality would be released in their next software update. Clicking on the side button would trigger and SOS signal to a number of loved ones, or 911. But, there’s no call center, you must be near your iPhone, it must be charged, the button is super-small. It’s not a life-saving medical alert device
Red Flag number 3 – The Apple Watch is made to do a multitude of tasks, from managing your calendar to displaying video, reading the news, and finding your favorite recipe. It’s a complex piece of technology. Why is this a red flag? Because it’s doing too much, not protecting loved ones. Sure, it will have that ability put in with it’s SOS function, but that’s way down on their radar or terms of functionality with this device.
Red flag number 4 – In my humble opinion, a medical device is the single most important piece of equipment a loved one in need should have. Not only that, it should be easily accessible. You should not need to ensure the watch is paired with an iPhone, rotate a ‘Digital Crown’, and search for an ‘app’. Medical alert devices are meant for a single purpose—to save lives.
Pricing & Value
An Apple watch is going to run you anywhere from $350 to $17,000. Add the subscription rate for the cellular connection and your wallet is going to get a lot lighter. But to be fair, the Apple Watch’s primary purpose is not to be a medical alert device. Our recommended providers offer their home-based systems for a fraction of the cost and give you considerably more value.
Here, more than anywhere else in this review, is where the real trouble lies. With Apple’s medical alert system solution, you program in your emergency contacts who can be reached via their app in case of an emergency. It can also dial 911. Here’s the problem—Apple forces the individual in crisis to make a decision. During an emergency, there should only be one choice—get help now.
The providers we recommend have dedicated call centers with professionally trained customer service representatives who can get you the help you need with the click of a button. No calling cousin Rose for her advice, no deciding if the emergency requires 911 services. With Apple, that’s what you must do. With a medical alert system from one of our recommended providers, you press one button and get the help you need.
I’ll withhold final judgment until I have the chance to test out their official app, but in general, the Apple Watch is not a medical alert system—it’s a smart watch that happens to provide a service that sort of resembles a medical alert system.
If you’re interested in getting the watch for other purposes, like health monitoring and the ability to contact family and friends in an emergency (perhaps you’re biking a deserted road and take a nasty fall), then yes, the Apple Watch can be useful.
But, if you’re like most of those in need of a medical alert system, you should pass on the Apple Watch and purchase a true medical alert system instead. It’s a decision that just may save your life.