You won’t be able to get an Apple Watch yourself for another couple of weeks, but the early reviews—from publications ranging from the New York Times to CNET and the Verge—are in.
The bottom line? Apple’s much-hyped wearable is stylish and has lots of promise, but also falls short on several fronts. In particular, the watch has a limited battery life and, uncharacteristically for Apple, issues with responsiveness and user friendliness.
We’ve distilled some of the highlights from four major reviews by Nilay Patel at The Verge, David Pogue at Yahoo Tech, Scott Stein at CNET and Farhad Manjoo at the New York Times—some 18,000 words in total by our count. You can thank us later.
There seems to be little doubt that Apple has put together another stylish, well-crafted, beautiful bit of gadgetry. Stein calls it “beautifully constructed”; Patel describes it as “a masterpiece of engineering.” Everyone has good things to say about the build quality.
It also sounds like a watch that’s compact enough to look unobtrusive on the wrist. At 2.9 ounces (with a leather band), it’s heavier than the Moto 360 but not as hefty as some of the heavy duty luxury men’s watches on the market. In terms of looks, Apple has apparently succeeded.
Responsiveness And Interface
Several reviewers are reporting a lag in the responsiveness of the Apple Watch, particularly whenever a GPS signal from the iPhone is involved. This is the sort of software bug that later updates will presumably fix (as Apple is apparently promising), but it’s still inauspicious out of the gate.
Unlike most other smartwatches, the Apple Watch screen isn’t on constantly. And in an effort to eke out as much battery life as possible, the first generation Apple Watch appears to be a little underpowered. Its screen takes a split-second to activate, while regular apps also take their time to display information.
By and large, reviewers reported a steep learning curve for the watch’s interface—so steep that the phrase “steep learning curve” earns a place in the headline of Manjoo’s NYT piece. It’s not always easy to work out what to do next, or how to get notifications back, and so on.
Apps And Alerts
The apps on the Apple Watch (and there are a lot more on the way, of course) proved something of a mixed bag. The fitness apps got high marks across the board, but more than one reviewer questioned the usefulness of having regular apps—like Twitter—beeping away on your wrist.
“The Twitter Glance is set to display top trends, but by the time it loads I could have pulled out my phone,” Patel writes. The watch faces, meanwhile, come in for high praise (they’re “stunning,” in Pogue’s words).
Reviews were much more mixed regarding the watch’s emoji and heartbeat messaging options Apple has talked up over the past several months. But the watch’s specially developed “taptic feedback” engine—which buzzes your wrist in different patterns for various notifications—won praise as a useful way of getting alerts and distinguishing between notifications without having to look at a screen.
Battery life proved to be one of the biggest problems for most reviewers. As we expected, the Apple Watch just about makes it through a day’s worth of use, but that’s it—you’ll be searching for your charger by the early or late evening.
David Pogue was alone in finding his Apple Watch lasted until the second day of use—though even in that scenario you’re still going to want to charge it every night.
TL;DR verdict for the TL;DR summary: The Apple Watch is unquestionably a nice device, but it hasn’t answered the question of why you need it. And if you decide you do, you might consider waiting for the second generation device.
Photo courtesy of Apple