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The First Apple Watch Reviews Are In, and They’re Cautiously Positive

iPad-globeThis morning at 8 a.m. ET, the embargo lifted on Apple Watch reviews from a limited number of professional tech journalists at major news outlets. After reading through many of the reviews, watching the accompanying videos, and doing a little “reading between the lines”, it appears that most of the writers are impressed… although they’re not exactly sure that Watch is a must-have item. Let’s take a look at some highlights from four of the big reviews.

Bloomberg Business, Josh Topolsky – Apple Watch Review: You’ll Want One, But You Don’t Need One

The good

“The company has succeeded in making the world’s best smartwatch.”

“The hardware of the watch is beautiful in a surgical way… It is very much an Apple product: clean, sleek, remarkably solid.”

“On the plus side is Apple’s new Activity app, which presents you with three basic sets of achievements to hit every day – and makes hitting those goals almost frictionless.”

“Checking text messages and e-mails by quickly glancing at the watch saved me some time, and it was certainly helpful when I was deeply engaged in an important activity.”

The bad

“One of the crucial pain points I experienced was this constant, subtle battle with myself over whether to engage a notification on my watch or handle it on my phone.”

Re: animated emojis –  “At first glance, that sounds pretty great, until you realize that the emojis are more like neutered, animated GIFs from the late ’90s Internet.”

Re: Glances – “What hinders many of the experiences is that the watch must pull information from the phone, leaving you with a spinning wheel that indicates data loading, rather than a quick hit of info.”

The New York Times, Farad Manjoo – Apple Watch Review: Bliss, but Only After a Steep Learning Curve

The good

“By notifying me of digital events as soon as they happened, and letting me act on them instantly, without having to fumble for my phone, the Watch became something like a natural extension of my body — a direct link, in a way that I’ve never felt before, from the digital world to my brain. ”

“If Google brought all of the world’s digital information to our computers, and the iPhone brought it to us everywhere, the Watch builds the digital world directly into your skin. It takes some time getting used to, but once it clicks, this is a power you can’t live without.”

The bad

“…the Apple Watch works like a first-generation device, with all the limitations and flaws you’d expect of brand-new technology.”

“What’s more, unlike previous breakthrough Apple products, the Watch’s software requires a learning curve that may deter some people. There’s a good chance it will not work perfectly for most consumers right out of the box, because it is best after you fiddle with various software settings to personalize use.”

Re/Code, Lauren Goode – A Week on the Wrist: The Apple Watch Review

The good

“Of the half-dozen smartwatches I’ve tested in recent years, I’ve had the best experience with Apple Watch. If you’re an iPhone power user and you’re intrigued by the promises of wearable technology, you’ll like it, too.”

“If you get an Apple Watch, you likely won’t need a Fitbit, too. But Fitbit works with multiple devices and operating systems, which Apple Watch does not. The most interesting observation from my workouts so far is that the heart-rate readings I’m getting from the Apple Watch during indoor cycling are very close to the readings I’ve gotten from a chest monitor. I haven’t yet seen the kind of wildly-erratic readings that I’ve experienced with other health watches that measure heart rate through the wrist.

“The Apple Watch’s battery life is not nearly as long-lasting as some other wearable devices, but it’s better than I expected.”

“I’ve used Apple Maps for turn-by-turn directions, and like the way the watch buzzes on my wrist ahead of an upcoming turn.”

The bad

“When your watch does die, recharging takes a long time — around two and a half hours to get the watch to 100 percent.”

I also don’t love the design of the inductive charging cable. It’s too easy to accidentally disconnect the watch from the cable.”

For example, you can direct Siri to call up a contact, give directions, send a text message or play a song through iTunes on the smartwatch. But asking Siri specific questions on the watch often leads you right back to the iPhone.”

The Verge, Nilay Patel – “Apple Watch Review: A Day in the Life”

The good

“It’s a supercomputer on your wrist, but it’s also a bulbous, friendly little thing, far more round than I expected, recalling nothing quite so much as the first-generation iPhone. It is unbelievably high tech and a little bit silly, a masterpiece of engineering with a Mickey Mouse face. It is quintessentially Apple.”

“The main watch face really is a complete self-contained experience: if the Apple Watch had no other functionality except for what you can do from the watch face, it would still be competitive.”

“Apple Pay is my favorite part of the entire Watch, a little blast from the future. Paying for coffee at The Café Grind in Manhattan involved nothing more than double-clicking the communications button on the Watch and holding my wrist over the terminal; it beeped and the payment processed instantly.”

“There’s no question that the Apple Watch is the most capable smartwatch available today. It is one of the most ambitious products I’ve ever seen; it wants to do and change so much about how we interact with technology.”

The bad

“Let’s just get this out of the way: the Apple Watch, as I reviewed it for the past week and a half, is kind of slow.”

“In the first of many moments where the Watch felt underpowered, I found that the screen lit up a couple of ticks too slowly: I’d raise my wrist, wait a beat, and then the screen would turn on.”

“For all of its technological marvel, the Apple Watch is still a smartwatch, and it’s not clear that anyone’s yet figured out what smartwatches are actually for.”

If I had to compare these reviews to anything, it would be the reviews for the first iPhone. Those reviews complained about battery life and heat, the lack of a physical keyboard, and the fact that it was actually quite a lousy phone, but raved about the promise of the device. Here we are, almost eight years into the product lifecycle of the iPhone, and it is a mature and wildly popular smartphone that makes Apple a ton of money.

The first Apple Watch will likely be the same way; a lot of us will buy them, there will be complaining about certain features (or the lack thereof), but as time goes on we’ll discover together if smartwatches are truly “a thing” and if so, how they will impact our digital lives.

After reading these reviews, I’m still eager to buy an Apple Watch, although it will be the least expensive one I can possibly get. Readers – have the reviews changed your feelings about buying one? Let us know in the comments.

Steve Sande
the authorSteve Sande
Contributing Author
Steve has been writing about Apple products since 1986, starting on a bulletin board system, creating the first of his many Apple-related websites in 1994, joining the staff of The Unofficial Apple Weblog in 2008, and founding Apple World Today in 2015. He’s semi-retired, loves to camp and take photos, and is an FAA-licensed drone pilot.
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