Reviewers have gotten their hands on the new Apple Watch – the company’s first unique hardware in five years, launching this coming Friday – and the consensus is a firm thumbs up. The Apple Watch is entering an already competitive market, populated by a family of Android Wear devices, such as the Samsung Gear, and by all accounts it blows away the competition, returning Apple’s mantle of creating the must-have device.
Joshua Topolsky from Bloomberg suggests the Apple Watch has an addictive quality, and that it was even designed that way, saying, “Yes, all these new functions, notifications, and tapping do make the Apple Watch very distracting. In some ways, it can be more distracting than your iPhone, and checking it can feel more offensive to people around you than pulling out your phone. The watch wants and needs you now, as its insistent taps make painfully clear. And to see what the Apple Watch wants and needs, you must physically move it into view. If while you’re talking to someone, you check your regular watch, it can feel as if you’re sending a not-so-subtle “let’s wrap this up” message. With the Apple Watch, factoring in the animated wrist-whip and the length of some of the notifications you receive, it’s downright rude.”
But Re/code’s Lauren Goode claims that the device is likely to appeal only to existing iPhone users, as the watch is made to complement it. Goode writes, “From a technology standpoint, it is an extension of the iPhone. And just like the smartphone, it starts to change your habits over time.”
A common theme across reviews is that the Apple Watch is the pinnacle of smartwatch technology, but doubts remain about just how useful smartwatches are as a concept. Nilay Patel of The Verge sums it up well, writing, 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. But that ambition robs it of focus: it can do tiny bits of everything, instead of a few things extraordinarily well. 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.”
It may not be as intuitive as Apple’s other products, a quality the company is famed for, but Farad Manjoo of The New York Times reckons that learning the device’s interface is worth it, writing, “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. Indeed, to a degree unusual for a new Apple device, the Watch is not suited for tech novices. It is designed for people who are inundated with notifications coming in through their phones, and for those who care to think about, and want to try to manage, the way the digital world intrudes on their lives.”
Not everyone had positive things to say about the smartwatch, however. The Verge bemoans its speed, calling the Apple Watch “kind of slow.” The reviewer adds, “There’s no getting around it, no way to talk about all of its interface ideas and obvious potential and hints of genius without noting that sometimes it stutters loading notifications. Sometimes pulling location information and data from your iPhone over Bluetooth and Wi-Fi takes a long time. Sometimes apps take forever to load, and sometimes third-party apps never really load at all. Sometimes it’s just unresponsive for a few seconds while it thinks and then it comes back.”
So, the verdict is in: the Apple Watch is a great piece of tech, but is as superfluous as other smartwatches, might deter current Apple users with its tricky interface, and is suffering from early software niggles.