Apple Watch Review: Solidly Built, But Some Problems In Software Performance Persist

( [email protected] ) Apr 09, 2015 01:54 PM EDT
Apple Watch
The Apple Watch will be releasing in April for $349 to start. Photo: Apple

The world's most valuable technology company has entered into the burgeoning field of smartwatches by introducing the Apple Watch, which will be available for sale to the public starting on April 24. A few reviewers have managed to test out Apple's new product, and the results appeared to be a mixed bag.

According to Joshua Topolsky of Bloomberg, Apple's latest product was created almost entirely under the guidance of CEO Tim Cook and designed by Jony Ive. He noted that Apple would face two challenges in trying to sell its smartwatch to the public, given that it is in "a brand-new product category."

"The company has to make a case for the very existence of not just its watch, but any watch," Topolsky wrote. "It has to persuade people that they need technology on their wrists. So far, the biggest question about wearables-there are already plenty of products on the market-is really: Who needs one?"

Tim Cook finally gives more deails on the Apple Watch.
Coming to consumers worldwide on April 24th. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Topolsky noted that there is a certain process in obtaining an Apple Watch. Although it's not officially for sale yet, he was given "an approximation of the experience."

"It starts at an Apple Store, where you can opt to have [an] Apple salesperson give you a personal demonstration and set up your device," Topolsky wrote. "A company rep gave me a guided tour of the watch's functions, set it up, and removed links from the stainless steel bracelet I chose. Later, I picked up a leather loop, which I found more comfortable."

After programming and customizing it at the Apple Store, Topolsky then tested out the Apple Watch during a walk in Central Park in New York City. He first turned his focus on the hardware.

"The little cube of metal and glass wouldn't seem out of place in a futuristic lab or sci-fi movie," Topolsky wrote. "It is very much an Apple product: clean, sleek, remarkably solid. But as a piece of jewelry, it's similar to other digital watches-including Casio's iconic calculator watch."

Topolsky then turned his focus on its "cutting-edge technology," arguing that the Apple Watch was "the most advanced piece of wearable technology you can buy today."

"The tiny Retina display has a new form of pressure sensitivity Apple calls Force Touch, which responds not only to where you touch the screen, but how hard you press," Topolsky wrote. "The watch notifies you with extremely nuanced vibrations via its Taptic Engine, which can produce strikingly realistic sensations, almost like a bell tapping on your wrist."

Topolsky added that the watch's "digital crown" allowed the user to "navigate long menus, set options, and zoom in and out of maps and photos."

"All the speedy software and motion tracking is controlled by the company's new S1 processor, which packs in multiple components on a single chip," Topolsky wrote. "It's an impressive package."

Apple Watch

Topolsky then looked at how the Apple Watch functioned as a timepiece, which he noted was so precise that it was "within 50 milliseconds of the global time standard known as Coordinated Universal Time." He elaborated on the widgets called by Apple as "Complications," a classic horology term that, in this watch, allowed for customizations from its users.

"These items that dot the edges of the display can tell the temperature outside, signal your next calendar appointment, show the phases of the moon, and so on," Topolsky wrote. "In spite of the name, these Complications are one of the most useful parts of the watch, offering the kind of information that really does elevate the device beyond a simple timepiece."

However, Topolsky reported that the Apple Watch seemed to extend, if not replicate, the functions of smartphones. Based on that observation, he thought it was not an "essential" product to have just yet.

"What's odd is that in many ways, the watch functions a lot like a small iPhone," Topolsky wrote. "Though there are new ways of getting to your apps and interacting with them, much of the phone's model interface has carried over."

Nilay Patel of The Verge wore the Apple Watch for an entire day for his review. He looked at whether or not people would use it instead of looking at their iPhones; he found a few problems while wearing it.

"The Apple Watch, as I reviewed it for the past week and a half, is kind of slow," Patel wrote. "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."

Patel also commented on the weight of the Apple Watch, noting that it was "surprisingly heavy." His review focused on the stainless steel version.

"My stainless steel Apple Watch with leather loop band weighs 2.9 ounces, which is more than my plastic Nixon's 1.7 ounces or the 1.8-ounce Moto 360, but much less than my 5-ounce Baume and Mercier," Patel wrote. "All in all, the Apple Watch isn't light enough to fade away, but it's also not so heavy that it's a distraction."

Patel reported that one of his favorite features of the Apple Watch was successfully using Apple Pay. He was able to test that part out in a New York City coffee shop.

"Paying with the Watch is even faster than paying with an iPhone, since it doesn't have to read your fingerprint: it's ready to go anytime after you put it on your wrist and unlock your phone with your fingerprint," Patel wrote. "I love using Apple Pay with my phone, but it's even better with the Watch, some mild contortions to line it up with payment terminals aside."

Patel noted that the Apple Watch's design was for the user to interact with it "for 10 to 15 seconds at a time and then get back to your life."

"Everything about the Watch is designed to reinforce the idea that you have some sort of real life to return to once you're done using technology - that you're not just sitting at a desk in your office with your laptop and your phone, getting work done," Patel wrote.

Apple Watch
How can the newly detailed Apple Watch make your life easier? Check out our list. Photo: Apple

When it came to using third-party apps, however, Patel noticed that the Apple Watch struggled with performance. He thought it had something to do with the watch's battery life.

"What good is a watch that makes you wait?" Patel wrote. "Rendering notifications can slow everything down to a crawl. Buttons can take a couple taps to register. It feels like the Apple Watch has been deliberately pulled back in order to guarantee a full day of battery life."

Based on his overall experience with the product, Patel rated the Apple Watch a 7 out of 10 points, noting that it was "still a smartwatch."

"If you're going to buy an Apple Watch, I'd recommend buying a Sport model," Patel wrote. "I wouldn't spend money on how it looks until Apple completes the task of figuring out what it does."

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