The last time we saw the Apple Watch was way back in September, and Apple had it strictly in demo mode. Fast-forward to half a year later, and now early reviewers are getting the very first look at a working version of the Apple Watch without so many limits imposed upon it.
So far, most of the hands-on posts focus on what it’s like to use the Watch’s interface. We’ve combed through the Internet to find everyone’s early impressions of the Apple Watch and its interface.
The smaller size actually fits women’s wrists and feels premium
Breaking news! There’s now a smartwatch that actually fits a woman’s wrist. Wired’s Christina Bonnington said that the Apple Watch is the first smartwatch that’s actually fit her wrist. “I tried the 38mm version, as I have a lady-sized wrist, and unlike other smartwatches, I didn’t feel like I had a small TV screen strapped to my arm,” she wrote.
Although Slashgear’s Chris Davies said the 42mm version fit his wrists better, he heard many women remarking on how attractive the 38mm Watch looked on their smaller wrists. “Several of the women I spoke to at the event commented on how pleased they were with the fit of the 38mm,” he wrote. “It helped dilute some of the geek-factor of the touchscreen, for instance.”
Meanwhile, Verge editor in chief Nilay Patel was told to step away from the 38mm Apple Watch because it would look plain silly on his large wrist. “The 42mm is fine, what I would call average size for a larger watch. Neither is particularly thick,” he added.
Darrel Etherington of TechCrunch pointed out the benefit of having two sizes is that the Apple Watch will appeal to everyone, regardless of their wrist size. He also mentioned that the smaller one will be less expensive, which is a bonus for those with small wrists.
“The 38mm version still feels better on my wrist, but the 42mm is also not overly large,” he wrote. “Apple revealed today that the larger version will be $50 more than its smaller counterpart in most cases, which is good news for those like me who prefer the smaller face.”
Meanwhile, others commented on the premium look and feel of the Apple Watch. The Telegraph’s Matt Warman was the most enthusiastic about the Watch’s design, calling it “the best smartwatch in the world,” right in his headline.
“The build quality, of course, is peerless, and the device feels solid and robust without, except in gold, feeling conspicuously heavy,” he wrote. “But if you buy gold that’s presumably what you’re paying for.”
Engadget’s Chris Velazco noted that the Apple Watch is certainly hefty, but no more so than other premium watches. “Don’t worry: You might not love the shape, but the Watch feels suitably expensive” he wrote.
The interface has a learning curve
Most of the early hands on posts centered around the overall user experience of the Watch, which is new to everyone: This is the first time anyone outside of Apple has used the Watch. While many agreed that the digital crown is a nice touch, nearly everyone agreed that actually using it to zoom and pan between apps takes some getting used to.
“Being accustomed to using an iPhone, using the crown for navigation feels kind of awkward and foreign for now, but I could see myself getting used to it in the future,” Bonnington wrote. “For zooming into apps on the home screen, I had trouble spinning the crown to the exact zoom level I wanted (again, something that probably comes with practice).”
Patel agreed, writing that “it is really confusing to have both the Digital Crown and the communications button next to each other on the side.” He also said it’s difficult to know which button to use when, and that he often resorted to just touching the screen instead, since that was more intuitive, fast, and responsive.
Overall, Patel felt that the Apple Watch will have a steep learning curve, which is weird for an Apple product. “It’s not rocket science, but it’s also not anything familiar, or anything repeated across the rest of the Watch interface. You just have to learn it,” he wrote, adding that the “feeling of not knowing exactly where you are or what’s going to happen is pretty disorienting for an Apple product … It makes sense over time — it gets your fingers off the tiny screen — but it’s not immediately intuitive.”
Telegraph’s Warman called the interface “fiddly,” but asserted that the Watch isn’t mean to be used too intently. “The Watch is best for doing simple things that don’t need much attention or the full power or size of a smartphone, and don’t justify the hassle of getting it out of a bag or pocket and unlocking it anyway,” he concluded.
Velazco from Engadget felt that a tutorial is necssary to use it properly, but even then you’ll have to stop and think. “There’s no denying that the Watch is elegant in its design and occasionally in its modes of interaction, but it’s just not as immediately easy to wrap your head around as an iPhone is,” he wrote. “If you’re anything like me, you’ll occasionally find yourself pausing from time to time, wondering if you’re supposed to depress the crown or tap the Home-like button below to get where you’re going next.”
Only Etherington thought the interface was spot-on. “The Apple Watch system software was new to us, but it is expectedly intuitive,” he wrote. “After so long using all-touch devices, the digital crown does at first take some getting used to, but soon enough it makes as much sense as a navigation input as did the iPod’s clickwheel, if not more so. And when you do use touch input, it’s fast and responsive.”
Most early reviewers agreed that the touch screen is very responsive, however; it’s easy to select apps on the small screen, the Force Touch and tap are easy to differentiate, and the interface is learnable, you just need time to adjust to it. After all, as many point out, this is a brand-new device category for Apple, so some amount of learning must be involved.
Just not impressed or reserving judgement
Typically, when Apple launches a new iPhone, MacBook, or iPad, early reviewers all-but salivate over the products. With the Apple Watch, everyone seems to be reserving judgement:
Christina Bonnington — Wired
“I’m cautiously optimistic to give the Watch a longer go, whenever review units become available. It does seem, for now, that it accomplishes a number of traditional smarwatch tasks in a more simple, and certainly more beautiful way. But needing to charge every day, with its 18-hour battery life, is still a bummer, and I wonder about how slowly third-party apps will update over Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. These are things we’ll look out for once we’re able to do a full review.”
Nilay Patel — The Verge
“That’s sort of the defining theme of the Apple Watch so far: it’s nicer than I expected and I’m sure the confusing interface settles down into a familiar pattern after you use it for a while, but I’m still not sure why you’d want to put this thing on your wrist all the time. Apple’s big task at this event was convincing people that a use case for the Watch exists, and at this moment it still feels like an awful lot of interesting ideas without a unifying theme. We’ll have to wait until we get review units in hand and spend way more time with one to really understand the value of the Apple Watch.”
Matt Warman — The Telegraph
“Does anyone need an Apple Watch? No. But it will make millions of lives simpler, save hours spent looking at smartphones — and like the iPhone in 2007, today’s Apple Watch is simply version one.”
Chris Velazco — Engadget
“The epiphany I was half-hoping for never materialized… but that’s not to say it won’t. Apple’s Watch is ambitious in a way that few devices are, and its true value (which I suspect will come in the form of dev support) isn’t obvious to me just yet.”
Chris Davies — Slashgear
“Is Apple Watch worth $349+? The jury is still out, though I’m more impressed than I was last year. Then, the prototypes left much to be detailed; today, there’s more of a feeling of how the different elements of the wearable will fit together. I still have questions — plenty of them — but there’s not long to wait to see them answered.”
Stuart Miles — Pocket-Lint
“The Apple Watch certainly leaves us with plenty of intrigue, and at this stage that is probably a good thing. Like any first-generation product, we suspect many will be learning on the go. The big question, however, is: by trying to do too much, has Apple over complicated things? At the moment that verdict is still out.”
We’ll add in our two cents as soon as we get our hands on an Apple Watch. Stay tuned for our full review this April, and check out all our Apple Watch updates until that happy day.