The Apple Watch Reviews In, and There's a Consensus

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Apple Watch Review: Object of Desire

By Nicholas Carlson

Apple Watch reviews are out today. At first, many seem positive. But once you start getting into the details of what the reviewers say, it's clear: the reviews are brutal.

New York Times tech reviewer Farhad Manjoo sums up all the negativity with a dig disguised as a compliment. "The most exciting thing about the Apple Watch isn't the device itself, but the new tech vistas that may be opened by the first mainstream wearable computer. ... "For now, the dreams are hampered by the harsh realities of a new device. The Watch is not an iPhone on your wrist."

Re/Code's Lauren Goode says the Watch isn't very fashionable. "Apple Watch strives for high fashion, but it still looks like a techie watch. Even if you can easily swap out the basic, smooth plastic band for a more elegant one -- the $149 leather band, the $149 Milanese loop or the $449 link bracelet ---the face looks kind of like a miniature iPhone."

Yahoo's David Pogue says the Watch's software is hard to navigate. "Navigation is a big Watch weakness. There aren't any visual clues that more options are waiting if you force-press, or that anything will happen when you turn the knob. You eventually learn, but only by trial and error. And every time you force-press or turn the knob and nothing happens, you feel like a dolt."

The Wall Street Journal's Joanna Stern tells her friends to wait till next year to buy a Watch. "The body is bound to get thinner; the edges could stand to be less rounded. It isn't just the aesthetics, either. Soon, we won't have to charge the battery every night, the software won't ever get stuttery and those health sensors will get even more accurate. When was the last time Apple didn't improve first-gen hardware's performance while making it sleeker?"

The Verge's Nilay Patel says it is "the first smartwatch that might legitimately become a mainstream product." Then he notes it's too slow. "The Apple Watch, as I reviewed it for the past week and a half, is kind of slow. 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."

BloombergBusiness's Joshua Topolsky says "the Apple Watch is the most advanced piece of wearable technology you can buy today." Yet: the Watch too often interrupts him. "I'm in a meeting with 14 people, in mid-sentence, when I feel a tap-tap-tap on my wrist. ... A version of this happens dozens of times throughout the day-for messages, e-mails, activity achievements, tweets, and so much more." Plus: it's not a very good watch. "The Apple Watch activates its screen only when it thinks you're looking at it. ... Think about the way people normally look at their watches, then make it twice as aggressive."

Musings From Manjoo
  • It's not for "tech novices." " 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. "
  • Apps don't work very well. "The Uber app didn't load for me, the Twitter app is confusing and the app for Starwood hotels mysteriously deleted itself and then hung up on loading when I reinstalled it."
  • You have to use Siri to use the Watch, and Siri still stinks. "I grew used to calling on Siri to set kitchen timers or reminders while I was cooking, or to look up the weather while I was driving. And I also grew used to her getting these requests wrong almost as often as she got them right."
Perspectives From Patel
  • The Watch, unlike the iPhone, requires two hands to use. "You simply can't one-hand the Apple Watch ... because it's a tiny screen with a tiny control wheel strapped to your wrist, you have to use both hands to use it, and you have to actually look at it to make sure you're hitting the right parts of the screen.
  • It's not as good as an iPod at playing music. "Remember when turning sixth-generation iPods into watches was a thing? That nano did a great job of displaying a lot of music information on a tiny screen, and the Apple Watch does not."
  • It's not a very good communications device. "There's no doubt that being able to send quick replies from your wrist is a powerful idea; it's the stuff of science-fiction legend, and every smartwatch has to be able to do it. But the Apple Watch is just the first step towards making that reality. It's not anywhere close to being an actually powerful communications tool, especially not when it's competing with the phone in your pocket."
  • It isn't a great fitness tracker. "Out of the box right now, the Apple Watch is a very expensive, barebones fitness tracker. It's much nicer than its competitors -- I used it with the white sport band and thought it was really quite striking -- but it's certainly not more full-featured."
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