The Apple Watch won’t appear on store shelves for another few weeks (and will go on pre-order April 10), but in the meantime the first official reviews have trickled out. What’s the word? Mixed, with a hefty dash of optimism for the device’s future.
Many of those reviews—including those from The Verge and Daring Fireball—praised the device’s aesthetic, as well as the precision of its hardware engineering; whether or not you think a “smartwatch” should be square, or feature a physical crown you can turn to scroll through menus, it’s clear that Apple’s designers (headed by Jony Ive, arguably the world’s most famous industrial designer) devoted an enormous amount of care to the look and feel of the hardware.
Despite the refined design, the Apple Watch features the tics of a first-generation device: Bloomberg and The New York Times both focused on the steep learning curve necessary to seamlessly integrate a wrist-mounted computer into one’s daily life. Most reviews also cited one key disadvantage to a conventional wristwatch: Unlike the latter, which passively displays the time whether you’re looking at it or not—making it easy to check at a glance—the Apple Watch’s screen only awakens when its onboard sensors think the user is moving his or her arm to look at it, making it difficult in some situations to wake the device up. (“Many times while using the watch, I had to swing my wrist in an exaggerated upward motion to bring the display to life,” Bloomberg’s Topolsky wrote, a sentiment expressed in other reviews.)
That might seem like a minor quibble to some users, who plan on using the Apple Watch more as an ultra-portable computer than a timepiece. But there’s some mixed news for those folks, as well. Although some features (such as Apple Pay) work seamlessly, or have a lot of potential (Glances, Notifications), reviewers such as The Verge’s Nilay Patel hinted at the device’s overall slowness. With a device strapped to your wrist, interactions need to be as fast as possible; nobody wants to hold their arm up for three minutes, trying to activate or navigate an app.
But this is just Apple’s first attempt at a smartwatch; as with the iPhone, subsequent versions will doubtlessly boost everything from processing power and screen resolution to app functionality. And whatever the reviews (and the eventual sales), one thing’s for certain: by virtue of its size and influence, Apple will permanently change the wearable-electronics field.