The first set of reviews for the highly anticipated Apple Watch are out from some of the major publications out there.
The smartwatch has received favorable reviews from all the publications, but all of them agree that the Watch is not meant for everyone.
One of the most surprising things revealed in the reviews about the Apple Watch is that it only provides access to notifications from the main clock app on the watch. Considering that notifications will play a vital role in making Apple Watch useful, not being able to access them from anywhere in the OS seems like an oversight from Apple’s side.
As for battery life, all the reviewers were able to get through a day on normal usage, but struggled on days when they used the watch heavily.
Reviewers also unanimously praised the Apple Watch’s Health app, though some did say that all the data collected by the app could be used for making useful recommendations as well.
Below we highlight some of the key excerpts from the reviews of The Verge, Bloomberg and NYTimes.
The publication’s review is the most detailed of the bunch and talks about some aspects of the watch that other reviewers have not talked about. Nilay Patel in his review points out that the Watch suffers from some performance issues, which Apple says will be fixed by an upcoming software update.
Let’s just get this out of the way: 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. Sometimes pulling location information and data from your iPhone over Bluetooth and WiFi 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.
In the first of many moments where the watch felt underpowered, I found that the screen lit up a couple of ticks too slowly: I’d raise my wrist, wait a beat, and then the screen would turn on. This sounds like a minor quibble, but in the context of a watch you’re glancing at dozens of times a day, it’s quickly distracting. Other smartwatches like the Pebble and the LG G Watch R simply leave their screens on all the time; having a screen that constantly flips on and off is definitely behind the curve.
The “Taptic Engine” is among the most impressive pieces of technology on the Watch.
Notifications on the Apple Watch work pretty much just like notifications on any other smartwatch: you feel a buzz, you look at your wrist, and it shows you some information. Apple’s big trick with the Watch is dramatically improved buzzing with what it calls the “Taptic Engine.” It’s a haptic feedback system that feels wildly different from the fuzzy, cumbersome vibrations of other devices. Apple’s Taptics are more like the watch tapping your wrist. The taps can come in different patterns and strengths; Apple says the Taptic Engine plays a vibration waveform related to the audio waveform of associated notification sound. Imagine a set of stereo speakers, but the right channel is insistently poking you along with the music.
If anything, Apple has been underselling the Taptic Engine, and I sort of understand why — you have to feel it to get just different and powerful of an idea it is. But it’s also pretty clear that taptics on the Watch are only the first half of a brilliant idea. There are a ton of missing pieces that need to get filled in before the Taptic Engine lives up to its potential.
Nilay also praised the Apple Pay experience on the Apple Watch and called it one of the highlights of the watch.
Apple Pay is my favorite part of the entire watch, a little blast from the future. Paying for coffee at The Cafe Grind in Manhattan involved nothing more than double-clicking the communications button on the watch and holding my wrist over the terminal; it beeped and the payment processed instantly. 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. 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. Apple Pay remains a shining example of what Apple is able to do when it has complete control over hardware, software, and services.
There’s no question that the Apple Watch is the most capable smartwatch available today. 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.
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.
The watch is not life-changing. It is, however, excellent. Apple will sell millions of these devices, and many people will love and obsess over them. It is a wonderful component of a big ecosystem that the company has carefully built over many years. It is more seamless and simple than any of its counterparts in the marketplace. It is, without question, the best smartwatch in the world.
I also used the Watch to pay for New York cabs and groceries at Whole Foods, and to present my boarding pass to security agents at the airport. When these encounters worked, they were magical, like having a secret key to unlock the world right on my arm. What’s most thrilling about the Apple Watch, unlike other smartwatches I’ve tried, is the way it invests a user with a general sense of empowerment. If Google brought all of the world’s digital information to our computers, and the iPhone brought it to us everywhere, the Watch builds the digital world directly into your skin. It takes some time getting used to, but once it clicks, this is a power you can’t live without.
The first Apple Watch may not be for you — but someday soon, it will change your world.
The Apple Watch goes up for pre-order on April 10 at 12:01 a.m. Pacific Time in nine countries.
Now that the reviews are out, do you plan to buy the Apple Watch? Let us know in the comments below.