The Apple Watch may be the most anticipated, most controversial product that any company will release in 2015. The first reviews are out now, and those who have spent time with the Watch are optimistic about its future potential, if not certain aspects of its present reality.
Nilay Patel of The Verge praises the quality of the display and the convenience of using Apple Pay with the Watch. Most importantly, he says the device usually has more than enough battery life to get through a day of use. His biggest beef lies with responsiveness:
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 Wi-Fi 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.
Patel seems confident that some of these performance issues will work themselves out with software updates from Apple. Given that he experienced hitches and delays with even the most basic activity on the Watch—raising his wrist to turn it on—one would hope those issues are quirks of pre-release software rather than inherent problems.
For those looking to unleash their inner Dick Tracy, Lauren Goode at Re/code found that the Apple Watch works well as a wrist-based phone, but that the Siri implementation leaves something to be desired:
For example, you can direct Siri to call up a contact, give directions, send a text message or play a song through iTunes on the smartwatch. But asking Siri specific questions on the watch often leads you right back to the iPhone.
Hey Siri, what time is the national championship on? Siri: Use Handoff to search the web for [insert question] on your iPhone.
Hey Siri, how much rain has fallen in California this year? Use Handoff to search the web for [insert question] on your iPhone.
That sounds annoying just reading about it. Perhaps software updates can make Siri on the Watch smarter in the future, too.
Re/code also experienced decent battery life. Goode says that her Watch "hasn’t yet died on me during the day, or even late at night. My iPhone actually conked out before the Watch did."
The New York Times' Farjad Manjoo describes the Watch's Taptic Engine haptic feedback system as the wearable's "most ingenious feature":
As you learn the taps over time, you will begin to register some of them almost subconsciously: incoming phone calls and alarms feel throbbing and insistent, a text feels like a gentle massage from a friendly bumblebee, and a coming calendar appointment is like the persistent pluck of a harp. After a few days, I began to get snippets of information from the digital world without having to look at the screen — or, if I had to look, I glanced for a few seconds rather than minutes.
Manjoo feels the Watch has a considerable learning curve, however, and he wasn't truly happy with the way it worked until he tweaked the notification settings considerably.
Overall, the Watch sounds a lot like past first-generation Apple products: there's a lot of promise but also some teething issues. We discussed our feelings about the device on episode 172 of our podcast, the relevant excerpt of which you can watch as a video here. The Apple Watch will be available for pre-order on April 10, and shipments begin on April 24.