Apple Watch: The reviews are in

April 8, 2015, 1:26 PM UTC
Photograph by Josh Edelson — AFP/Getty Images

The first wave of reviews — from Apple’s short list of hand-picked reviewers — hit the Web at 8:00 a.m. Eastern.

I’ve excerpted the bits that gave me the best feel for what it was like to live with the thing for a week. I saved the best for last.

Farhad Manjoo, New York Times: Apple Watch Bliss, but Only After a Steep Learning Curve. “It took three days — three long, often confusing and frustrating days — for me to fall for the Apple Watch… 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.”

Geoffrey Fowler, Wall Street Journal: The Smartwatch Finally Makes Sense. “[The] emphasis on quick interactions requires you to learn a new sign language. Alerts and information appear only when you need them, and then disappear on their own—no need to dismiss them. Instead of pinching to zoom, there’s a digital crown to turn. And there’s two ways to tap on the screen, regular and “force touch,” which shows more options… The Apple Watch isn’t quite the gatekeeper to my digital life that I wanted. Take app alerts—there’s a fine line between being in the know and having your wrist jiggle all day. It never got horrible for me, because Apple lets you assign VIP status to individual contacts and specify which apps can trigger alerts. But setting up all of this is a tedious—and unfortunately ongoing—chore.”

John Gruber, Daring Fireball: The Apple Watch. “My big concern, from the get-go, is the fact that Apple Watch’s screen remains off until you tap the screen (or one of the buttons) or it detects, via its accelerometer and gyroscope (and perhaps other sensors?) that you’ve moved your wrist into a ‘tell the time’ position. I’m generally wary of ‘magic’ features, and a watch that detects when you’re looking at it is ‘magic’. This feature, which Apple calls ‘Activate on Wrist Raise’ works pretty damn well. It’s not perfect, alas, but it’s far more accurate than I feared it would be.”

Nilay Patel, The Verge: A Day in the Life. “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.”

Joshua Topolsky, Bloomberg. You’ll want one, but you don’t need one. “Although it connects deeply with the phone, the watch also has a completely new way of doing things. Because navigation is split between swipes of your finger, scrolling with the crown, and taps of varying pressure, it takes a while to get oriented. One of the crucial pain points I experienced was this constant, subtle battle with myself over whether to engage a notification on my watch or handle it on my phone… Eventually, I figured out that getting the watch to really work for you requires work. I pruned a list of VIP contacts in my mail app to make e-mail notifications more tolerable, I killed several app notifications that I found to be consistently interruptive, and I streamlined my list of applications to those that seemed truly vital to my day.”

Lauren Goode, Re/Code: A Week on the Wrist. “Remember the first time you used an iPhone? That’s what Apple Watch is like. After you first set up your Apple Watch and pair it with your iPhone using Bluetooth, you’ll think, “What the heck is going on, where do I swipe to see things, how do I get rid of this notification that just popped up?” And so on. With some other smartwatches, that feeling never fully evaporates. With Apple Watch, it does.”

David Pogue, Yahoo Tech. Half Computer, Half Jewelry, Mostly Magical. “According to Apple, the Watch’s battery runs about 18 hours on a charge. In typical Apple fashion, that’s being modest; in two different tests, I tried to see how long it could go without a nightly charging. Both times, it lasted well into the afternoon of the second day—over 24 hours. And when your Apple Watch does approach the end of its battery power, it enters a Power Reserve mode with no functions except time-keeping—it’ll go another week like that. But Apple is right about one thing: You’ll have to charge this thing every night.”

Ben Bajarin, Techpinions. My First Week With the Apple Watch. “There was peace of mind knowing I can leave my phone out of sight or mind but still have access to the relevant information or notifications and even be able to interact and respond to them. The most important interactions and information are no longer only accessible on my large screen smartphone. This experience, of moving key functionality from my iPhone to my wrist, proved to add a significant amount of value to my overall day.”

Scott Stein, CNET: A beautiful, bold watch, with complications. “I’ve been using the Apple Watch for a week. I’ve worn it on my wrist every day, doing everything possible that I could think of. I’ve tracked walks and measured my heart rate, paid for lunch, listened to albums while exploring parks without my phone, chatted with family, kept up on email, looked for Uber cars, kept up on news, navigated on long car trips for Passover, controlled my Apple TV with it and followed baseball games while I was supposed to be watching my 2-year-old… Did I have fun using the watch? Yes, mostly.”

Ed Baig, USA Today. I’ll buy the Apple Watch. Think seconds not minutes. A smartwatch is not a smartphone. It’s about bite-sized moments — the aforementioned glances or notifications for example. You’re not meant to browse, read a book, or linger on the watch screen for minutes at a time, much less anything longer. Dick Tracy is overrated. Making or answering phone calls from your wrist gets a lot of attention. It’s not a great experience though. The speakerphone on the watch isn’t very loud. I struggled to hear the other person during watch calls in my car and in Times Square.”

Lance Ulanoff, Mashable. The best smartwatch on the market. “When I started testing the Apple Watch almost a week ago, I insisted on wearing the Pebble on my left wrist while wearing the new device on my right to compare. However, a few days in, I realized I was no longer glancing at the Pebble. I finally left the Pebble behind, and I don’t miss it. That’s because the Apple Watch is an excellent, elegant, stylish, smart and fundamentally sound device.”

Carolina Milanesi, Kantar: Our Apple Watch Sneak Peek. “The workout app appears to offer everything that a serious fitness enthusiast might be interested in, and with different workout options it widens the scope away from just measuring steps. It was interesting to notice how quickly I got into wanting to achieve my daily activity goals. We’ll see if the excitement will last!”

Last but not least…

Joanna Stern, Wall Street Journal: What Living With This Thing Is Really Like. Best moment in this charming video: When Rupert Murdoch meets the watch and exercises his droit de seigneur.

The Watch will be available for purchase in nine countries on April 24. Pre-orders begin Friday at 3:01 a.m. ET, but you can’t try one on before then. See Apple Watch buyer’s dilemma.

Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter at @philiped. Read his Apple (AAPL) coverage at or subscribe via his RSS feed.

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