Saturday afternoon I took a break from pulling weeds to run into my local Apple Store and try on the Apple Watch. If you actually want to try on the watch, you have to schedule a 15 minute appointment. If you only want to try the software, you can stroll in anytime and use display watches on the counter.
Note: The watches you try on are running in a demo loop, so you can’t actually interact with them on your wrist.
In true Apple fashion, someone greeted me as soon as I walked in, checked me into my appointment, and said someone would be with me shortly. Just a few minutes later another cheerful employee came up, introduced himself and said he’d be helping me try on the watch. We walked to a nearby table and, using his magic iPod Touch, unlocked an invisible wooden drawer under the display table. Out slid a tray of watches. He pulled out the one I was interested in and put it on my wrist for me.
First impressions – Hardware
I tried on the space grey sport model with the default band, as well as the stainless steel version with the Milanese loop (pictured above), and a black leather loop band. Both in 42mm (the 38mm looked positively puny on my arm – and I don’t have huge arms).
My first thought was, “Doesn’t this need to be tighter to detect my heartbeat for the fitness applications?” I asked the friendly gentleman helping me and he said no. It was quite comfortable to wear.
It felt great – solid, well-built, very Apple-y. The bands were comfortable and, surprisingly, the Milanese loop didn’t tug at my Chewbacca arm hair at all. The Taptic Engine (what taps your wrist to get your attention) was subtle and so much more elegant than the now-seemingly-crude “silent mode” vibrations of many phones, including the iPhone.
First impressions – Software
After trying on a few watches and bands, I meandered back to the display counters to fiddle more with the software. I came a way a little disappointed.
In addition to regularly missing tap areas, even when they were buttons and not the miniscule icons on the home screen, Force Touch wasn’t as easy to trigger as I hoped it would be. And to complicate things, there’s no way of telling if it’s available on any given screen. That lead to a lot of poking at the watch and wondering, “Does this area have Force Touch? Or am I doing this wrong?” Not a great impression.
P.S. “Force Touch” sounds like something people get arrested for. It’s a terrible name.
Also, the software was kind of laggy at times. I know this was a display unit, but the watch regularly lagged behind my taps, pokes, and swipes.
But the real kicker, was that apps crashed on me. Twice. And these are the native apps – there weren’t any third party apps installed on the display units.
This is definitely v1.0 software and folks are speculating Apple had to dial back performance to achieve the (reportedly) surprisingly good battery life. Thankfully, software can (and will) be updated (although I’m not sure how. Through the Apple Watch companion app on the iPhone?). I’m willing to bet these early gripes about the Apple Watch will be largely resolved by v2.0, if not sooner.
Conclusion – Would I buy one?
I’m still “meh” about the Apple Watch. To use Apple’s parlance, I’m not sure it needs to exist. On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the iPhone and 1 being iPod Socks), I’d put my excitement about the Apple Watch at about a 4.5.
Would I like to have one? Absolutely. I’m a gadget guy and I’m sure this would be a lot of fun to own. Am I going to buy one? No. For the $400 it would cost me to get into the lowest-priced man-size watch I could get a friggin’ iPad.