The long-awaited Apple Watch goes on sale this Friday. Luckily, reviews of the tech giant’s first new gadget in five years are in. After wading through all the reports, I was struck by how eerily reminiscent they were of early iPhone reviews.
If I had to summarize them in one sentence, it would be this: Apple’s first wearable is a breakthrough product that’s eons ahead of the competition but, unless you’re a real fan-boy or power user, you’ll probably want to wait for the next version.
Here are some of the highlights:
“The Apple Watch makes you look good. But the next one is bound to make you look even better.”
Recode called it the best experience of any smartwatch they tested. They recommend it for iPhone power users and wearable fans but cautioned that it’s not for everyone.
“The company has succeeded in making the world’s best smartwatch … [It’s] cool, it’s beautiful, it’s powerful, and it’s easy to use. But it’s not essential. Not yet.”
“The Apple Watch is light-years better than any of the feeble, clunky efforts that have come before it.” But … “You don’t need one. Nobody needs a smartwatch.”
“It took three days … for me to fall for the Apple Watch. But once I fell, I fell hard … The first Apple Watch may not be for you — but someday soon, it will change your world.”
Just for kicks, I thought it would be interesting to rewind the clock back to 2007 and see what reviewers had to say about the first iPhone. Here are some notable digs:
Giving iPhone just 3.5 out of 5 stars, CNET said, “Does it live up to the stratospheric hype? Not so much. But if you're on the fence, we suggest waiting for the second-generation …”
“But getting things done with the iPhone isn't easy … Its browser falls pretty short of the ‘internet in your pocket’ claims Apple's made …”
After a long list of cons, including weak app support, Ars Technica said they’re not planning to buy an iPhone or any other smartphone today. They plan to wait.
“The argument that the iPhone does nothing new is valid … but it's a huge step in the right direction … while not for everyone, its impact on the industry will be tremendous.”
“Here's the verdict I'd give any good friend: Wait to buy the iPhone.”
See what I mean? History repeats itself. In any case, here’s a summary of Watch reviewer revelations, some of which I previously predicted but there are a few curve balls in there:
Packed with enormous capability and app potential, Apple Watch means different things to different people. Joanna Stern praised its looks, coolness and workout chops, others noted the calendar alert, boarding pass, hotel entry, and Apple Pay capabilities are great for busy travelers on the go.
Several reviewers noted significant performance issues. While some of the watch’s functionality and many third-party apps appear to be flaky, I would expect most of those problems to improve with subsequent software updates.
Apparently, constant taps or vibrations on your wrist can become really annoying. If you get a zillion emails a day you’ll probably want to mute that function.
One of the biggest knocks is, unfortunately, nothing new: Siri. Owing to its tiny keyboard-less screen, the watch relies heavily on voice control. While Siri ably controls native apps like making calls, sending messages and playing music, when it comes to getting information, it’s still hit or miss.
There were a few contradictions. Farhad Manjoo focused on the device’s steep learning curve. Meanwhile Joshua Topolsky seemed conflicted on that point, on the one hand saying that it took a lot of effort to get it to work for him while also commenting on it’s ease of use. Go figure.
Ironically the major prelaunch concern over battery life might turn out to be much ado about nothing. Reviewers that mentioned it said the watch generally made it through the day. Meanwhile my trip down iPhone memory lane reminded me that Apple’s first smartphone was not without its own battery woes.
Then there’s the question of whether the Apple Watch will add distraction to our already chaotic high-tech lives or make it easier for us to stay in the moment by simply glancing at our wrists as opposed to full phone screen immersion. Personally, I think the jury’s going to be out on that until users get to spend some quality time with it.
In contrast to analyst concerns about watch sales being a drop in the bucket compared to Apple’s enormous iPhone revenues, the tech crowd is beginning to realize what I’ve been saying all along: the watch will sell iPhones. As a companion device, Apple Watch strengthens the entire iOS ecosystem.
While it appears that Apple has another category killer on its hands, the reviews serve as a good reminder of why I’m not an early adopter. Technology always improves. Give Apple time to get the kinks out. It’s smarter to wait than to give in to an impulse buy. You can be even cooler by being one of the first to get the second generation.