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Apple Watch Review Roundup: OK… But Still No KILLER Feature In Sight

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What are sure to be the most-read reviews of the year are out. Yesterday Apple lifted the embargo it had given some publications with early hands-on-access to the Apple Watch.

“The Apple Watch will be released on April 24,” reports Wired, “but it will only be possible at launch to buy one of the devices online. Apple is offering “fitting” appointments at its stores, and will feature a full range of watches for customers to try on and play with. But to actually buy one you’ll need to order on Apple’s website or via the mobile app — the days of the Apple queue, at least for this product, appear to be numbered.”

The early reviews are good –– very good –– with virtually every reviewer saying the Apple Watch is the best smartwatch anyone has ever made. Yet, while the device does mostly receive high praise, some question whether it actually fills any kind of need for most consumers. We’ll have a full review of the Apple Watch coming up in the next few weeks, until then here’s what others are saying:

Bloomberg

“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.”

The Telegraph

“Apple fans with £299 burning a hole in their pocket should rush out and buy this first generation Watch. It’s beautifully designed and frequently rather useful – but history suggests version two or three will be even better.”

Farhad Manjoo, The New York Times:

“It was only on Day 4 that I began appreciating the ways in which the elegant $650 computer on my wrist was more than just another screen. By notifying me of digital events as soon as they happened, and letting me act on them instantly, without having to fumble for my phone, the Watch become something like a natural extension of my body—a direct link, in a way that I’ve never felt before, from the digital world to my brain. […]

What’s more, unlike previous breakthrough Apple products, the Watch’s software requires a learning curve that may deter some people. There’s a good chance it will not work perfectly for most consumers right out of the box, because it is best after you fiddle with various software settings to personalize use. Indeed, to a degree unusual for a new Apple device, the Watch is not suited for tech novices. It is designed for people who are inundated with notifications coming in through their phones, and for those who care to think about, and want to try to manage, the way the digital world intrudes on their lives.”

David Pogue, Yahoo Tech:

“The Apple Watch is light-years better than any of the feeble, clunky efforts that have come before it. The screen is nicer, the software is refined and bug-free, the body is real jewelry. First-time technologies await at every turn: Magnetic bands, push-to-release straps, wrist-to-wrist drawings or Morse codes, force pressing, credit-card payments from the wrist. And the symbiosis with the iPhone is graceful, out of your way, and intelligent.

But the true answer to that question is this: You don’t need one. Nobody needs a smartwatch. After all, it’s something else to buy, care for, charge every night. It’s another cable to pack and track. Your phone already serves most of its purposes. With the battery-life situation as it is, technology is just barely in place to make such a device usable at all.”

Geoffrey Fowler, The Wall Street Journal:

“One big challenge Apple conquered is making its wrist computer small and stylish enough to wear without a nerdy pocket protector. My colleague Joanna Stern and I agree the Apple Watch is a fine watch for both men and women—a standard previous smartwatches couldn’t meet. Yet the $1,000 steel 42mm version I tested is still a bit thicker than I’d want, as tall as a stack of six quarters. And you can’t soap it up in a shower, though a little rain won’t hurt it.”

Joshua Topolsky, Bloomberg:

“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.”

Edward C. Baig, USA Today:

“Now that I’ve spent more than a week wearing the Apple Watch, I’m reserving a prominent spot on my wrist. Apple Watch is an elegant combination of style and purpose, even if it indeed often serves as an at-a-glance stand-in for the iPhone tucked away in your pocket or purse.”

Lance Ulanoff, Mashable:

“The Apple Watch is that breakout star. It’s gorgeous, smart, fun, extensible, expensive (a plus if you want to telegraph luxury and excellence) and an object of true desire.

Like any 1.0 product, the Apple Watch isn’t perfect. The S1 chip has pep, but the watch could lag. The hyped Taptic response is useful, but not a game-changer. And I can’t make myself care about the ability to send heartbeats (though I do like to occasionally check my heart rate, especially after vigorous activity). […]

Apple Watch does as much, maybe more, than competing smartwatches, but it doesn’t demand that you pay attention to it. It also succeeded in its most important task: Getting me to keep my iPhone in my pocket. That’s a pretty impressive feat.

Is my life better because of it? It’s too soon to tell. But what I do know is that I thoroughly enjoy wearing it.”

Scott Stein, CNET:

“We’re still two weeks away from Day One of the Apple Watch. It’s already got tremendous potential, lots of software, and beautiful design. I like wearing the Apple Watch, and it might be my favorite smartwatch…if its battery life lasted beyond one day. That makes me want to return to the Pebble again, or wait and see what Pebble Time, a more bare-bones but much more affordable watch, feels like.

If you’re curious where Apple is going next and have $350-$400 to spend, the entry-level Apple Watch might be fun to explore. Everyone else, I’d wait and see how the apps shape up, how the kinks get worked out, whether any software updates help with battery life. There’s a lot more time to decide.”

John Gruber, Daring Fireball:

“I’ve worn a watch every day since I was in 7th grade, almost 30 years ago. I’m used to being able to see the time with just a glance whenever there is sufficient light. Apple Watch is somewhat frustrating in this regard. Even when Wrist Raise detection works perfectly, it takes a moment for the watch face to appear. There’s an inherent tiny amount of lag that isn’t there with a regular watch.

Some other specific examples. I was in New York last week, and stopped to have coffee with a friend in the afternoon. He had a meeting to get to, and I wanted to catch a 4:00 train home to Philadelphia. I was sitting on a low bench, leaning forward, elbows on my knees. It got to 3:00 or so, and I started glancing at my watch every few minutes. But it was always off, because my wrist was already positioned with the watch face up. The only way I could check the time was to artificially flick my wrist or to use my right hand to tap the screen — in either case, a far heavier gesture than the mere glance I’d have needed with my regular watch.”

Lauren Goode, RE/CODE:

“The Apple Watch’s battery life is not nearly as long-lasting as some other wearable devices, but it’s better than I expected.

Apple has promised that the battery will last 18 hours per charge with normal use. It hasn’t yet died on me during the day, or even late at night. My iPhone actually conked out before the Watch did; this happened to Bonnie, too.”

Ben Bajarin, Techpinions:

“It is rare in this industry to get to experience the beginning of something new, something for which you have no frame of reference. While not a stand-alone computer (yet), I’m convinced the Apple Watch represents something completely new. It is a unique way to interact in a digital world. I say this having used nearly every smartwatch to hit the market over the last few years. None of them felt like a mass market product but more for a tech enthusiast or early adopter. The Apple Watch is easily the first smartwatch I’ve used that was designed for the average consumer.”

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