Initial Thoughts On The Apple Watch

Best Buy is selling the Apple Watch at $100.00 discount, which brings the price of the cheapest model down to $250.00. $250.00 happens to be the price range I think is fair for the Apple Watch so yesterday I decided to pick one up. I opted for the cheapest model, the 38mm (I have small wrists) Sports Edition in Space Gray.

Before I start with my initial thoughts lets me be up front and say that I’m a watch guy. By that I mean I’m a huge fan of watches, specifically the mechanical kind. They are to me what paintings are to other fans of art. Up front I will admit that it’s unlikely the Apple Watch will ever replace my mechanical watches for more than a few days at a time. So why did I want one? Because it makes a good fitness tracker that many of the apps I use, such as Cyclemeter, can interface with. In addition to having interfaces for a lot of my apps it also manages not to look completely like ass.

With that out of the way, let me give my initial thoughts. Having owned a Pebble (until the down button broke) and looked at most other popular smartwatches currently on the market I can say that the Apple Watch is probably the closest to being a watch. This is both good and bad. The bad is that the mentality is probably responsible for the high cost of the device. The good is that it is a very well designed product for a smartwatch. Everything from the packaging to the watch itself has a level of detail not found on any of the competing devices I’ve looked at. When you pick up and hold the watch it feels sturdy, the crappy rubber strap is less crappy than most other rubber straps (that is to say it’s softer and more flexible), and the controls feel very tight (as opposed to my Pebble, which had very mushy buttons).

Although the display is tiny it is nice. It’s a Retina display so it has a very high resolution and good color definition. Showing an attention to detail, and to get around the fact the battery in the watch is tiny, the display turns on automatically when you bring your wrist up to look at it. When you put your arm back down the display turns off. I have already developed a love-hate relationship with the touchscreen. On the upside it gives you a lot of options for controls. On the downside many of the buttons are very small. The home screen is a downright mess in my opinion and you really have to use the crown to zoom in quite a bit if you have any hopes of bringing up the app you want. With that said, controls are a problem on every smartwatch and will likely remain less than optimal until somebody thinks up a completely new way of doing things.

Speaking of controls, there are two dedicated hardware controls. One is a crown that can be rotated and pressed like a button and the other is a nearly useless button that serves only to bring up your contacts list (a feature I don’t need). I like the crown control for the most part. The only thing I run into trouble with is it doesn’t act like the back button on the Pebble. Pressing the crown returns you to the home screen, it doesn’t move you back a screen in an app. That’s probably something I just need to adjust to.

Most of the included apps don’t show the same attention to detail as the hardware. Overall I’m not really thrilled with the included apps. They all feel haphazardly put together and I have had a lot of issues with them crashing when they first open.

The battery life is shit. It’ll get you through the day, so long as you don’t use it too heavily, but that’s about it.

I still need time to use it before making any final conclusions. Right now I feel that it is a good buy at $250.00 but really does show a lot of problems, primarily on the software side, typical of a 1.0 release. It is a very nicely presented product and I think the next release will be much better. For what I want, a fitness tracker with some additional functionality, it appears to fit the bill. If you’re already tied in the Apple ecosystem it’s probably the best smartwatch available (although most models of the Pebble will give you actual battery life but at the cost of functionality).