Apple is set to kick off pre-orders and begin in-store tryouts of its new wearable tech, the Apple Watch, on Friday. It's impossible to know whether the device will take like most Apple products of late and fly off the shelves, be dead on arrival, or fall somewhere in between. We do have early reviews, however.
Early reviewers are saying a lot of good things about the Apple Watch. There are also many concerns. Apple will do a pretty good job of relaying the former, so I though it prudent to detail the latter. Below, everything that's wrong with the Apple Watch based on the early reviews from top publications.
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– Probably the phrase most associated with Apple Watch critics is echoed by Bloomberg Business' Joshua Topolsky: "You’ll Want One, but You Don’t Need One."
– It might not be the best ... watch? "But what about the watch as a timepiece? I’ve found the experience somewhat inferior to that with a conventional wristwatch, due to one small issue. The Apple Watch activates its screen only when it thinks you’re looking at it. Sometimes a subtle twist of your wrist will do, but sometimes it takes … more. Many times while using the watch, I had to swing my wrist in an exaggerated upward motion to bring the display to life. Think about the way people normally look at their watches, then make it twice as aggressive. As a normal watch-wearer, the idea that I might look down at my wrist and not see the time was annoying." - Topolsky
– Heartbeat messages are kind of creepy. "Apple is hoping to reinvent how we communicate with friends and family by adding three new methods of messaging, not all of which work. The first allows you to essentially “sample” your heartbeat and send it off. This seems to have limited use; once you’ve gotten your first heartbeat, the novelty wears off pretty quickly. Also, I don’t know who, besides my wife, I would use this for. It’s weirdly intimate." - Topolosky
– It's often a pain in the ass to navigate, says Yahoo Tech's David Pogue. "The truth is, navigation is a big watch weakness. There aren’t any visual clues that more options are waiting if you force-press, or that anything will happen when you turn the knob. You eventually learn, but only by trial and error. And every time you force-press or turn the knob and nothing happens, you feel like a dolt."
"Though it has a set of apps, interactions are driven more by incoming notifications as well as a summary view of some apps, known as glances. But because there isn’t much room on the watch’s screen for visual cues indicating where you are — in an app, a notification or a glance — in the early days, you’ll often find yourself lost, and something that works in one place won’t work in another." - Manjoo
– The icons are microscopic and hard to discern. "t’s very cool-looking — you drag your finger around to shift this display, fluidly and easily, and you can organize the icons just the way you can on the iPhone’s Home screens. But it’s hard to believe that whoever designed this was the same person who lost sleep over Mickey Mouse’s finger curvature. How on earth are you supposed to know what those microscopic icons are? There are no labels, and the icons themselves are about the size of carbon molecules." - Pogue.
– You have to charge it every night, meaning it's not going to track your sleep patterns. "You won’t be wearing the watch at night. That’s a much bigger problem than anybody seems to be acknowledging. For one thing, that fact makes the Apple Watch the only fitness tracker on the market that can’t track your sleep. One of the great joys of the Up band, Fitbit, and other bands is that they track not just your steps, but also your cycles of deep and light sleep. Not the watch. For a device so thoroughly designed to help monitor your physical well-being, that omission is a heartbreaker. And if the watch is on your nightstand, you can’t exploit its brilliant wrist-tapping feature as a silent alarm that won’t wake your partner." - Pogue
"When your watch does die, recharging takes a long time — around two and a half hours to get the watch to 100 percent." - Goode
– There's a steep learning curve, says The New York Times' Farhad Manjoo: "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."
– The Apple Watch relies on Siri, who isn't that great to begin with. "The Watch also relies heavily on voice dictation and the voice assistant Siri, which is more useful on your wrist than on your phone, but still just as hit-or-miss. I grew used to calling on Siri to set kitchen timers or reminders while I was cooking, or to look up the weather while I was driving. And I also grew used to her getting these requests wrong almost as often as she got them right." - Manjoo
"When Siri did work, it was for the small stuff Siri is generally good at, like converting units in the kitchen or setting a timer. Anything more complicated generally resulted in Siri prompting me to use my iPhone." - Patel
– At least as of now, some third party apps are causing issues (if they load at all). "Third-party apps are mostly useless right now. The Uber app didn’t load for me, the Twitter app is confusing and the app for Starwood hotels mysteriously deleted itself and then hung up on loading when I reinstalled it. In the end, though, it did let me open a room at the W Hotel in Manhattan just by touching the watch face to the door." - Manjoo
"I often found that new apps took forever to install, and they then worked sporadically. I installed Trivia Crack and initially couldn't get it to work. It took initiating a game on the iPhone for it to finally be available on the watch" - Ulanoff
– It's not high fashion, writes Re/code's Lauren Goode: "Apple Watch strives for high fashion, but it still looks like a techie watch. Even if you can easily swap out the basic, smooth plastic band for a more elegant one — the $149 leather band, the $149 Milanese loop or the $449 link bracelet — the face looks kind of like a miniature iPhone."
– The Workout app isn't the best for some workouts, says Mashable's Lance Ulanoff: "I have mixed feelings about the Workout app, but this is mostly because I don't work out like most people. I don’t run, use an elliptical or go to SoulCycle. I have a small set of solitary workout routines, which include push-ups and pull-ups, that the app doesn’t list. As a result, I always selected "other" when preparing to start my workout. I found that it was a struggle to get the Apple Watch to properly account for my routine. The built-in accelerometer doesn't know I'm rapidly moving my body up and down because my wrist isn't moving. Plus, I think my workouts are too short for the Apple Watch to really give them the kind of credit I think they deserve."
– Until Apple does something about it, Apple Watch is kind of slow. "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," says Nilay Patel for The Verge.
– There's a lot going on, and you have to focus on that with both hands. "You simply can’t one-hand the Apple Watch. It’s the simplest thing, but it’s true: because it’s a tiny screen with a tiny control wheel strapped to your wrist, you have to use both hands to use it, and you have to actually look at it to make sure you’re hitting the right parts of the screen. You have to carry your coffee cup in your other hand if you’re not interested in spilling on yourself," says Patel.
"Of course, you can’t one-hand any smartwatch; that’s just part of the deal. But no other smartwatch has this much going on — the Apple Watch literally has buttons and knobs — and no other smartwatch has so many lightly concealed designs on one day becoming a platform as powerful as your phone. If the existential question for the Apple Watch is “why would I use this instead of my phone?” then the answer almost always has to involve “because it’s more convenient.” That’s sometimes true of the Apple Watch, and sometimes not."
– Dedicated music player it is not. "I’ll just be super blunt about the music app on the Apple Watch: it’s not as good as wearing an old iPod nano on your wrist. Remember when turning sixth-generation iPods into watches was a thing? That nano did a great job of displaying a lot of music information on a tiny screen, and the Apple Watch does not. Song and album titles get cut off in lists and on the Now Playing Screen, album art isn’t as big, there’s no ability to sync podcasts, and on and on. It does a fine job of controlling an iPhone, but as a dedicated music player it leaves a lot to be desired." - Patel
– Often slow and unresponsive. "right now, it’s disappointing to see the Watch struggle with performance. What good is a watch that makes you wait? Rendering notifications can slow everything down to a crawl. Buttons can take a couple taps to register. It feels like the Apple Watch has been deliberately pulled back in order to guarantee a full day of battery life. Improving performance is Apple’s biggest challenge with the Watch, and it’s clear that the company knows it." - Patel
– Battery life is adequate, but not amazing, says The Wall Street Journal's Geoffrey Fowler. "The battery lives up to its all-day billing, but sometimes just barely. It’s often nearly drained at bedtime, especially if I’ve used the watch for exercise. There’s a power-reserve mode that can make it last a few hours longer, but then it only shows the time."
Not included but relevant – complaints about its ability to distract, that fact that it still requires an iPhone companion to be functional, and it's more expensive than other smartwatches. Because yeah, we knew this going in.
Image via Apple