By far the highlight of Apple’s Spring Forward event was the Apple Watch. Though announced back in September, Apple has not allowed any hands-on time with the device until now. So along with finding out the full launch details today, this is the press’s first chance to actually try out what’s the first new product line from Apple in the last half-decade.

As a quick reminder, Apple is selling the watch in 2 sizes, 3 styles per size. The 38mm and 42mm sizes are essentially men’s and women’s sizes, with the 42mm carrying a general price premium of $50; and while Apple doesn’t officially mention it, we know from previous leaks of their developer guidelines that the watches have different resolutions, with the 38mm coming in at 272x340, and the 42mm at 312x390. Meanwhile the 3 oddly named styles of the watch are the entry level Apple Watch Sport, the mid-level suffix-less Apple Watch, and the luxury Apple Watch Edition. Each version of the watch moves up in material, from brushed aluminum, to polished stainless steel, to 18kt gold.

Having a chance to try the Sport edition, I’m still not entirely sure what to make of it. The Apple Watch is essentially a wrist-mounted extension for your iPhone plus a sensor suite. That gives it a lot of flexibility – Apple’s still waiting to see what developers can do with it – but it’s also clearly a first-gen Apple product looking to find its place in the world. Apple has some ideas, but long term it’s going to be developers that make or break it and they are keenly aware of that.

In-hand (or rather on-wrist), the size feels right, at least for someone used to wearing a sizable sports watch in the first place. Though the Sport bands Apple had on-hand did not come in a size-Ryan. Interacting with it is definitely going to be a learned art; the only physical controls are the side button and the crown, so most interaction comes from touch interactions with a fairly small screen. The Apple Watch combines traditional touch gestures with pressure gestures from their new Force Touch technology, so interactions can come from swipes or touches of various pressure.

For today’s hands-on, the apps themselves are more proof of concept than real-world, as they were only setup to run through Apple’s demo material. The Watch offers an interesting selection of apps iPhone-tethered apps, shifting from a second screen for you iPhone to running scaled down versions of iPhone apps. Notifications, emails, etc can all be accessed from the Watch for communication purposes. You can also make calls from the watch, though in the admittedly crowded demo room it seemed to be a poor idea. Other apps included scaled down versions of Uber, and a scaled down version of iTunes for playing music through the Watch.

The other half of the Watch’s applications are focused on “native” functionality. This includes the actual watch face application – selectable and further customizable faces/skins of course – and applications that take advantage of the Watch’s sensor suite. The bulk of the sensor apps focus on fitness in one way or another, and this I suspect is largely due to the fact that the most “novel” sensor on the Watch is the heartrate monitor (otherwise accel/gyro are already on the iPhone). Fitbit, MS Band, and other fitness tracker users should have a good feel for what to do with this, while new users will take some guidance. Though since the interface is almost entirely iconographic, there will be a learning curve for everyone just to learn what the various icons mean and do.

The Watch appears to be running a heavily scaled down version of iOS, and in terms of performance it’s perhaps not surprising that performance feels like it’s yearning for a full Apple A-class SoC at times. Apps other than the clock – which is essentially part of the home screen – have a short but distinct loading time. Once you’re in an app most move smoothly as you’d expect, though flipping through one of the Apple fitness applications saw noticeable stuttering. Whether the load times and stuttering I saw is a limit of the SoC or the NAND I’m unsure, though as this is a pre-release device it’s entirely likely that Apple still has some performance tuning to go. What we’re seeing right now is generally going to be performant enough, but it’s not iPhone 6 level smoothness.

The million dollar (well, $10K+) question right now is this: is it worth it? That’s a question I don’t think a hands-on test in a closed environment can answer. I think it’s going to be a geek product before it goes mainstream – and this has been the case for Apple’s previous mobile products as well – as the novelty is certainly going to help get it off the ground. Whether such a watch is useful as opposed to just taking your iPhone out of your pocket is another matter; more than a few people I know gave up watches because their phone was convenient enough for a time piece, so getting them to buy back into watches is not a given, particularly since the Watch only has very limited functionality without an iPhone by its side to provide it with data (locally you have the sensor based applications, but not much more). Which isn’t to say that I’m for or again the Watch right now, only that I would need to test it at my own pace to figure out if and where it can fit into my life.

Anyhow, the Apple Watch hits retail on April 24th. So we’ll be back next month with a more comprehensive look at Apple’s latest foray into mobile.

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  • WaltFrench - Monday, March 9, 2015 - link

    Can one simply ask Siri to start the [X] (say, Uber) app?

    If starting apps was totally non-fiddly, I could see a lot more niftiness.
  • tripleverbosity - Monday, March 9, 2015 - link

    Siri on Phone and Pad supports that functionality, but it definitely seems to be a slimmed down version of Siri. When they demo'd Shazam the guy opened the Shazam app instead of just asking Siri "What song is this?" Whether this is Siri slimmed down for Apple Watch or just features still in progress for Shazam's watch app remains to be seen.
  • BittenRottenApple - Friday, March 13, 2015 - link

    Source and Copyright:


    More Malware

    Jobs' Mob has decided that the only way that punters will buy their nearly useless iWatch is if they are forced to watch adverts for the thing.

    This morning iPhone users woke up to receive and undeletable advert for the iWatch and applications they didn't need forced on them. Now most Apple fanboys were overjoyed that Apple was paying them some attention, but others were less happy.

    iOS 8.2 adds in the companion app for the Apple Watch, which Apple talked about in its event on Monday. The app is useful if you have an Apple Watch, as it lets you pair the device with your iPhone. However no one has an iWatch, and no one with any common sense would buy one.

    So the Apple Watch app is pretty much just an ad for the watch that you can't delete. It has a bunch of videos showcasing what the Apple Watch can do, and lets you know when you can pre-order one.

    There are a large number of tweets from outraged iPhone owners. We guess that Apple has not learned from the time that it forced people to download and listen to U2's latest album, that you should not force people to download things they don't want.

    Either that or it is sheer arrogance and stupidity that Apple really does believe that people want to pay $350+ for a device which means they don't have to take their iPhone out of their pocket (but still have to carry it).

  • BittenRottenApple - Friday, March 13, 2015 - link

    Edit: This link is working:

    Please excuse the inconvenience.
  • jjj - Monday, March 9, 2015 - link

    10 things you can buy instead of a 349$ Apple Warch
    A high end phone from China and some change
    An ipad mini gen 2 and again some change
    Up to 4×22 inch IPS monitors
    A 39 inch 4k Seiki TV and have 10$ left.
    A decent laptop.
    10 or more Chromecast.
    12 TB of HDDs
    Over a tonne of steel
    11 Firefox OS smartphones
    An Xbox One

    So they can try again when they divide the price by 3 to be at only 2x the price of where competing products will settle.
  • invinciblegod - Monday, March 9, 2015 - link

    $349/3/2 = $116.33/2 = $58.16

    What current smartwatch is $58!?!?
  • jjj - Monday, March 9, 2015 - link

    I said will settle ,as in that's the price such hardware will (can and must) reach soon. It's very little hardware and there are actually already some really poor China ones at that pricing but it's early for now and nobody has a decent product or decent prices.
    Smartbands started at 99$ and some at 199$ even , Xiaomi has it at 16$, was at 13$ when it launched the exchange rates changed a lot lately.Now even in the US there are some at 50$ but it's still just 10$ hardware.
    A smartwatch vs a dumbphone is just a stronger shell, more sensors ,no cams and lesser battery and dumbphones go to even 10$, smartphones close to 30$.
    Apple used to have high margins ,not stupid high margins. Now they are doing stupid high margins. This product would have sucked even at the right price though but at least the competition is poor too.
    This watch is priced like Samsung 4k TVs were 2 years ago at 5k$, it's idiotic and something Apple knew not to do.
  • tuxRoller - Monday, March 9, 2015 - link

    I'm not sure about this.
    A smart watch should include: excellent (low power) screen, plethora of sensors (this being one of the smart watch's biggest advantages, IMHO), a couple mics (at least), battery, wireless charging.
    That's a lot of kit, and doesn't include per device design (they need to both look and feel nice).
    I do think $150, or so, is very doable
  • tuxRoller - Monday, March 9, 2015 - link

    Also need radios and antennae.
  • Samus - Monday, March 9, 2015 - link

    The Pebble is $100, the Pebble Time is $180, the Pebble Time Steel is $250, and all are just as capable as the Apple Watch while having up to 10x the battery life. The only thing the Time doesn't have is a speaker (just a microphone) but it still packs an identical sensor package with more sophisticated smart bands and a power sipping display (which isn't touch, but how exactly is a <2" touch screen useful, especially if its damp or you're wearing gloves?)

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