The first Apple Watch reviews are coming out right now. The Verge’s review is incredibly detailed, and also, brutally honest: the Apple Watch has major issues right now, but it does have a lot of potential. The biggest issue highlighted by The Verge is performance, and the video review shows stuttering, loading screens, and unregistered taps on the screen.
But 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.
These seem like the same issues the Moto 360 had when it first came out. Android Wear updates eventually addressed most of these issues, while also increasing its battery life, so I’m sure Apple Watch updates will do the same. Still, it’s disappointing that such an expensive, high-profile device suffers from performance issues, especially since it leads to a huge problem for the Apple Watch, highlighted perfectly by Nilay Patel: “there’s virtually nothing I can’t do faster or better with access to a laptop or a phone”.
The other major issue is one I also highlighted in my Moto 360 review and other smartwatch articles: smartwatches make you look like a jerk, and the Apple Watch is no exception.
It turns out that checking your watch over and over again is a gesture that carries a lot of cultural weight. Eventually, Sonia asks me if I need to be somewhere else. We’re both embarrassed, and I’ve mostly just ignored everyone. This is a little too much future all at once.
I worded this in the form of the funeral test (or wedding test if you’re not a cynical bastard), and it’s a crucial flaw in the entire concept of a smartwatch. It is a major weakness of Android Wear, and also of the Apple Watch, made worse by the fact that, according to The Verge, notification settings simply aren’t granular enough.
The Verge also discussed the Apple Watch with their fashion-focussed sister site Racked, and the responses weren’t particularly positive – it looks way too much like a gadget and computer, and too little like an actual fashion accessory. Of course, there are many people who have zero issues with that (I’m assuming the majority of OSNews readers do not care), but I personally do. I have enough computers and gadgets in my life, and I want my watch to look like a watch – not a computer.
The Verge eventually concludes:
There’s no question that the Apple Watch is the most capable smartwatch available today. It is one of the most ambitious products I’ve ever seen; it wants to do and change so much about how we interact with technology. But that ambition robs it of focus: it can do tiny bits of everything, instead of a few things extraordinarily well. For all of its technological marvel, the Apple Watch is still a smartwatch, and it’s not clear that anyone’s yet figured out what smartwatches are actually for.
It turns out that virtually everything I’ve said about smartwatches in the past – in my Moto 360 review as well as other smartwatch articles – remains accurate even with the introduction of the Apple Watch. It’s important to note that I am not saying smartwatches are a bad idea – just that their current incarnations – be they Wear, Pebble, or Apple Watch – are the wrong answer to the wrong question. Nobody seems to have found out yet what a smartwatch is actually supposed to be.