Smartwatches

Apple Watch: Early impressions

Gizmag takes a first look at the Apple Watch (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Gizmag takes a first look at the Apple Watch (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
View 7 Images
Retail packaging for the Apple Watch Sport (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
1/7
Retail packaging for the Apple Watch Sport (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Gizmag takes a first look at the Apple Watch (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
2/7
Gizmag takes a first look at the Apple Watch (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
We're handling the 42 mm space gray Apple Watch Sport with black strap (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
3/7
We're handling the 42 mm space gray Apple Watch Sport with black strap (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The band may be rubbery, but it doesn't feel like cheap and flimsy rubber (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
4/7
The band may be rubbery, but it doesn't feel like cheap and flimsy rubber (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
As Steve Jobs used to sit on the board of Disney, it shouldn't be too surprising that the Apple Watch includes one of the most famous watch faces of all time out of the box (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
5/7
As Steve Jobs used to sit on the board of Disney, it shouldn't be too surprising that the Apple Watch includes one of the most famous watch faces of all time out of the box (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The app screen on the Apple Watch, which you can zoom in and out of by twisting the Digital Crown (winder) on the watch's upper right side (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
6/7
The app screen on the Apple Watch, which you can zoom in and out of by twisting the Digital Crown (winder) on the watch's upper right side (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Apple Watch is the smallest color, touchscreen smartwatch we've handled (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
7/7
The Apple Watch is the smallest color, touchscreen smartwatch we've handled (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

In case you haven't heard, a smartwatch from a little fruit company in California started shipping today. Gizmag has an Apple Watch in house, along with some early thoughts (very early, mind you, as we're going to take some time before running our full Apple Watch review).

Update: No need to mess with first impressions, we've now published our full Apple Watch review.

Out of all the big new Apple products from the last 15 years – the iPod, iPhone, iPad and now the Watch – the Apple Watch makes the least striking first impression. Okay, well maybe if you've never used a smartwatch, you'll be blown away from the first moment you see notifications and voice control on your wrist, but we've already been there many times over. There were no "holy shit!" moments after strapping on the Apple Watch.

But that isn't to say this won't be a damn good smartwatch, and potentially a game-changer for wearables. And as the hours pass by in our first day with the Apple Watch, our appreciation has only grown.

The Apple Watch is the smallest color, touchscreen smartwatch we've handled (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The Apple Watch is the smallest color, touchscreen smartwatch we've handled (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

First, there's an attention to detail here that we haven't yet seen in wearables. The software is a bit more complicated, with a steeper learning curve, than you might expect from Apple, but once you start getting used to the UI and navigation methods, you realize everything is placed very intuitively.

For example, "glances" (quick access cards for individual apps) live below the main clock face, just a swipe away. You check on notifications with a swipe down, just like on smartphones. Pressing the Digital Crown button is similar to the iPhone's home button: single tap to either go back or to your app home screen, double-tap to jump between your most recent app and the clock face. A long-press summons Siri. A second button below jumps to a list of frequent contacts.

The app screen on the Apple Watch, which you can zoom in and out of by twisting the Digital Crown (winder) on the watch's upper right side (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
The app screen on the Apple Watch, which you can zoom in and out of by twisting the Digital Crown (winder) on the watch's upper right side (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

The Digital Crown makes sense. While many smartwatch makers have used faux crowns as buttons, Apple is the first we've seen to let you actually wind it as a navigation tool. Twisting the crown on your main apps screen zooms in and out, so you can get a broader or closer look on the watch's tiny screen. In other areas, it replaces swiping your finger to scroll through a list or longer message.

While on most smartwatches alerts feel like a tiny motor buzzing your wrist, the Apple Watch feels like your wrist is actually being tapped. Little details like this aren't game-changers on their own, but they do add a more human element to the experience.

We're handling the 42 mm space gray Apple Watch Sport with black strap (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
We're handling the 42 mm space gray Apple Watch Sport with black strap (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

The build is nice-looking and polished, and keep in mind this is just one of the entry-level Sport versions we're handling. We've seen other spiffy-looking smartwatches, but Apple's real accomplishment here is making it small. Most smartwatches are still fairly bulky, but even this 42 mm Apple Watch is much smaller than any of the Android Wear or Samsung Gear watches.

The entry-level Apple Watch Sport might, at first glance, come off as "the cheap plastic one," but we don't find that to be the case. Want a cheap-feeling plastic band? Pick up the original LG G Watch. This one is far from that: while it has a rubbery feel, it doesn't feel at all flimsy or low-end. If you're put off by the price hike when you jump up to the stainless steel version, then know that you're still getting a very nice watch in the aluminum Sport.

The display looks great – not radically better than the best Android Wear and Samsung Gear displays, but still easily among the best.

As Steve Jobs used to sit on the board of Disney, it shouldn't be too surprising that the Apple Watch includes one of the most famous watch faces of all time out of the box (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
As Steve Jobs used to sit on the board of Disney, it shouldn't be too surprising that the Apple Watch includes one of the most famous watch faces of all time out of the box (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

There's a lot to learn and explore here, so it may be a little while until we run our full Apple Watch review. In the meantime, though, we can say that it's a strong candidate for the best wearable to date, even if it isn't blowing our minds on Day One the way the original iPhone and first-generation iPad did.

All versions of the Apple Watch are currently backordered, and only sold online at the time being. But you can reserve your place in line to order one, for US$350 or more (the 42 mm Apple Watch Sport handled in this post starts at $400).

Product page: Apple

3 comments
Daishi
I am a fan of how they designed the way the watch bands connect and came out with different methods for the clasp. If feels like every watch band I have seen since the ones my grandfather owned were held on almost the same way with the tiny little spring loaded pins. The link bracelet looks like a pretty cool take on the older metal watch band clasps and you don't need a special tool to remove links. Lots of good ideas for their bands which the industry could have done before Apple came along but didn't. They are still out of my price range mostly though. The gold Moto 360 is $20 cheaper than the cheapest Apple Watch Sport.
Steve Yeoman
" but once you start getting used to the UI and navigation methods, you realize everything is placed very intuitively" Isn't the whole point about a good UI that you don't have a learning curve because everything is intuitively obvious from the start? Perhaps Apple could be praised for making the watch easy to learn, but lets reserve the word "intuitive" for those rare interfaces that really are unmistakably easy to operate.
christopher
Twistable crown? 2 buttons? A giant variety of secret ways to push, double-push, or press stuff, with all other kinds of slides and directions and so on...? These nutty ideas are anti-left-hander and in the main part crazy. Apple is becoming an elitist club that newbies cannot join, because they don't know the gamut of secret handshakes to make that stuff work. Pity one of those watch designer people didn't strap one on to their mum or dad, and watch them totally unable to work it out, then learn.
Thanks for reading our articles. Please consider subscribing to New Atlas Plus.
By doing so you will be supporting independent journalism, plus you will get the benefits of a faster, ad-free experience.