Apple Watch Hands-On: Plenty of Promise, Plenty of Unknowns

September 10, 2014

CUPERTINO, California — There are two don'ts with the Apple Watch. First, don’t call it the iWatch. Secondly, don’t take out your $349 just yet.

 

Apple unveiled its smart watch on Tuesday as expected, but the name and design were a surprise — and the availability is best described as "delayed."

 

There is a level of frustration that comes with talking about Apple Watch, one of the most exciting and eagerly-anticipated announcements of the Apple launch event. The on-stage demos and deep-dives into its technology — the digital crown, the "force touch", the "Taptic" sensor and "Digital Touch" items (your heartbeat, your scribbles) were compelling.

 

But once we were all crowded into demo rooms inside that giant, mysterious all-white building, Apple could only show us dozens of Apple Watches running a canned demo on our wrists.

There were, though, some important takeaways.

 

Apple clearly spent a lot of time on the fundamentals of wearable design, as well as on making Apple Watch a device that could easily pass for watch fashion. Case in point: the multiple sizes and, especially, an all gold model. And I mean real gold.

 

Unlike previous mobile devices with a gold finish, the Apple Watch will offer an actual 18k gold version (one which weighs considerably more than its aluminum cousins). I have no idea how much that version of the smart watch will cost, but the mere existence of the option speaks to how much Apple wants its watch to be seen as a fashion accessory.

 

Other options include steel gray, polished stainless steel and even aluminum on the sport model.

A throwback?

Up close, the Apple Watch has an almost retro look. It’s all rounded corners that have a hint of the first iPhone. I’d say the curves are all about wearable comfort —but when you consider that the iPhone 6 has more curves too, it’s clear Apple’s fallen in love with the form again.

 

All that smooth, cool metal and rounded corners feel pretty good on the wrist — thanks, in part, to the smartly crafted watch band. Granted, there isn’t just one band for Apple Watch, but all the styles do share a few key elements.

 

Firstly, they all slide in an out of the Apple Watch. There’s a little button that releases the watch’s hold on the band and then it just slides out sideways. The metal band is made up of 100 pieces that pop off when you press a little release just under each segment.

 

As a result, this is the most easily adjustable metal watchband I’ve seen in a while. The clasp is slightly more complicated and more high-end than your run-of-the-mill watch. It closes from both sides to create a near-seamless feel against the wrist. Again, good news for wearable comfort.

I did get to wear the regular Apple Watch for a brief time. It felt good. There’s a collection of sensors on the base, but you don’t notice them at all.

 

 

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