|Style & Handling|
|+ Premium design||- Disappointing battery|
|+ Lots of customisation options||- No killer features|
|+ Innovative interface||- Very pricey|
|Verdict: The Apple Watch looks great, but it’s clearly a first generation device with nothing essential about it.|
When people look back on the history of the smartwatch they’ll likely look to 2015 and the launch of the Apple Watch as a key moment, but while Apple’s branding and thoughtful approach will all but guarantee plenty of sales for the wearable it may not translate into an iPhone-like success.
It’s certainly not as impressive as the original iPhone was, because for all its smart ideas and design details it doesn’t do much that your phone can’t already and rarely has an Apple product struggled quite this much to justify its price.
With a fairly compact size and a premium build the Apple Watch is undoubtedly one of the best looking smartwatches on the market.
Not only does it look good, but it’s highly customisable, so you can tweak it to your liking. You start by choosing from the entry-level Apple Watch Sport, the standard Apple Watch or the luxury Apple Watch Edition, each of which has a similar design with a square face, but an increasingly high-end build, maxing out with a gold body on the Watch Edition.
But beyond that there are also numerous different straps that you can choose between and whichever Apple Watch you opt for you have the choice of either a 38mm or 42mm face. Both are fairly small as smartwatches go, with the 38mm option coming in smaller than any Android Wear competitor and that’s a good thing, as most smartwatches are very much on the chunky side.
The Apple Watch is also fairly durable as it’s IPX7 certified water resistant. That’s not enough to take it swimming, but if you spill something on it or take it out in the rain it should be okay.
There is one thing we wish it offered though and that’s a circular face. Whether round or square is better is largely subjective, but personally we prefer circles and given all the other choice the Apple Watch offers it would be great to have a choice of face shape too. But maybe that will be added for the second generation one.
The Apple Watch has a good looking display. It’s an OLED screen displaying bright images at a resolution of 272 x 340 on the 38mm version and 312 x 390 on the 42mm model, which given the small size makes it fairly sharp.
It’s generally fairly responsive too and you’re not limited to just tapping and swiping it, as you can also use Siri for voice control and twist the Digital Crown to zoom in and out, which is handy given the small size of the screen, as it allows you to zoom in close to an option to more easily tap or read it.
The Digital Crown is an innovative approach to interaction, but it also feels more necessary than on Android Wear, as the home screen on the Apple Watch can become rather cluttered. In fact the whole interface is somewhat less elegant than we’ve come to expect from Apple.
We have faith that it will get better, after all this is the first version of the software, while iOS is on its 8th major release, but given how slick iOS is it’s still a disappointment.
There’s also not much in the way of software customisation options. That’s not surprising given Apple’s walled garden approach to things, but you might have hoped for more having seen how customisable the hardware is.
You can change the watch face but right now there aren’t many to choose from. Apple boasts of there being a huge number of options, but that’s mostly because you can add details of your choice to each watch face, such as the weather or your next reminder.
Apple has clearly tried to bring features to the Apple Watch which aren’t available either on the iPhone or on competing smartwatches. It’s a good thing to aim for, as it could help the Apple Watch stand out and potentially make it a more tempting purchase if it’s not just duplicating smartphone features, but what Apple’s come up with isn’t that inspiring.
For example you can send your heartbeat to someone, which is either sweet or creepy depending on your perspective and who you choose to send it to, but it’s hardly a killer feature. Perhaps slightly more usefully you can draw tiny sketches and send them to other Apple Watch wearers, but that’s still not really something you’re likely to do much.
There’s reasonable support for calling and texting, but that is just duplicating a smartphone feature and it’s rarely easier to do from your wrist.
The most promising features are perhaps its health and fitness ones. There’s a built in pedometer and heart rate monitor as well as a workout app which can track various different exercises, from jogging to gym machines.
Even if you take a more passive approach to fitness you could benefit from its tracking of your steps and how much of the time you spend sat down, with it both giving you a depressing picture of just how sedentary your life actually is and the occasional gentle prod to be less lazy.
These actually are good features, but if you have any real interest in fitness tracking you could get a dedicated fitness band or watch with more features for less money. So as an added extra on the Apple Watch it’s nice, but its fitness skills aren’t fleshed out enough to make them a major selling point.
There’s just a 205mAh battery in the Apple Watch, which is small even by smartwatch standards. Sadly it performs just as you’d expect, lasting around a day but no longer than that unless you really only use the device as a watch.
Given that some Android Wear watches, such as the LG G Watch R, can last for up to two days that really is disappointing. Still, at least it supports wireless charging for the regular times you’ll need to juice it up.
The Apple Watch has 8GB of storage, but only 6GB of it is available for use and only 2GB of that can be used to store music. That should still be enough though for a device that’s likely to spend most of its time tethered to your phone.
For connectivity options you get Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC, though its NFC functionality is limited to Apple Pay, which isn’t even available in the UK yet.
The Apple Watch isn’t the device to make smartwatches essential and other than having Apple’s name attached there’s no reason to think it will even make them that mainstream, as it’s expensive, exceedingly so in some cases, and it doesn’t do much which your phone can’t do better.
But with a stylish design and an innovative interface it’s far from a failure. Early adopters could do a lot worse and it’s a strong starting point for Apple. It’s no better than a lot of Android Wear devices, but both takes on smartwatches have serious potential and we can’t wait to see the next generation of wearables from both Apple and Google.
Apple Watch Specification