Apple Watch: First Impressions and Pictures

2015-04-11 11.21.58Apple Watch: First Impressions and Pictures

Apple Watch went on sale Friday morning at midnight Pacific Time. I’ve written previously about Apple Watch at length previously here.

To say its launch was popular would be an understatement: it sold out in 6 hours. I’m hearing ship dates now of June and August. The gold Apple Watch Edition: August.

Early rumored reports: 1 million pre-ordered this weekend in the US alone.

I logged in before midnight and hit the refresh button on 4 browsers across 2 computers but my Apple Store app on my iPhone got me in sooner. It took about 3 minutes to order via Apple Pay after I entered my billing/shipping address I placed my order at 11 minutes after the hour. Shipping lead time: 4-6 weeks.

Last week the embargo was lifted on writers who had been loaned early access to Apple Watch. I’ve read many of the reviews and compared them to my two visits to the Apple Store after the launch, which I’ll share my impressions of in pictures below.

Some reviews were good, many were surprisingly tone-deaf, especially for technology writers. The best two were written by John Gruber of Daring Fireball and David Pogue of Yahoo.

Here are what some of the — and I’m going to use a technical word here — silly reviews discuss:

1) What problem is it even hoping to solve?

To me, this smacks of saying it’s a solution in search of a problem. While the recent Wired  article suggests the designers decided to make a watch before figuring out how it was going to work, they knew it was a category buster in the same way the iPod changed the MP3 market, the iPhone recreated the smartphone market, and the iPad changed the tablet market. Apple was not first, but they redefined each category. Some of the reviews I’ve read say it’s not indispensable or needed. I believe:

If you have to read an article to decide if you need an Apple Watch: you don’t need one.
If you need an Apple Watch: you don’t have to read an article about it.

2) Confused over controls

This isn’t a smartphone and doesn’t work like one. Many forget that there was a hue and cry over the key-less touchpad when the iPhone first came out. “It will never work, you need keys to type with.” Even I felt that way initially and was slow to migrate from a Treo (Palm) smartphone. But when I made the switch I never looked back.

These are new controls and gestures for the post-PC, indeed (not quite yet) post-smartphone device. Expect a learning curve.

There are three obvious controls, and two not so obvious.

Digital crown: this does not require two fingers to turn like a traditional watch, only one. Think of it as the evolution of the mouse scroll wheel or the iPod scroll disk. It has 2 options:

  • Turn to scroll/magnification/direction
  • Push to select

Side button: below the crown is a simple button with 2 modes:

  • Push to bring up favorites to communicate via phone, message, or taps (emoji, sketch, heartbeat)
  • Push twice to initiate Apple Pay.

Screen: like a micro iPhone screen, but too small to have all the gestures of an iPhone. It has 3 modes:

  • Swipe: up, down or left/right. You can do some scrolling, but the digital crown keeps your finger out of view
  • Touch to select
  • Force touch to bring up more options

Siri: because the phone has a built in microphone and speaker…

  • You can give voice instructions to Siri on Apple Watch.

Watch raise/lower: when a notification comes in, you can:

  • Raise the watch to view. If you keep it held up it will show you more information. However, if you…
  • Lower the watch to your side it will go black and display no more information

I believe Apple Watch is going to represent a new chapter in the Internet of Things, where a wearer will have not only the ability to discover information on an intimate wrist terminal but be able to control other devices, open doors, as well as buy things with Apple Pay. This requires new interfaces, new methods of input/output for a smaller device.

Now, my experiences at the Apple Store.

Typically you need an appointment to try on an Apple Watch, but I was able to get one in 5-15 minutes after walk in. When your appointment begins you’re asked which you’d like to try on.

  • There are 2 sizes: 38 and 42mm
  • There are 3 editions: Apple Watch Sport (aluminum), Apple Watch (stainless steel/), Apple Watch Edition (18K gold)
  • There are 2 colors each: aluminum white/space black, stainless steel silver/space black, 18K gold yellow/rose
  • There are 6 straps: in rubber, leather, and metal

You’re first taken to a leather pad at a desk or table — as you would in a fine jewelry store. The Apple Watch is first cleaned with a special cloth and you’re shown how to fit the strap. The watch drawer is opened wirelessly by the Apple worker with a device on his hip.

“Electronic or magnetic? I ask.

“I don’t know,” he answers, “and if I did I couldn’t tell you.”

Here’s how they felt and looked, starting with the straps:

Rubber: the “fluoroelastomer” band felt better than I expected. You fit the stud to the appropriate length first, then slip the end through the open slot on the band. Though it’s rubber it feels like sheepskin or kid-glove leather. Very comfortable.

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Steel link: this has the fit and finish of a fine sports car. It should at $449. The links are easily removed without tools — just use your fingernail on the backside of the link and it pops off. The butterfly clasp is a wonder of engineering.

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Leather loop: surprisingly comfortable, it wraps around your wrist like the Italian leather it is. The magnets in the discrete sections when overlapped connect as they fit together. I was informed that it is less water resistant than the watch. Available in 4 colors, the black one would be a perfect match for the Sport Black model as it shows no silver metal.

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Milanese loop: this one was even more impressive. The magnet at the end connects to any part of the strap, making it even more adjustable than the leather loop. Infinitely adjustable, the Apple website says.

You’re given the opportunity to change the straps to see how easy it is. I flipped the orientation of the Milanese loop to see how a left-handed person would wear the watch.

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The Sport is quite light, as you’d expect of a sport watch, but the metal sheen was richer than I’d expected — there’s almost a satin shine to it.

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Apple Watch (stainless steel) had a much more solid feel, though the watches all have the same functionality no matter what metal they’re encased in. With the link bracelet, it weighs in at 75 grams for the 44 mm model. Compared to my Pebble Steel smartwatch at 56 grams the Apple Watch display is a bit larger and heavier.

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The experience of trying on Apple Watch at an Apple Store has all the feel of luxury. Because that’s what it is.

Thanks for coming along.

About billpetro

Bill Petro writes articles on history, technology, pop culture, and travel. He has been a technology sales enablement executive with extensive experience in Cloud Computing, Automation, Data Center, Information Storage, Big Data/Analytics, Mobile, and Social technologies.


  1. Damian Chisom on May 2, 2015 at 9:54 pm

    Thanks for the hands on review and pictures. I’m still kind of undecided on the Apple Watch. Keep going back and forth on whether or not I really want one, and wondering how I would use it. Whether or not the features will be ones I can’t live without. The other devices you mentioned I got right away and knew exactly how’d they fit into my digital lifestyle.

    You buying one?

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