The Apple Watch retail experience

Orders are online only for now, but the idea of the Apple Watch try-ons is to help you decide if you really want one and which one you really want. It's a way to get some eyes- and hands-on time with the hardware and software, so you can see the cases, feel the bands, experience the interface and interactions, and get as much of the Apple Watch experience as possible.

When you first walk in you're greeted by a table, wooden like all Apple Retail tables, but with glass covering two rows of Apple Watches, one of 38mm and one of 42mm. They face out from each other, and and are sorted by collection — Apple Watch Sport, Apple Watch, and Apple Watch edition.

You can take your time and look at them, under glass, as they go through a demo loop that highlights all the Apple Watch functionality. You can also check out the finishes and the bands, and you can get an idea of what you want to try on. It's a great way to get started — letting you see before you touch.

The try-on tables have watches embedded on miniature pedestals. They're not under glass, so you can begin to interact with them. Beside them are specially modified iPad mini tablets running kiosk software, similar to what Apple has been using for a while with the other products in the store like iPhone and Mac. They explain what the Apple Watch is, what it does, and how it does it. It's a step closer to the try-ons and a way for you to start learning more before you actually strap one on.

When the time comes for the try on, an Apple Specialist asks you about your lifestyle and interests, your style and preferences. They want to help you choose the right watch for you. Then, they unlock a hidden drawer beneath the table and take out the Apple Watches with the materials and bands you're most interested in, and help you try them on. All stores have Apple Watch and Apple Watch Sport available for try on, the bigger stores may have Apple Watch Edition as well.

A demo loop runs on the watches. Spinning, tapping, or pressing doesn't change anything, but you can see what the software looks like and what the Taptic engine feels like.

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It's very carefully thought out process and even more carefully staged. It walks you from seeing to learning to trying. Given the constraints of Apple Stores as they exist today, it's a remarkably clever way to handle the Apple Watch browsing and buying experience at scale.

It's not quite what you go through for a ride at Disney, but it's not altogether different either.

Apple Watch try-ons are available starting today. Book your appointment online at apple.com (opens in new tab) or using the Apple Store app (opens in new tab) for the best experience.

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

36 Comments
  • Booked appointment this morning. Went this afternoon. Experience just like you said. Confirmed what I want. Now just need to decide to buy!
  • Which one? Sent from the iMore App
  • I did the try-on at the Berkeley CA store. Even though it is not one of the stores providing try-ons of the Gold Watch Edition, there were samples with the various bands in the display case. Also, the store had the MacBook available for hands-on playing (in all colors). So you can see if a Gold laptop works for you or not and also test out the keyboard that Ive fawned over and reviewers have complained about.
  • Been using the keyboard for two days now. It's great so far. Sent from the iMore App
  • How does it compare to a Macbook Pro keyboard? Sent from the iMore App
  • IMO it feels completely full-sized left, right, up, and down. But it's just really really flat, like the keys are only traveling half or a third their normal distance. I found it a bit less satisfying than a normal keyboard, but I have no doubt that I'd get used to it.
  • Compared to the newest mbp it seems to have less travel and less noise and stiffer.
  • I absolutely loved the feel of the keyboard. Less effort and more satisfying. I lust over that keyboard, best I've ever used. You need to try it for yourself as reviewers are giving it a bad rap, unfairly in my opinion. I like the keyboard EVEN MORE than the Force Trackpad.
  • Apple fail... Mark my words.. Except for. Baaaaaaa Posted via the Android iMore App!
  • Care to elaborate. You can't just drop that turd here without explaining yourself.
  • That's exactly what was told about the first iPad ;)
  • Dropping turds is all he knows how to do.
  • In 24 hours, The apple watch's delivery time has slipped months!
    Yea...total failure!
    You want a mark my words!?
    "The Apple watch will sell more units, than android wears have done in total, before its even officially out!"
    BSD over Everything!
  • I went today and it was great the  Watch feels like it should've came home with me haha but too much green for it. Sent from the iMore App
  • Pre-orders started today at 2 am CDT. I guess I was excited, because I planned to do it as soon as my alarm went off, but I actually woke up shortly after 2 am and so I thought “might as well”. The process was simple enough using the Apple Store app. Experience has gone to show that trying to use the website is terrible because everyone is hitting it and it drags. But the app was very smooth. Unfortunately, those few minutes after officially going on sale was enough to delay the shipping time from release day on April 24 to May 13. I was much grieved by this and after debating whether I should settle for another model, opted not to and placed my order. I do have a couple hesitations with the Apple Watch. One, I’ve never worn a watch. I don’t know how I’ll feel about it. Heck I’ve never even worn a ring until recently when I got an OBU class ring, and quite frankly sometimes I’m like “get this thing off my finger with all haste” because there are times when I can just constantly feel it. (Like right now as I’m thinking about it.) Two, it IS a version 1 product. I am very aware of technology’s upgrade cycle. (Like v2 I could easily see having a FaceTime camera.) So the model I really wanted was the steel with modern buckle at a whopping $749. But at that price, I would have to keep this model for at least 4-5 years and I just don’t see that happening. So the $349 entry level sports model with rubber–er fluoroelastomer–band it is for now. And it will arrive two weeks later than release day. (I’m also very aware of Apple’s desire for a headline and the conspiracy theorist in me questions if this was an intentional short supply so they could say “look, we sold out in minutes”. But hey, maybe it IS way more popular than all the tech sites were predicting.) Fortunately, I WAS able to get a try-on appointment for today and took my lunch hour to go do so. But that’s where all the fortune ends, because my experience was not great. Yes, I know it is day 1, but as much as I’ve read about Apple’s training and expectations, not to mention the kind of experience I expect for these premium products, I expected better. It was completely disorganized and chaotic. Let me walk you through it. I walk into the store and to a group of chatting employees. I let them know, “I am here for my watch try-on appointment”. Worker A takes me to Worker B back near the door. Worker B says I need to see Worker C. Worker C checks me in, asks Worker A if she can do the try-on, she replies that she cannot, and then I’m told someone will be with me shortly. My concierge arrives a couple minutes later as I glance at the display table. We go over to the try-on table. Now, this table has six stations each with a display model and iPad for looking at info, and a foam mat. Under each station is a hidden drawer that can only be opened by the worker placing his iPhone/store contraption against a particular and well hidden spot to unlock it. All of the employees were fiddling with it, not quite being able to get it right, but eventually the drawer would come open. Inside were various models. They were told they could take no more than two out at a time. I told my guy I had pre-ordered the 38 mm black sport model. He started looking for it but it wasn’t in that drawer. So he went to others. Didn’t find it in any of them. He found a 42 mm version. So for the look of it, I tried it on. For a split second I thought I should have ordered the bigger one but I think in the long run I’ll be happier with the smaller. The bigger one was just too bulky looking. The black color looked good but I needed to feel the size model I ordered so I just tried on a random 38 mm sports model. The fluoroelas—oh forget it, the rubber band is way more difficult to get on than it should be. I found myself pressing my arm against my chest or the table and contorting my arms to try to get the peg into the hole. Once that’s accomplished, the excess band goes neatly into a little slot. It feels comfortable but was a pain to get on every time I tried. I even had my guy do it once and he took several tries at it. Each try-on watch had a demo running, so they weren’t able to be manipulated. (The one on the table display was.) But wouldn’t you know. I double tap the side button to access the demo and right after I feel the taptic feedback of an incoming message, the thing crashes. At least I got to experience the tap! It was just flat out dead. The guy had no idea what to do. My intuition told me to hold down the crown and side button together to reboot it. That worked, but when it did, it came back up to a WiFi screen that we couldn’t get off. So I gave up. Sigh. I had a couple other bands I wanted to try, including the Milanese loop and a modern buckle. The loop was not at all what I thought it would be. Very thin and not very sturdy feeling, nor as good looking on my arm as I wanted. I eliminated it as a choice very quickly. Then the search began for a modern buckle. ANY modern buckle. Back around the drawers he went. (And keep in mind they are fumbling with the unlock mechanism every time.) Finally a pink one was found. I really liked this strap (sans pink); it snaps right into place magnetically and felt secure. But at $249, I have to pause before considering it. I mean, who’s to say that two models from now (because I feel certain not the next one) Apple starts tweaking the body of the watch such that none of these straps work any more? Now I have a $249 useless band. No thanks. Even though I was past my limit of two–which apparently not only applied to how many could come out at a time but how many I could try on total–I tried a classic buckle and knew pretty quickly that if I were to buy another band, that would be it. The leather was a little stiff but I think long-term it is the better choice over the rubber. So we’ll see. As all this was going on, I’m constantly being told “excuse me” as other workers step in hunting in drawers and allowing walk-ins to do try-ons. It was my understanding from tech sites that try-ons were appointment only, but there was a significant crowd around the table. I feel like I stood away from the table more than I stood by it. And I started getting conscientious about trying too many because every time I took one off, the employee had obviously been instructed to wipe the watch down and immediately place it back in the drawer. I could also hear whispers between employees akin to “we aren’t supposed to do [this or that]”. When I had questions and the employee didn’t know, he’d go to the iPad on the display to search, but, on par with how this was all going, it was frozen. I snapped some photos, including the one of the drawer open, and the store manager happened to be there and passively aggressively said “I guess we shouldn’t be allowing people to see this”, then immediately closed it. In the end, I never actually tried on the exact model I pre-ordered. I chatted up another employee and we discussed the possibilities and excitement of the new product. I told her I was most eager to get to use Apple Pay, since I’m not eligible for a phone upgrade for 8 more months. And I’m really still not sure how this will fit into my life. But figuring that out, as well as working through the kind of day 1 issues I was (and probably will be) experiencing is part of the gig of being an early adopter. So I’m not complaining per se, but I do wish it had all gone different. I wish my watch was getting here on release day–and maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised with an email that says it is shipping sooner–and I wish I had felt like I’d been treated better in the store. But my enthusiasm for trying the Apple Watch out has no less waned.
  • My experience was even less successful. After making time in my schedule and traveling a distance to get to the nearest Apple store to be on time, I too waited for about 8 minutes before capturing the attention of one of the trained WATCH team. I too had pre-ordered the 38mm Space grey Sports watch with black band. There were absolutely NO M/L bands in the showcases for the 38mm watch faces. I was stunned.... The 42mm watch with the M/L band sat off my wrist in a very unattractive and undesirable fashion. Apple employees were unable to respond to the lack of a 38mm watch with a M/L band except to say that they spent 800 hours readying the display and had to read more than 60 different documents and they assembled what they had been sent. The Manager asked me what he could do. I said tell Angela she blew it. I seemed to be the only customer in need of this combination... Overall the store employee's I dealt with seemed unusually stressed and unhappy. Guess one on one watch sales may not fit in with their job perceptions and normal job duties. Not sure I would be happy if I were in their place and I certainly was not happy with the time I expended to see if my $400 purchase - yes, I did tell them I pre-ordered earlier in the morning- was what I wanted. I will wait until it comes to see if it actually is a fit.
  • Looks like I will be buying space grey sports watch, black band, 42 mm size. May also get white bands.
  • Space Gray Sports 42 w/ black band is the way to go!
  • Stopped in, great experience, new ph