At Apple's Spring Forward event, Rene and I got a chance to play with Apple's Watch collection in a bit more detail than either of us were allowed last Fall. Though we're going to reserve any sort of sweeping judgements about the Watch until we actually get some in-depth hands on time with them in April, here are our latest impressions of Apple's upcoming smartwatch.
Gold is good
Ren: Last fall, I only got a chance to try on Apple's baseline Watch Sport. This time around, I got to wear both the 38mm and 42mm Watch and Watch Edition… and boy, I wish I was in the kind of income bracket that can afford a $10,000+ watch. The rose gold Apple Watch Edition may cost more than any piece of jewelry or technology I own, but it's a beautiful signature item — far less heavy on my wrist than I anticipated, with a really nice fit and finish. It feels precious in a way no Apple device has before.
That said, until I inherit a duchy or multi-million dollar fortune, I'm likely leaning toward the Steel or Aluminum models for my own personal use. The steel Watch is just as polished and beautiful as its golden companion, with a much more reasonable price tag — and the aluminum Apple Watch can be dressed up without much fuss using one of the steel Watch's signature bands.
Rene: The Edition is amazing. The gold looks fantastic and the weight was surprisingly light. I tried the 42mm version with leather band this time and, like Ren, it makes me wish money wasn't a thing I had to pay for what I want.
But since I do, I'm also leaning towards Sport or steel.
Interacting with the Watch
Ren: We finally got to take the Watch for an unguided spin after this event — which for me meant digging into its settings; trying out Glances, notifications, and messaging options; browsing apps; and playing obsessively with the Digital Crown. Much as I want a Watch right now, I'm glad Apple's engineers still have a month and a half to polish its software: Though much more solid than the guided demo I saw last fall, the Watch still needs a bit of time to smooth out scrolling and transitions between its features. But it's close — it feels like the second-to-last developer beta of an iOS device — and I'm getting very excited over its capabilities and what it might do for my life.
Rene: Some people seem confused by the many ways you can interact with the Apple Watch. Here's probably all I'm going to do at first: Get notifications and triage them, look for quick information or to do quick interaction.
I'm happy that there's a lot more I can do, and that apps are coming that will let me check my boarding pass, call an Uber, unlock a room, close a garage, and more. But that's frosting to me at this point.
They had me at saving a reach.
Watch what happens
Ren: I don't think the Watch will save humanity from being rude at the dinner table, nor will it change the world overnight. But the more I see, the more I continue to be bullish on Apple's smartwear. I know what the Watch will do for my life: My travel alone will be much improved thanks to being able to scan boarding passes directly on it, and I can't wait to see how it helps my cross-training for roller derby. (And if nothing else, I'll actually have something to look at when I mime checking the time in conversations — I haven't worn a watch in ten years, and the Apple Watch is the first device that's truly gotten me excited to do so again.)
Rene: This is Apple Watch generation one. No one, including Apple, knows exactly what it will be to most people, let alone all people. Like the iPhone, like the iPad, it'll take a year or two to really shake out.
But based on everything I saw last September and again today, holy wow but they're going to be fun years.
When I was a kid my dad bought an Apple II Plus so he wouldn't have to go to IBM to access the mainframes. It couldn't do as much, but it could do important things more conveniently. My iPhone prevents me having to go back to my Mac whenever I leave home. Again, not as much, but ever so much more convenient. My Apple Watch will prevent me having to reach for my iPhone as often. Still won't do as much, still will be infinitely more convenient.
And it's only generation one.
Ren: The Watch may be your initial purchase, but the bands are going to be the fun accessories you didn't know you wanted. You won't be able to buy bands off-the-bat as accessories, but an Apple representative told us they're coming shortly after launch; so you'll be able to rock a soft pink Modern Buckle with an Apple Watch Sport if you so desire.
The band that surprised me the most? The Milanese Loop, which I expected to hate but fell in love with almost instantly. The metal loops are so small that they don't tug on your skin or arm hair, and the metallic clasp looks like way too much fun to fiddle with during meetings or while on the train.
Rene: I like what Apple's doing with the bands. They're amazing products in their own right. And since you can swap any band of the same size — 38mm or 42mm — with any watch casing of the same size, the potential isn't only high — it's fun.
You'll have to choose a band when you buy, and the band will affect the initial price you pay, but at some point you'll be able to swap to your heart and fashion's content.
Sure, some combos might be odd, but others might be perfect for you.
The retail life
Ren: Previews from April 10 to April 24! I wished for this, but I didn't think it would actually happen. I'm so glad they did. The Watches are personal technology choices beyond a size of MacBook or iMac screen; you need time with them to figure out which one is right for you — or even if one is right for you at all. By giving customers the chance to try the Watch on without immediate pressure to buy, it also takes away some of the stress you find in high-end jewelry shops.
The special Retail tables (on display in the event hands-on area) are also very cool: Employee badging to unlock secret drawers with hidden product rather than unlocking a glass case? It's very Apple, and very chic.
Rene: Apple Watch is going to be a rollout like no other. We won't just show up and line up on launch day. We'll get a preview starting April 10. We'll be able to go in and see which Apple Watch is best for us.
Then, on April 24, we'll be able to buy.
There will be tables in Apple Retail with all the watches set in the center, and Apple Retail staff will have a special badge they can use to unlock a special drawer. And in that drawer will be all the watches to try on.
It's a pragmatic system, one that respects how Apple Retail currently works yet starts to move it towards a more personal future.
Where it goes next will be fascinating to see.
The bottom line
Rene: A lot of people are over-thinking the Apple Watch. It's a watch made by Apple. Says so right on the box. It can do a lot of super cool things. Says so right on the website. Those things will have value for people the same way a tablet has value for people. Whether it has value the way a phone does remains to be seen.
Tim Cook said he'd been wanting to make a phone call from his wrist since he was five. I have too. Unlike Cook, I lacked the genius and resources to make it happen. Thank goodness Cook had an abundance of each.
Because now we both have it. And a whole lot more.
Ren: The Apple Watch may not be for you, and that's okay. But it has the potential to change many people's lives for the better. I'm more convinced of this every time I see Cook and company talk about the Watch and hold it in my hands. Apple has poured all its craftsmanship and talent into this product, and it shows. I don't know if it will be a banner success the way the iPhone was — but I love its potential.
And now I know for sure that the Apple Watch is definitely for me.
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