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The reviews are in! Apple Watch first impressions roundup

With the Apple Watch now available for pre-order, and its release date imminent, the first wave of reviews has landed and the consensus is near enough unanimous: the Apple Watch is hugely impressive, with the potential for so much more to come – but you may not actually need one.

We already know that Pharrell is a fan, but what do the world’s technology writers think of the Apple’s first new product line in five years? Detailed reviews for the smartwatch have come in from several big-hitting publications – let’s take a look at some of their main thoughts.

Main features and general usage

Notifications and Glances, two of the core features to the smartwatch experience, are generally great – providing quick status updates in a streamlined manner – with a couple of key concerns. Both of these functions are only accessible from the main Clock interface, by swiping either up or down from this view. Unlike Notification Center or Control Center on an iPhone, they can’t be accessed while using any of the watches other functions.

The health and fitness tracking capabilities of the Apple Watch were largely praised, with a few concerns about inaccurate heart rates and the overly basic nature of the activity tracking. The consensus is that the technology is mostly pretty great but until more third party apps are released it doesn’t quite stand up against a dedicated fitness tracker yet.

Apple Pay is supposedly seamless, and a joy to use, while Siri is still useful for the small stuff but prompts you to refer to your iPhone if you ask anything too complex.

Performance and battery life

In terms of battery life, the Apple Watch operates as we expected. A full charge is enough to survive a ‘normal’ day of use, while heavier sessions on the watch will quickly deplete the battery. The watch was designed to be great in very short bursts and is not intended for long use, but as more apps are developed that depend on longer sessions we may see battery drain become more of an issue.

Surprisingly, many reviewers have noted performance issues: lag, delays, general slowness. When the primary purpose of the Apple Watch is (arguably) to be quick and convenient, any additional wait time detracts from the idea that the watch is preferred to the phone.

To save power, the Apple Watch screen isn’t always on. To check the time you raise your arm a little and point your wrist at your face, which triggers the backlight. The problem is this takes a moment to register, and even a very short wait to view the time is still a large proportion of something that should only take a couple of seconds total.

Apple has promised to address these performance concerns with a software update ahead of the public launch date. So hopefully these delays will be gone, or less prevalent, in a couple of weeks.

Conclusions roundup

Here’s a snippet of the overall impression five of the biggest reviewers had. Some focused on particular elements more than others, but they all came to remarkably similar conclusions.

Bloomberg thinks Apple has succeeded in its primary task, but still has a way to go:

“The watch is not life-changing. It is, however, excellent.”

“It’s still another screen, another distraction, another way to disconnect, as much as it is the opposite.”

“The Apple Watch is cool, it’s beautiful, it’s powerful, and it’s easy to use. But it’s not essential. Not yet.”

The Verge thinks the watch is brilliant but lacking focus; a jack-of-all-trades:

“It can do tiny bits of everything, instead of a few things extraordinarily well.”

“There’s no question that the Apple Watch is the most capable smartwatch available today

“It’s not clear that anyone’s yet figured out what smartwatches are actually for.”

Yahoo says the watch is the best in the world, but still a luxury rather than a necessity:

“The Apple Watch is light-years better than any of the feeble, clunky efforts that have come before it. The screen is nicer, the software is refined and bug-free, the body is real jewelry.”

“You don’t need one. Nobody needs a smartwatch … in the end, therefore, the Apple Watch is, above all, a satisfying indulgence.”

The New York Times believes that for the right person, the watch is essential:

“The Watch builds the digital world directly into your skin. It takes some time getting used to, but once it clicks, this is a power you can’t live without.”

“The first Apple Watch may not be for you – but someday soon, it will change your world.”

The Wall Street Journal focuses on fashion, with inevitable upgrades in mind:

“The Apple Watch makes you look good. But the next one is bound to make you look even better.”

“When was the last time Apple didn’t improve first-gen hardware’s performance while making it sleeker?”

When the Apple Watch becomes available to the general public on April 24 we will start to get a more rounded view of worldwide opinion. Aside from a few issues, the reviews are looking promising so far – if you’re tempted don’t forget to book an appointment to avoid missing out.