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Here's What the Apple Watch Reviews Are Saying

If you're thinking of pre-ordering one when it goes on sale this Friday, read this first.
The watch. Photo: Stephen Lam/Getty Images

The watch. Photo: Stephen Lam/Getty Images

In two days' time, you'll be able to pre-order the Apple Watch. But should you? The first wave of reviews of the device have hit the Internet, and the general sentiment seems to be that it's great in a lot of ways, and imperfect in others. That's not at all surprising, because, for all of Apple's mastery of consumer electronics, it's still a very new type of device. 

We've whittled down the big takeaways so far.

There's a learning curve.

And that's something that might turn some people off, says Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times, who only started to appreciate the device on his fourth day of use. "There’s a good chance it will not work perfectly for most consumers right out of the box, because it is best after you fiddle with various software settings to personalize use," he explains. "Indeed, to a degree unusual for a new Apple device, the Watch is not suited for tech novices. It is designed for people who are inundated with notifications coming in through their phones, and for those who care to think about, and want to try to manage, the way the digital world intrudes on their lives."

You're going to have to spend some time updating your notification settings.

If there's one thing reviewers agreed on, it's that the watch will drive you insane with its buzzing if you let every text and push notification through. The Telegraph's Matt Warman describes the device as a filter for your phone, and you're going to have to set up that filter. This is, in the Wall Street Journal's Geoffrey Fowler's estimation, "a tedious — and unfortunately ongoing — chore."

But once that's done, it could make you more present.

Fowler says that the watch has cut down on the four-plus hours a day he usually spends looking at his phone to compulsively check Twitter and Instagram. Manjoo's wife noticed him "getting lost" in his phone less than he used to.

"I’ve found the Apple Watch isn’t a replacement for the iPhone, but it’s the right screen for many important things," Fowler writes. "I only look at it in blips, for rarely more than five seconds. It shows me the weather with one finger swipe. It gets physical, gently tapping my wrist when something important needs my attention and lighting up when I lift my arm to look. It nudges when I’ve been sitting too long." The result? "It has made me more present. I’m less likely to absent-mindedly reach for my phone, or feel compelled to leave it on the table during supper."

In some ways, it's faster to use than your phone.

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Among the watch's various functions, Fowler noticed it was quicker to do things like dictate a text message, ask Siri a question and check the weather or news on the watch than on his phone. That it alerts you to emails or calls from selected contacts is a valuable thing, as well.

It doesn't look totally terrible!

That's according to Warman, who demoed a stainless steel face with a brown leather band. "For me, it more than passes the fashion test," he writes. "I’ve not encountered anyone who couldn’t find a strap and watch combination they genuinely liked, although few have actually had the chance to wear one in real life. I surprised myself by wanting to change straps depending on the social setting or, for instance, using a rubber sport band for exercise."

According to Mashable's Lance Ulanoff, the $1,000 watch does, in fact, feel like it should be worth $1,000. Scott Stein at Cnet says that "in terms of craftsmanship, there isn't a more elegantly made piece of wearable tech." 

The third-party apps for the Apple Watch, on the other hand, are not great.

Fowler calls the apps currently available for the watch "half-baked" and "the biggest disappointment of my Apple Watch experience," and Warman agrees that they "seldom... felt properly developed." Ulanoff says that new apps took "forever" to install and then didn't work very well. This is all kind of to be expected, though, since the watch is a totally new form factor. Bet that once developers have had some more time with the device and a chance to get user feedback, the apps are going to get a lot better. 

Apple Pay is pretty cool.

Not only does the watch mean you have to use your phone less, but hooking up your credit card to Apple Pay makes it possible to leave your wallet at home (if you're cool with only going to participating retailers). Manjoo, who used his watch to pay for New York City cabs and items at Whole Foods, seemed fairly enchanted with that function, writing that "when these encounters worked, they were magical, like having a secret key to unlock the world right on my arm." Ulanoff, too, says he found Apple Pay to be rather easy.

"I bought a Shamrock Shake at McDonald's, where the clerk didn’t bat an eye when I double pressed on the side button, selected the credit card I wanted to use and then waved the watch over the NFC reader," he writes. "In Walgreens, the clerk smiled brightly and seemed to enjoy the show."

The takeaway?

If you want to be on the forefront of the smartwatch movement, consider buying the Apple Watch. Fowler says that he wouldn't pay for the $1,000 version of the device, but he does plan to buy the $400 Sport version when it's available because, "it's worth paying for a front-row seat for what’s next in tech." Manjoo suggests that, while the first version of the watch isn't for everyone, it will have an impact on how you use technology eventually.

Stein sums it up most clearly: "If you're curious where Apple is going next and have $350-$400 to spend, the entry-level Apple Watch might be fun to explore. Everyone else, I'd wait and see how the apps shape up, how the kinks get worked out, whether any software updates help with battery life. There's a lot more time to decide."