Prior to the launch of the Apple Watch, there had been rumors that Apple would make a watch for quite some time. In a broader sense, the wearables industry has become an area of significant interest as the next growth market after devices like tablets and smartphones as the high-end market became saturated and much of the growth that previously existed in the mobile space started to level out. This has resulted in a new alignment of markets and technology; the markets are ripe for a new device to recapture the wild growth of smartphones, and in the 8 years since the launch of the iPhone the inexorable march of Moore's Law has seen another 4 generations of improvements in technology. This time is finally right, it seems, to take a crack at something even smaller and more personal than the smartphone: the watch.

About two years ago, we put out our first wearable review, which examined Samsung’s Galaxy Gear. In the time since then, Android Wear has been launched, with numerous OEMs launching some form of wearable using Google’s wearable OS. However, Apple remained curiously absent from the field despite numerous rumors suggesting that Apple would soon launch a wearable. Last year, Apple announced the Apple Watch, but it wasn’t until just a few months ago that it finally went on sale.

Consequently, Apple didn’t get a first-movers advantage getting into wearables, though it remains to be seen whether that would even matter. As the creator of the iPhone and frequently on the cutting edge of technology and design, Apple had enough good will with the public to be late, and at the same time with all eyes on them they could not afford to screw up. The end result is that though by no means a slight towards Apple’s competitors, there is a clear distinction between everything that has come before the Apple Watch and everything that will come after. For the consumer market as a whole, the launch of the Apple Watch signifies that wearables have moved beyond the early adopter phase for techies, and are now being pitched at (and purchased by) the wider consumer market.

Normally, it’s easy enough to jump straight into what the device is and what’s new about said device, but in the case of the Apple Watch it’s really important that we explore the world in which this watch exists. The world is divided into people that wear watches, and people that don’t. Apple faces the distinct problem is trying to sell to both audiences, which have very different desires from a watch. The people that already have watches don’t want to give up the almost infinite battery life of conventional watches, high levels of water resistance, or anything else that is an accepted standard for watches.

The people that don’t wear watches are probably the closest thing to a clean slate that we’ll get when it comes to the wearable market. On a personal note, I fall into this camp, as I pretty much grew up in the age of widespread cellphone adoption. One of the convenient things about a phone is that they usually have the time on them, along with alarm and timer functionality. For me, this effectively meant that there was no point to wearing a watch. I also tended to have problems with the logistics involved in wearing a watch. In general, wristbands had an amazing tendency to either be too tight or too loose no matter how I adjusted the band. These issues were also compounded with any sort of physical exertion, as sweat tended to collect under the band which made wearing a watch noticeably more uncomfortable. These ergonomic issues, combined with the lack of functionality in a watch, ultimately made me stop wearing watches. Even before cellphones, wall-mounted clocks were more than sufficient for me when it came to checking the time, although I suspect I was far too young for time to really matter all that much.

Of course, I have been trying out various wearables over the course of the past few years. Although I didn’t try LG’s G Watch, I have been able to use the Pebble Steel and Motorola’s Moto 360. However, it was really a challenge for me to find anything to say about these wearables. They could definitely tell the time, and they had some extra functionality, but many of the same problems remained. The wearables I tested just weren’t all that comfortable to wear, and due to some technology limitations both weren’t really all that compelling to use. They could manage notifications, but other than that I found the functionality to be rather lacking. I often would forget to put them on at all before setting out for the day, and when I did I didn’t feel any particular need to go back to put it on my wrist. After a few months, I completely forgot about these wearables and stopped wearing them. At the time, I honestly felt like wearables could end up being another passing fad because it seemed most wearables faced similar barriers in terms of getting people to keep wearing them. Wearables like Fitbit suffered from a pretty significant abandonment rate, and given that I did the same for both the Pebble Steel and Moto 360 it increasingly felt like this would be a persistent problem.

In this context, it seems easy for Apple to fail. Generally speaking, no one has really figured out how to solve the problem of wearable adoption, chiefly because the functionality offered often wasn’t very compelling, and broadly speaking these wearables were often not well-designed. One of the first places we can start with the Apple Watch is the spec sheet. We can speak in empty platitudes about how specs don’t matter, but in the case of something like Apple Watch they definitely will. The right components won’t ensure success, but the wrong components can ensure a poor user experience.

  Apple Watch 38mm Apple Watch 42mm
SoC Apple S1 520MHz CPU Apple S1 520MHz CPU
512MB LPDDR3(?)
Display 1.32” 272x340 LG POLED 1.5” 312x390 LG POLED
Dimensions 38.6 x 33.3 x 10.5mm,
25/40/55/54 grams
(Sport/Watch/Gold/Rose Gold)
42 x 35.9 x 10.5mm,
30/50/69/67 grams
(Sport/Watch/Gold/Rose Gold)
Battery 205 mAh (0.78 Whr) 246 mAh (0.93 Whr)
OS WatchOS 1 WatchOS 1
Connectivity 802.11/b/g/n + BT 4.0, NFC 802.11/b/g/n + BT 4.0, NFC
Price         $349/549/10,000        (Sport/Watch/Edition)       $399/599/12,000        (Sport/Watch/Edition)

As we can see, Apple has elected for some relatively conservative specifications. The SoC is relatively low power in nature, and the amount of RAM is probably about right for the kinds of tasks that a wearable will be used for at this time. The display is also of a decent resolution given the display size, and all the necessary wireless connectivity is present. It is notable that Apple is using a relatively small battery, but I suspect that this is necessary in order to fit all of the hardware into the casing of the watch. At least at a high level, it looks like Apple has put the right components into this wearable. However, it's going to take a deep examination of both technology and design to really figure out if Apple has avoided the pitfalls that I've discussed. One of the first and most obvious places to go first is the industrial and material design, which is what we'll talk about next.



View All Comments

  • Murloc - Monday, July 20, 2015 - link

    First! Reply
  • Murloc - Monday, July 20, 2015 - link

    the reviewer has no hair?? Reply
  • ianmills - Monday, July 20, 2015 - link

    HAHAHAHA exactly. The apple watch is reviewed by someone who is self-concious enough to shave their arm hair. This explains why the review is so positive. Some people find self-esteem in odd places... Reply
  • supermoon - Monday, July 20, 2015 - link

    That's just what some people's wrists look like bruh, including mine. what are you grasping at?? Reply
  • dsumanik - Monday, July 20, 2015 - link

    This entire article (photos and content) has been 'photoshopped' by apple PR. Hair and skin smoothed, bokeh added....look at how the watch is posed in the shots, it is amateur photography heavily post a lame viral marketing attempt.












    12K FOR THE 'EDITION' ?????????????


  • navysandsquid - Monday, July 20, 2015 - link

    Hate on brother lol butt hurt much its ok enjoy your droid turbo lol Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Monday, July 20, 2015 - link

    "This entire article (photos and content) has been 'photoshopped' by apple PR. Hair and skin smoothed, bokeh added....look at how the watch is posed in the shots, it is amateur photography heavily post a lame viral marketing attempt."

    While we do use Photoshop for editing (once you get past basic cropping, you probably want Photoshop), to be clear here these photos haven't received any significant processing. The only work we do on our photos is lens/sensor correction and auto toning.

    The fact of the matter is that Josh is an excellent photographer (the best one among us, in fact), which is how he's able to pull off these amazing shots. So the fact that you think it has been heavily edited is flattering in a sense; we didn't have to edit them, we were able to take those photos naturally in the first place.

    And no, no one from Apple PR has touched the photos. Or the article.
  • BittenRottenApple - Monday, July 20, 2015 - link

    Worship the holy apple.

    The apple way, selling over expensive crap to stupid consumers that like to
    get robbed.

    This has been a disastrous launch in every respect. The iwatch is such an
    ugly piece of crap, it is truly unbelievable how a company, formerly known for
    its remarkable design, dares to put out such a crap ton of shit. Some
    characteristics are glaringly obvious and inherent to it: over expensive,
    hardly innovative, limited functionality and usability (need of an iPhone to
    make it work), looks exactly like a toy watch and so on.

    There are of course way better smart watches out there, especially from the
    likes of Samsung, Sony, Motorola, Asus, LG, simply put, there is no need for
    another piece of over expensive junk.

    Regardless of what the casing and strap are, it's still maybe $8 worth of electronics at best, a painfully tiny screen, awful battery life, absolute dependence on an iPhone for proper function, and in reality adding extra time to decide if the message your phone just pinged your wrist with is worth pulling the phone out for to reply with.
    The smart watch is a dumb idea in its current form. The Apple icrapWatch (tm) with its "Wealthy - Rich - Look how obscenely rich I am" case material tiers (seriously, the upgrade from plastic to red leather band is $7k? Not even a gold band available to justify that $17k price?) is the ultimate expression of that.
    Maybe in 5 years or so a transparent OLED screen over a traditional watch with these sensors to pop-up notifications long enough to be noticed but not need to be charged every two hours is when it'll make sense, but for now it's a useless gimmick that nobody really needs.

    Let's face it, the Apple Watch is a total and utter failure. The one called Sport edition doesn’t even has a dust, shock and water resistant exterior and thus fails in nearly every "sports" related usage scenario, albeit still costing nearly as much as an iPad, or, you know, a real watch, which works for years to come.
    And the luxury one? Oh god, 17k+ for this utter crapicious experience. If you’re a millionaire, donate that 17k+ to the EFF, the communist party, an union or consider that such an amount of money could save lives in many third world countries or help to preserve nature. Besides that, it doesn’t even look that luxurious compared face to face to Rolex standards, more like some sort of ugly, chubby toy enclosed in a thin, and tiny gold case. The functionality provided, if one even dares to call it that way, are utter crap too, nothing new, nothing exciting here, nothing Samsung, LG, Pebbles haven't been offering for years on a far superior basis. For example the Pebbles watch which costs
    less than 79$ and has 8 days of battery life, shows many of the notifications and info someone might need, all the while being water and dust proof, with changeable wristbands. Seriously, fuck this overpriced, environmentally obscene, eco terroristic icrapWatch (TM).

    Yet another fine addition to the long list of "Terrible Products Apple Makes to Gouge Money out of People".

    The new icrapWatch (tm) is a testament to Apple's collapsing technical acumen. They eliminate all ports providing no cable based connectivity at all? This craven stupidity should send the last adherents running. But running to what? Windows isn't even a viable option anymore, since it now is the most widespread commercial NSA gathering tool available, closely followed by Android, iOS and OS X.

    It's a sad day for people who need real smartwatches. Jony Ive is a pompous, clueless hack who should be fired and shot on the spot (or torn apart by a horde of rabid dogs) for introducing crippling regressions like this one.

    Look at this POS: No USB port, which won’t require an adapter to do anything. So if you aren’t going to require an adapter anyway, why not make that nonexistent port a modern port one: Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt can carry USB, video, Ethernet, external storage... ALL AT ONCE. And it can be daisy-chained, which would be hugely important when the icrapWatch (tm) would have ONLY ONE PORT. So WTF is Apple doing in not making its nonexistant port into a thunderbolt port?

    And again, are you kidding me? No thunderbolt connector? Now every sorry user of this pos doesn’t have to find a thunderbolt to USB C, a USB C to USB to HDMI, a USB to USB 3.0 period, a USB C to USB connector for apple’s time machine and also does not manage to don't short circuit all that with the AC/DC to USB C connectors, seriously ? Not worth 200$ new pile of hairy connectors for the brand new icrapWatch (tm), and that is called a revolution nowadays? No ********** way, the Pebbles is way superior, period.

    By the way, they're perpetrating no connectors at all. Thunderbolt is a much-needed step to a modern I/O standard. No connector is an outdated, abused standard that was designed primarily for Rolex watches. It's not suitable for external storage, video, or anything else requiring bulk data transfer with minimal CPU overhead. A nonexistant connector at all is a regression, a major step BACKWARD.

    Starting at $349.00----Less than $8.00 worth of hardware = ~$341.00 premium to use icrapWatch OS instead of windows. (Honestly the most expensive component of this icrapWatch (tm) is probably the screen.)
    Anyone with real work to do will not even be able to buy this thing. My friend’s last Air was neat in that it was small and lasted all day, but it was so under-powered, it was frustrating. I can only imagine how limited this machine will be.

    Who cares about price, weight and size, when this product is crippled by a hopelessly defective design? You can't hook up a power adapter and external storage at the same time. You can't hook up an external display and external storage. Hell, you can't even plug in a thumb drive!

    This product is the most asinine piece of shit Apple has produced, and that includes the (thankfully) short-lived Shuffle that could only be controlled by a gimped Morse code.

    $270 less gets you the new Pebbles which will eat the crapWatch's lunch.

    If you need to do a lot of processor intensive work, than you would not even go near this thing. It would be useless to you. If you need to crunch spreadsheets or are heavy in corporate analysis, this icrapWatch (tm) would also be useless to you.

    This is the kind of icrapWatch (tm) that Apple sells a lot of. This icrapWatch (tm) is largely useless for anything other than email and facebook. It cannot store many files, it cannot process much information, and it has no external port. There is nothing wrong with using this icrapWatch (tm) for casual tasks, but it is CERTAINLY not a productivity machine.

    It is what it is. A status symbol/statement. Or some other statement. A statement that you just bought a $349 or icrapWatch(tm) with a $341 or more case so you can show off in front of your hipster isheep friends.

    I hate to stick to Apple only facts here, but Apple said that the current Samsung Smatwatch is 24% thicker than this new icrapWatch (tm). That does NOT mean that the new icrapWatch (tm) is 24% thinner than the current Samsung Smatwatch , it means that it is ~20% thinner than the current Samsung Smatwatch. They clearly phrased it that way to make it sound more impressive and hence dupe the consumer, aka stupid isheep.

    So, it's a toy watch plus with a display and no over expensive dongle so you can’t do everything a Pebbles can do, at more than four times the price while looking posh.
    And here I thought technology was about function over form. I get it, functional art; art I can do things my phone does, but in a space that anyone can see me doing it, stylishly. Crippled and non standard in-house branded "business" software does great, can't do anything really artistic on it except maybe GarageBand or stock filter photo edits to my innumerable selfies, but it's got that partially eaten fruit on the back that screams "money I'm too stupid to keep or invest wisely."

    Take my money!
    I wouldn't hold my breath.

    This is apple's marketing strategy: mind-numbing markup on dirt-cheap, mediocre icrapWare (tm). They throw together a cheap little toy like icrapWatch (tm), pretty it up with silver or gold paint, and ride the wave of ignorance, outrageous markup, and marketing that they've been using as a business model for many, many years now. The only thing Apple has ever made that's less worthless than all the other crap their conspirators like Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Ltd excrete all day and night by taking advantage of child labour are iOS and OS X which, besides being notoriously crippled and constrained walled gardens, aren’t even worth the hassle unless you also dumped thousands of dollars into other apple products.

    Many apple owners I’ve encountered never stop trying to belittle and demean others because they don’t have a Macbook or an iPhone (or an icrapWatch (tm) for that matter) and then try to act like their overpriced apple products are overall better when they are certainly not, by any standard.

    Luxury cars, while still worthless crash grabs, usually offer some quality and features that are actually somewhat superior to cheaper competing vehicles and models.
    icrapWatch (tm) such as this start already expensive as hell with little performance to warrant such outrageous costs. Apple isn’t the luxury car of anything. It’s the luxury car DESIGN with a 4-cylinder under the hood and a tape-deck in the sound system, all with the price tag of "luxury". They sell laptops made cheap in china, using child labour and the same hardware you can find in SO many other laptops, slap their OS on it, put it in a thin case, and then markup the price by 300% to 600%. These are the facts. This icrapWatch (tm) in question is nowhere NEAR worth that kind of money. I mean, smartwatches in general are overpriced, but apple has made their entire business model out of extreme markups backed by clever marketing with little actual technological superiority of any kind. Every single apple product on the market can be outperformed in every way by comparable products. Apple icrapWatches (tm) can be outperformed by smartwatches that are FAR FAR cheaper while relying on older tech. The only thing that apple has that nobody else does is OSX and iOS, their operating systems. These are mediocre operating systems, but they are literally designed to be limited on anything it determines to be "non-apple hardware". Other operating systems can be installed on just about any computer you can slap together, whereas OSX is specifically and deliberately designed to be non-functional on ANYTHING that isn’t made by apple. It’s nothing but a cash-grab.

    Apple is indeed playing run-of-the-mill capitalism, they try to capitalize on the ignorance of the average consumer with marketing campaigns designed to make you assume you're getting your money's worth.

    There are millions of consumers who are on the fence, who are actually interested in buying something that's worth the money they spend. Those people deserve factual information and do not deserve to be exploited for their ignorance on the topic. So excuse me if I have a problem with it. College students especially, who don’t have a lot to spend in the first place, are being taken advantage of in every area of their life. Buying a smartwatch should be one less area of exploitation. This is why I have a problem with apple and with many other companies and services that attempt to capitalize on ignorance.

    Years down the road when the batteries in this model are dead and you have to keep it plugged in just to use then you'll have no way to plug in a flash drive or an external hard drive. I don't care how sexy it looks: sometimes and more often than not less means a serious lack of functionality.

    We can only hope that consumers send this piece of diabolic garbage to oblivion, as they did the idiotic iPod Shuffle that could only be controlled with Morse code over a proprietary headphone wire.

    The Apple Iphone 1 and Ipad 1 might have been innovative at their time,
    but since then, the bitten apple has been continuously rotting from the inside
    outwards, always swarmed by millions of Iworms which regale themselves with its
    rotten flesh, not forgetting all other Americans who support apple by means of
    their tax dollars to finance its bought US Treasury/Government bond interest rates.

    Last but not least, every Apple product includes a direct hotlink to the NSA,
    free of charge, something that might make it a good value, after all.

    Ceterum censeo Applem esse delendam.
  • twanto - Monday, July 20, 2015 - link

    "There is nothing wrong with using this icrapWatch (tm) for casual tasks, but it is CERTAINLY not a productivity machine." I was really hoping it could handle some spreadsheets and a bit of 3D rendering, but I guess not.

    This post was either satire or the greatest literary achievement by someone with a bonus chromosome 21.
  • Schickenipple - Tuesday, July 21, 2015 - link

    Word. If you are trying to create spreadsheets on your watch, or any screen that small, you are an idiot. Reply

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