May 28 2015
Our Apple Watch review looks at the Apple Watch’s features, design and build quality, screen quality, user interface, hardware controls, first- and third-party apps, battery life, specs and pricing. Read our Apple Watch review for everything you need to know about Apple’s new wearable-tech device, whether you should buy an Apple Watch, which features work and which don’t, and which Apple Watch model is right for you.
The Apple Watch comes in three different models, two different sizes, and six different finishes, with a range of swappable bands and prices ranging from $349, £299 or AU$499 all the way up to $17,000, £13,500 or AU$24,000. It’s designed to be Apple’s most personal product: fashion as much as it is tech. Apple’s products have been fashionable for years, but now Apple wants these watches to transcend into jewelry.
Smartwatches may one day be the future of phones, or a seamless extension of both them and your home, or any number of connected devices. Right now, they function as phone accessories. And that’s where the Apple Watch lands. Apple designed the watch to help us look at our phones less.
Apple wants you to think of the Apple Watch as fine jewelry. Maybe that’s a stretch, but in terms of craftsmanship, there isn’t a more elegantly made piece of wearable tech.
Look at the Apple Watch from a distance, and it might appear unremarkable in its rectangular simplicity compared with bolder, circular Android Wear watches. It’s clearly a revamped sort of iPod Nano. But get closer, and you can see the seamless, excellent construction.
I reviewed the stainless-steel Apple Watch, with a steel link band — a $1,000 configuration. I also wore it with two different Sport Bands, one white and one blue.
The Apple Watch feels a bit chunky compared to Apple’s stable of super-slim gadgets, but it doesn’t look big on the wrist. The larger 42mm version has length, width and thickness similar to the Pebble Steel, one of the smaller smartwatches available. The 38mm version is even smaller. The 42mm version I reviewed felt great on my wrist and didn’t feel uncomfortable at all.
The Apple Watch comes in two sizes. The case, measured vertically, is either 38mm or 42mm. Every single person who’s seen the 42mm model I’ve been testing immediately presumed it was the smaller one – this is not an oversized watch.
The build quality is so much higher than with any rival smartwatch we’ve tested that it’s not even really a competition. And thanks to some extensive hands-on sessions I can confirm that’s true even if you’re looking at the “entry-level” Apple Watch Sport – although it was the more deluxe Apple Watch that I selected as a review sample.
Apple Watch release date
Apple Watch launched last month on its official April 24 release date, though it was delivered in the mail. Pre-orders began two weeks prior on April 10, and you can now try it on at the Apple Store during 15-minute appointments.
Apple Watch apps
Apple Watch is officially launching on April 24 in nine countries
Apple requires appointments to demo the smartwatch and make an in-store purchase, so reserve a time in advance. This eliminated sleep-deprived diehards who used to camp out for new Apple products. Well, it still happened in six rare cases around the world.
It’s available in nine countries: US, UK, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong and Japan. More countries get the Apple Watch at later date, likely in June. Tim Cook promised.
Finally, our Apple Watch vs Android Wear comparison can really get underway. Apple would certainly be winning if hype-building video tours were part of this best smartwatch debate.
Apple Watch price
We have an answer to the question: “How much does the Apple Watch cost?” The answer: More than we were hoping to pay in some cases.
Apple Watch release date and price
Three models with very different pricing depending on your taste, budget
Only the aluminum Sport edition “starts at $349 (£299)” and that’s for the smaller 38mm version. The 42mm size is slightly more at $399 (£339).
The shinier stainless steel “Watch” collection starts at $549 (£479) and goes up to to $1099 (£949), depending on the Apple Watch bands and size configuration.
The gold Watch Edition’s price ranges from $10,000 (£8,000) to $17,000 (£13,500, AU$24,000) and are in limited supply at select Apple Stores. It does come with fancy VIP treatment and a charging stand.
These prices don’t seem to be a problem, though. Apple Watch sales in one day are estimated to have outstripped Android Wear watch sales in all of 2014.
Optional add-ons include interchangeable Apple Watch bands and AppleCare Protection Plans, starting at $49 (£49, AU$79).
More designs may arrive with Apple Watch 2 in a year or so. Many critics holding out hope it will include a round watch face and significantly cheaper price to compete with an inevitable Moto 360 2.0.
Maybe because it takes NINE hours to make this all-metal band
Apple Watch release date, price and features. Why Apple Watch costs so much?
It’s not just the notorious Apple tax pushing the price tag to $349 and well beyond, it’s the components involved. For example, the all-metal Link Bracelet has 100 components and takes an insane nine hours to cut.
Apple also recruited high-profile people throughout the watch and biometrics industries who have wound up on its Apple Watch team. That talent comes at a price.
Then there’s a hidden cost. While a subsidized iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are cheaper upfront in the US, stores make up the difference with contract kickbacks. Not so with a smartwatch. Stores need a cut too.
Apple Watch review: Specs
The Apple Watch’s display has a resolution of 272×340 or 312×390 depending on whether you choose the 38mm or 42mm size option. We thought the screen quality was excellent during our testing.
The Apple Watch is powered by an Apple S1 processor, and we have found that it can be a little slow on occasions, particularly while using third-party apps.
The Good The Apple Watch is a beautifully constructed, compact smartwatch. It’s feature-packed, with solid fitness software, hundreds of apps, and the ability to send and receive calls via an iPhone.
The Bad Battery barely lasts a day and recharge time is slow; most models and configurations cost more than they should; requires an iPhone 5 or later to work; interface can be confusing; sometimes slow to communicate with a paired iPhone.
The Bottom Line The Apple Watch is the most ambitious, well-constructed smartwatch ever seen, but first-gen shortfalls make it feel more like a fashionable toy than a necessary tool.