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Apple Watch review

Michael Sawh

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Updated:

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Summary

Our Score:

6

User Score:

Pros

  • Best-looking smartwatch so far
  • Force Touch well integrated
  • Digital Crown is a useful addition
  • Comfortable to wear

Cons

  • Unintuitive and buggy software
  • Significantly drains iPhone battery
  • Third-party apps need work
  • Some gimmicky features

Key Features

  • 1.7-inch OLED touchscreen
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Optical heart rate sensor
  • Large range of straps
  • Compatible with iPhones only
  • Siri support
  • Built-in mic and speaker to make calls
  • Manufacturer: Apple
  • Review Price: £600.00

Update: 21/03/2016

Apple has dropped the price of the Apple Watch to $299. The firm revealed the drop during its iPhone SE launch event. There’s no confirmed UK price drop, but if it follows over, that means you’ll be able to pick up an Apple Watch for as little as £210 – if the drop is equivellent.

The Apple Watch’s high starting price was a big deal. The Apple Watch’s hefty £299 starting price made it one of the most expensive smartwatches on the market when it first launched.

The new pricing puts the Apple Watch in the same price bracket as competing smartwatches, like the Moto 360 2 and Microsoft Band 2.

Apple has also unveiled new nylon and milanese bands, which add to the wearable’s already expansive portfolio of wrist straps.

Apple Watch – Long-term review

I’ve been wearing Apple’s first wearable since it hit shelves last spring and in most ways my opinion almost entirely mirrors our initial review. Once you’ve looked past the typically stylish Apple design, the Watch is an overly complicated piece of tech that still doesn’t really know what it wants to be.

In fact, the best move I’ve made so far is to completely turn off all notifications. The constant wrist vibrations became a nuisance, not aid, on too many occasions. Silencing them is the only reason I’ve been able to keep the Watch on this long. Maybe smartwatches aren’t meant to be hubs for all our communications after all.

Even though watchOS 2 was meant to sort out the ridiculously slow app situation with native downloads, it’s still far from perfect. Apps still take an age to get going and they’re still mostly pointless. Aside from the handy music controls and fairly impressive Citymapper there isn’t much else that has made me think, ‘Wow, this really works on a watch.’

WatchOS 2 did bring with it a few neat upgrades. The Nightclock feature is nice to have, though I wish I could keep it on all the time, like I can on the Moto 360 2. And don’t even try using it with the Milanese Loop strap, you need a tough one like the Sport Band to keep it upright.

Time Travel, which lets you skip through the day by twiddling the Digital Crown, is great too. If you’re using some of new third-party complications it’ll show you when rain might be coming (through Dark Sky) and upcoming appointments.

Buy Now: Apple Watch at Amazon.co.uk from £259.99

Apple Watch – Long-term verdict

First generation Apple products are always more for the tech enthusiasts than the everyday consumer – remember the ridiculously expensive original iPhone or the almost useless first-gen iPad?

So the thought of the Apple Watch 2 does still make me somewhat excited. But, it’s really the software that needs the biggest update. It needs to be simpler, with less to do and a generally cleaner way of doing everything.

You can check out our full Apple Watch review below.

What is the Apple Watch?

Apple may not be the first technology company to release a smartwatch, however, it is debatably the first to generate any significant interest about a wearable.

In fact, recent stats from Strategy Analytics suggest the Apple Watch already accounts for 75.5% of the smartwatch market.

This is despite the fact Google made its opening move to conquer the smartwatch market over a year ago, when it released its wearable focused Android Wear operating system.

However, while it may be enjoying early success there are quite a few niggling flaws in the Apple Watch that potential buyers should be aware of. These include common issues, such as poor battery life, as well as more local problems, like weird software glitches and unintuitive app interfaces.

Watch our Apple Watch vs iPhone race across London

Related: Apple Watch 2 release date

Apple Watch – Design and Comfort

The Apple Watch is the most attractive smartwatch by a country mile. It uses the most luxurious materials and it’s more discreet and elegant than the majority of its rivals. That’s the least we expected from Apple and from something that costs more than the alternatives, though.

The casing, which is made from stainless steel, has a lovely polished sheen, while ceramic glass protects the heart rate sensor on the back. The Watch is beautifully constructed, though the Watch complements a smart shirt better than something more casual. Much of this comes down to the version and strap you choose, though, which we’ll get into in a minute.

TrustedReviews Awards 2015: Winners announced

First, an important question – it’s a beautiful smartwatch, but is it a beautiful watch in the traditional sense? Not really. A normal £600 watch doesn’t have to live with the compromises that most smartwatches, including the Watch, have to deal with and that shows. Pick up a similarly priced Nixon, a Seiko or Hamilton watch and you’ll instantly see what we’re talking about.

SEE ALSO: Best Fitness Trackers

Apple does live with those compromises better than most, though, specifically that issue of thickness. The Apple Watch isn’t thin. It’s about as thick as three British one pound coins (11.5mm thick to be precise), but you don’t notice the added bulk as much as some. The way the stainless steel case and screen curve inwards help create the illusion of a slimmer, more elegant timepiece compared to the Moto 360, which many feel is the most desirable Android Wear watch to date. It also helps that the Digital Crown and Friends button on the right don’t jut out too far, while you’ll barely notice the speaker and mic on the left that let you make and take calls.

That thick body fits in an array of components, including 8GB of flash memory, the NFC radios ready for Apple Pay (US-only for now), sensors for tracking motion and Apple’s custom S1 processor. That’s accompanied by 512MB RAM and the whole chipset setup is supposedly more powerful than the first generation iPad.

So far, so good, but it’s a little disappointing that the Apple Watch isn’t really waterproof. You’ll have to take it off before you get in the shower and don’t even think about going anywhere near a swimming pool. Apple says it meets the IPX7 water resistant certification, which means it’s suitable for running in the rain and doing the dishes with it on.

SEE ALSO: Samsung Gear S2 vs Apple Watch: Do you go Apple or Samsung smartwatch?

There’s no shortage of strap options. Apple is offering a variety of leather, metal and more sport-friendly rugged straps with different types of buckles. It’s easy to remove and change them by locating and holding down the buttons on the back of the case to slide out the watch strap.

We had the Milanese loop strap, which is the most jewellery-like in appearance. It complements the stainless steel body nicely, but it’s a little more feminine than the leather options. Unclip it and wear it around your wrist and you’ll see what we mean. Its magnetic clasp makes it easy to secure and means there’s no need to remove links to find that perfect fit. It’s not free from issues, though. The clasp has already picked up a fair few scratches, so it’s clearly not the most durable strap in the range.

It is very comfortable, though, as is the Watch as a whole – it feels fine even when worn all day and night. It’s technically a little heavier than other smartwatches, but you’ll barely notice the extra weight. Thankfully, it’s elegant stature means it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb and we’ve had no skin irritation issues during our time using it.

Apple Watch – Screen

If there’s something smartwatch manufacturers are not struggling with, it’s how to make great small screens. LG and Samsung lead the way, but that’s no surprise when they’ve been excelling doing the same for phones and TVs for some time now.

The Watch we tested with the 42mm strap packs a 1.7-inch rectangular screen, which is bigger than the one used on the Watch with the smaller 38mm strap (1.5-inch). Apple is calling it a Retina Display, but unlike an iPhone, it’s swapped LCD technology for an LG-built flexible OLED one.

On top lies a sapphire crystal coating, something you’d find on a similarly priced Nixon watch for instance. This is included to protect against scratches. It’s also meant to increase reflectivity, but that’s not something you’ll find an issue with on the Watch. The cheap Watch Sport has to settle for toughened glass.

From a design perspective, the Watch screen is a beauty. There’s no obvious thick, ugly screen bezel, so all of that screen estate is dedicated to accommodating the operating system. Apple has hidden away the ambient light sensor – responsible for automatically dimming brightness – behind the screen, which is rather clever.

The rectangular versus circular screen debate continues to divide and we’d still side with the more traditional approach. But the Apple Watch is the most convincing argument for a ‘smartphone inspired’ screen on a phone.

The 1.7-inch screen has 322 pixels per inch and it’s right up there with the Samsung Gear Live for sharpness, colour accuracy and brightness. Whites have a slight blueish tint, but it’s virtually impossible to notice on such a small screen. Visibility is fantastic, as well. Day or night, you won't have to squint to read it and it copes well in bright sunlight.

Another aspect of the screen is Force Touch – it’s one of the most interesting features on the Watch. It essentially forms part of the screen technology and makes it possible to detect the difference between light and hard presses on the screen. There’s nothing really like it on other smartwatches and while it takes some playing around to work out the apps compatible with it, it’s a clever way to add extra functionality to apps without having to over complicate the user interface or add more physical buttons.

We’d say Samsung’s smartwatch screens remain the pinnacle, but Apple’s not too far behind for overall quality.

LeeTronix

May 5, 2015, 7:14 pm

Interesting read and it seems apple are trying to rely on their bling status to sell these things. Stupid prices less is more expensive, rubbish battery life, too many versions, smells like an apple greed machine for sure rotten and always to the core.

shnatiw

May 5, 2015, 7:47 pm

A good in depth and non biased review of the Apple Watch. Now let's see how Apple up their game with the next generation.

LeeTronix

May 5, 2015, 8:51 pm

Good review and for me a first to see on here there has been no over praising an apple product but being completely subjective and comparing it to better smart watches already out in the market.

ElectricSheep

May 5, 2015, 9:06 pm

Six.Hundred.Pounds. Meanwhile...on planet sanity...
Where's the "smells like another lustful apple victory" troll?

LeeTronix

May 5, 2015, 10:43 pm

Haha maybe he fell fowl to his own B.O!

Chrisjones6699

May 5, 2015, 11:02 pm

Good review guys! There's a lot of bad points I can relate too, although I've had mine for almost a week and there's a few things I can disagree on. It is totally water proof! I've showered with mine on every day and there's a good YouTube video of someone showering and swimming with the watch on and it's copes perfectly well. I have a 6+ and I've found the battery to improve on my phone because I'm not looking at it anywhere near as much. Texts, emails etc only show on my watch and I look at that every time and only reply with my phone if I really need too. As I type this, it's 23:50 and I have 66% battery on my phone and 66% battery on my watch. I wouldn't class myself as a heavy user but do browse, play games and use spotify almost daily, so I'm putting that down to good battery life. I would rather see the review with you guys testing the sport version because that's realistically the one that the majority/sensible people will buy and would be a more fair review. I think it's a really good product and I hope that most of the issues will be fixed with software updates. I used my watch as a baby monitor yesterday! Put my phone facing the cot and prepped the babies bottles in the kitchen with a live view on my watch. Can't argue with that! :)

Bugblatter

May 5, 2015, 11:42 pm

Like others I expected a far less critical review, and I'm happy to be wrong.

I'm waiting for my Pebble Time Steel because I think they're the one manufacturer to get that a smartwatch shouldn't be a smartphone on your wrist.

LeeTronix

May 5, 2015, 11:55 pm

Thanks for sharing your experiences so far. While I am no apple lover albeit I do use a few macs, I do appreciate to read comments from people who have and use the watch daily. I particularly like the fact you mentioned you use your phone a lot less and are using the watch as a 50/50 device.

I am glad your enjoying the watch all the same.

toboev

May 6, 2015, 6:24 am

"But the Apple Watch is the most convincing argument for a ‘smartphone inspired’ screen on a phone." Uh?

Jmac

May 6, 2015, 6:26 am

You do realise the 38mm and 42mm variants refer to the screen's diagonal size (1.7" vs 1.5" in imperial measurements) rather than the strap, right?

Trevor Totten

May 6, 2015, 12:34 pm

If you're talking about the Surface 3 getting a 9, that score is actually 50% better than the 6 given to the Apple Watch ;)

Paul

May 7, 2015, 7:41 am

this is a ****ing outrage give it an 8 before tim cook marinades your tezzies

Mrflappywilly

May 7, 2015, 7:50 am

On dear...the turtlenecked fanboys won't like this.
.
I love the iphone, think it was a great product...but this is just stupid imo.
have we really got so lazy that we can;t take our phone out of our pockets to use it?
Possibly the most pointless gadget I have ever seen.
Wouldn;t be as bad if the battery lasted a few days, but 8 hours or so? that's just beyond retarded.

soldierboy001

May 8, 2015, 2:56 pm

Was going to say my Samsung Gear S, has the same waterproof spec and I shower in mine every day, but would probably not have done if I had not seen a review video of it being submerged in a bowl of water for 5 minutes, but I won't take the swim test.
Will take objection to it being the most attractive by a country mile quote, to my mind there are a few more attractive smart watches than this, and is no more attractive than my gear. I was a little worried about the size when I ordered it, but not now and I have had no adverse comments about it, which to me means that manufacturers can afford to increase the size of their products.
mrflappywilly, the answer to your question is yes we have got to lazy to use our phones, but on the other hand it's so nice to be able to see whose calling without having to grope in my pocket or my bag for my phone only to find it's stopped ringing when I do eventually get it out or if it's an unknown caller trying to sell me PPI I can just cancel the call.
I don't answer anonymous numbers.
Also I get alerts than I might want to respond to straight away that I hear clearly because it's on my wrist.

Chrisjones6699

May 8, 2015, 6:49 pm

It's genuinly nice to have a decent conversation about tech!

I honestly don't think any smart watch is lazy! Definitely not a necessity and 100% a luxury item but more often than not, it's convenient. I didn't buy an apple watch because I can't be bothered to reach into my pocket. I could just see the bigger picture. A lot of the time, my phone isn't to hand and a quick glance at my watch is far more convenient than running down stairs or trying to get my phone out of my pocket whilst driving (obviously whilst stationary) or even when my son is watching fireman Sam on my phone!

Running is a lot better now because I can see detailed info on my wrist, control music better and even reply to a text without having to stop.

My biggest problem though, is people who are bashing the battery life! I wish they would speak from experience rather than making assumptions! Let's get this straight, the battery life can very much last an entire day with plenty left over and if you can take your watch off at the end of the day and put in down, then you can charge it just as easy! the mag safe style charger really is brilliant and I don't feel put out at all by having to charge the watch daily! It's not as if I'm not used to charging a device daily anyway.

As I said though, it's far from perfect and needs a lot of fine tuning but I'm really enjoying my apple watch and if I were to rate it, id give it a 7.5/10

kevin

May 10, 2015, 1:48 am

It saddens me to say so, but.... I just don't get it.
Probably because I'm old. Other than the shallow "I've got a new techie toy", what is the attraction of smart-watches, in general?

My Note 4 has a big enough screen that I don't need to wear my olde-guye reading glasses, in order to read the screen. I kinda gave up on my earlier Garmin fitness-tracker watches, in part because I couldn't read the tiny numbers and symbols on the screen when I was out jogging or cycling (for you young types, you don't wear reading glasses when you exercise... just thought you'd need to be told that, for just a few more years, until.... you don't need to be told it anymore).

I wear an analog Citizen EcoDrive watch that rarely ever leaves my wrist. It wasn't expensive. It's waterproof to a depth I'll never reach (alive), it's commendably tough and shock-resistant, and it NEVER needs winding or new batteries. I certainly don't need to panic when I realize I've worn it into the shower.

But the thing is, this one is nearly five years old, and replaced one that was from a previous century, that would still be going if it hadn't suffered a severe accident. What I mean is that I can expect a good ten more years from my solid, good(-ish) looking wristwatch, and it will continue to let me know what time it is (day or night... it's got the phosphorescent paint on the hands and the hour marks. But ANY smart-watch that I purchased today would be ready for the recycle bin in 3 or 4 years, max.

In 2018 or 2019, a smart-watch that I bought today would no longer be able to accept updates, because it would lack sufficient storage for the then-normal terabyte of Flash nvram or quantum memory, or whatever to accept new OS updates and App updates. It would lack the latest hardware for communication with other devices, like BlueTooth 5 and Ant+ v6 or whatever standard is about to surface in the mainstream.

I already know that my now-6-month-old Note 4 will be well-and-truly obsolete, and I don't need to lay out funds for an additional device that does some of the same stuff as my phone AND NEEDS MY PHONE for full function, and will also go to the obsolete pile. If I already need to have my phone in my pocket, it's simply not a big deal to haul it out and look at the S-screen, or flip it open and swipe my thumb for the full-size screen. And how many narcissists will leave their phone in pocket or purse when selfie opportunities arise... which seems to mean every thirty seconds or so, for many of them? I mean, how many of them, while wearing their iWatches or Gear or whatever, will force themselves into selfie-withdrawal, just to stay in-character as a smart-watch fashionista/fanboy-girl, who must never be seen to use something so crass as an iPhone 6 or Galaxy S-6? What's that? Some smart watches have cameras for video-chat? Right. Those'll work really well in a club. "Marsha? Is that you? You look like a bowl of Jello with a strobe inside."

I attend at least one meeting per day, and I take notes using the Note 4 stylus, instead of the engineer's log book that I used to carry everywhere... or that I used to remember was still on my desk, only after I walked into a meeting room at the other end of the building. That big screen and that stylus were two reasons I went Note 4 instead of a more compact device. I dress casual all the time, so big pockets are a non-issue. My hands are big, so reach and handling are non-issues.

Google Glass, and the other one, didn't fare so well in the market-place, but they were too early to market.

But a refined version of that kind of device is what I'm waiting for. An interactive heads-up display (that should also be tough and waterproof to reasonable depth...) is far more valuable to me than an extension of my phone that has a MUCH tinier screen, and lives on my wrist and must be controlled by my big fingers.

I would LIKE my future smart glasses to contain everything in a sleek, fashionable pair of eyeglasses (or contact lenses, or....), but I would still happily purchase the Android glasses 3 or the Apple Glasses 2 (never buy the first iteration...) if they were just the display/input component of a small-phone-size device that still resided in pocket or purse. Possibly the hidden component would need to be that size so that it could wirelessly recharge the head-worn display component.

The glasses either would pick up my softly-murmured instructions via bone conduction, or would connect to a stick-on throat mic like a transparent bandaid, so I could sub-vocalize all my instructions, dictation, phone conversations, etc. Absolutely NO need to say something stooopid-sounding out loud to get its attention, like "OK Google". If nothing else, I'd be able to give the device a private name by which to get its attention. "Buckfuddy, give me the infrared overlay, and annotate at 40-percent transparency."

Information in text and graphic form would be relayed to my eyes either as a transparent or translucent overlay on a glass lens/screen, or would be beamed into my eyeballs directly, no glass needed. Various physical attention/intention cues would alert the device to my desires and inputs, when voice was not appropriate.

In other words, I might go with the wearable tech, but I expect I'll be skipping over the watches. They're nifty in some ways, but they seem like a dead-end. And they don't do enough for me to find them worth the money or the effort.

Besides, after 16 years with a waterproof watch on my wrist, the first thing I'd do is forget to take off my Withings or Apple smart-watch before showering or swimming, and there it would be.... dead and void of warranty. No point.

Next.

Evan

May 11, 2015, 9:57 pm

We get a lot of stick for being Apple fanboys, or Android fanboys, or Microsoft fanboys - basically whenever someone disagrees with a review of a product they, more often than not, have never used or tested. It's par for the course in our job so we take it on the chin and carry on.

Apple products are, by and large, very good. They may be more expensive than Android or Microsoft counterparts, but are often exceptionally well made and have the most robust UI around. They just work and that's a very valuable thing when it comes to tech products that are aimed at general users, not just people like us who have been tinkering with tech all our lives and just get it or have the time and inclination to learn it. There is value in ease of use, software robustness and build quality, just as there is for functionality, customisability and bang-for-buck.

We score products on their merits and their issues. Price is also a factor, but so is residual value. Apple products last a long time and retain their value well. We consider this in our scoring.

Unfortunately the Apple Watch has issues that go contrary to what we are used to and expect from Apple. It's not a slick experience and it hasn't made us rethink the usefulness of smartwatches. That's why it scored a 6 even though it's the best-looking smartphone around.

Chrisjones6699

May 11, 2015, 11:36 pm

That's fair enough but you say that you shouldn't even think about taking a shower with it when you can (and more as you've shown with the swim, depth and dive test) and you've also reviewed a very expensive model (not that the sport is cheap but it is better value). Other than glitchy UI, im not too sure why you've marked it so low? It's a 7/10 at worst and that's my opinion after using the apple watch for almost two weeks.

There's so much more to this device than people think and until you use one then it's hard to make an opinion. I spoke to a guy who works at the Apple Store today and he told me his partially sighted wife uses hers as an aid. I use mine as a baby monitor. There's so much more to the watch than people think.

I completely agree about the "fanboy" thing too! it's one thing to have a valid view on something but idiots who instantly get annoyed about the score of a bit of tech they have never used and feel the need to rant about it, really should have a good look at themselves! Seriously, get a grip!

Carry on the good work.

Evan

May 12, 2015, 11:10 am

Thanks Chris
We will be reviewing the 38mm sport's version when we get our hands on one too. It might well be that it is the one to buy in terms of price and functionality combined.

Tiger_The_Greatest

May 14, 2015, 12:25 pm

A www you can tell this reviewer is just devasted that all Android wearables combined sold a pathetic 720k in 2014 and what the Apple Watch trounced in its first weekend!LOL!
You say the watch is beautiful yet as cons you say it drains the IPhone and 3rd party apps need work?LOL
3rd party apps are not Apples fault they are the developers yet you say this is a con above?L M F A O!
This is Apples first smart watch yet you axting like it should be perfect straight out of the bag!
It took the IPhone 5 years to reach its full potential!
Hikarious how Samsung again copying Apple for their next smart watch they having a rorating bezel instead of a crown!!
Hahahaha

ManU

May 18, 2015, 4:02 pm

WOW, you are a simpleton. From your response, you're an applewhore. You can't be unbiased. Also the fact that Apple has sold X amount of devices really doesnt mean much. It means that it's 40% marketshare of the US is now the layman's device. Battery is shite, can't do anything without a tethered iphone is shite. It's the chunkiest device, not appealiing at all. You trash Android and samsung but why? My Gear S has a standalone wifi adapter, gps navigation and its own SIM card allowing use of 4g. It also doen NOT need to be tethered to a phone. Case closed. You're a fool.

Cam88

May 20, 2015, 8:06 pm

Seeing as though the entire article is about the watch, I would think it is safe to assume he is referring to the screen on the watch not phone.........

toboev

May 20, 2015, 8:22 pm

"On top lies a sapphire crystal coating..."
What then is the supposed substrate that is "coated" in sapphire? I thought the 'glass' (for want of a better word) was solid sapphire crystal, not something coated with a layer of sapphire.

toboev

May 20, 2015, 8:36 pm

Yup. The first two requirements for anything strapped to my wrist, waterproof and self-powered. Watchmakers cracked those most basic requirements eons ago, but the parvenus seem to be neglecting to learn to walk before attempting to run.

Jasmin Chang

May 22, 2015, 1:26 am

I returned Apple watch today. I have everything Apple around in my life but not this one.. no... I've tried for 14 days but it was annoying than making my life easier: it often lost sync with my iPhone so i ended up open my iPhone, It absolutely have to have iPhone very close by otherwise almost useless, the apps are .. frustrating (!!) and so on.... Still much much work to be done on Apple watch but I believe it is only the beginning of greatness!! :)

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