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.

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  • sachouba - Wednesday, July 22, 2015 - link

    Still, if you had reproached the Apple Watch with anything, you wouldn't be able to get your hand on any Apple product anymore.

    You've not even compared the Apple Watch with Samsung's smartwatches, which have a better display, way better battery life, and so on.

    Keep worshipping Apple, you're the only website which finds the Apple iPhone 6 has a better battery life than the Galaxy S5, which is obviously not true...
  • twanto - Monday, July 20, 2015 - link

    Another idiot who knows nothing about photography. They didn't take these photos with an iPhone..... some people still buy real cameras with real lenses, no surprise here: IT'S A TECHNOLOGY WEBSITE!
  • Lord of the Bored - Tuesday, July 21, 2015 - link

    " bokeh added"

    Ayup, that's totally what it is. Definitely not because close-up photos have less depth-of-field than distant ones(as a loose rule). It's totally 'shopped to add the cool word for out-of-focus backgrounds.
  • dsumanik - Tuesday, July 21, 2015 - link

    Actually bud i am an accomplished photographer myself, Mr. Ho was using a d7000 shooting the 35mm dx prime wide open. I own a d7100 and same lens, i recognized it right away....i used the phrase 'bokeh added' to troll a reaction and it worked.

    The bottome line is that the photos are enhanced, the only way to prove otherwise would be to post the original RAW files, not jpegs. There is nothing wrong with enhancing photos for your article, but claiming you didn't when you did just proves how far you are willing to go to lie about the silliest detail.

    Heres the bottom line:
    - they presented the product in question in the most positive light possible
    - the article was meandering and incoherent and 100% opinion based - but overall positive
    - can someone link me a negative apple product review written by anandtech, ever?
    - has every apple product, 100% of the time, been perfect?
    - if the apple watch is so awesome, why did the reviewers never own one until this review?
    - how many people wear a watch perfectly draped over thier wrist
    - why were there so many unboxing shots?
    - Mr. Smith did not answer my questions of whether or not scathing apple product review that went viral would be good for his website and career as a whole.

    Ill tell yah why, apple wouldnt be very happy with mr smith writing a crappy review of thier product, and there would be repurcussions to his career because of it,

    And that my friends is exactly the problem.

    This website has become a huge commercial, as with a large majority o the internet and i will continue to embarass and troll authors of this kind of junk whenever possible,

    Like i said, just call a turd a turd..

    ...the watch sucks dudes, its not a maybe, it sucks...go look for yourself.
  • Samus - Tuesday, July 21, 2015 - link

    I'm not an Apple person, but the iPhone 4S just happened to be the best smartphone I ever owned (except perhaps my HP\Palm Veer...I like small gadgets)

    Just like the Apple Watch is the best smartwatch I've ever had. The Pebble will always have a place in my heart as the first smartwatch I owned (unless my 1996 Timex Datalink counts?) but it is clearly outclassed by even competitively priced smartwatches (a LG G watch is $80 refurbished, the same price as a new Pebble, and the Pebble Time Steel is nearly as expensive as the Apple Watch)
  • dsumanik - Wednesday, July 22, 2015 - link

    high five, for you

    I'll wait till iWatch 3 or 4 thats has integrated LTE modem and actually allows me to jog without a phone.

    Like i said, this one still sucks, I've seen it, tried it, and it's overpriced (unsuprising from apple) and slow. Literally the only cool thing i can think of that it does is the wrist tap navigation, or the the tapping u get from sms ... would be good for unobtrusive communication in a meeting, or flirting with your girlfriend.

    Jobs wouldn't have allowed this.

    He would have waited another generation for the required technology, or engineered it himself.

    Even the most die hard apple lover has to admit that.
  • WinterCharm - Saturday, July 25, 2015 - link

    The butthurt is strong in this one.

    The apple watch is currently the *best* smartwatch out. There's a reason it has 75% market share of all wearables.
  • superflex - Tuesday, July 21, 2015 - link

    I guess you've never experienced a watch band pulling out hairs on your wrist then.
    I had one that would do that. I never wear it.
    Arm hair does matter.
  • JoshHo - Monday, July 20, 2015 - link

    If someone has been secretly shaving my arms, please let me know.
  • Ryan Smith - Monday, July 20, 2015 - link

    I may have had Stephen replace your shower water with Nair...

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