It’s time: Apple’s Watch reviewed

The heart beat message is just one part of the formula that makes the Apple Watch more interesting than just another smartwatch, helping to showcase the device as an interesting collaboration of ideas, and culminating in a gadget that isn’t “just another smartwatch”, but rather “a sign of the possibilities that the wristwatch could turn into”.

And it’s one that shows some promise, with Apple taking its design expertise into the world of watchbands and straps, resulting in some of the most comfortable and well designed bands we’ve ever felt.


This is one area where Apple feels like it’s leading the other smartwatches, and while it’s not the standard watchband sizing you can buy from any locksmith or chemist, the bands are very well designed, between the magnetic Milanese loop to the leather bands lined with magnets to the new take on a classic strap that is — again — handled with magnets.

You can even replace the bands easily, pressing a small clip at the back of the watch and releasing the band, sliding it out and replacing it with another band. Easy.

And the screen is excellent, which we keep staring at.

Granted, we prefer a circular smartwatch to a square one, and this stems from that skeuomorphism we’re all reliant on with a clock generally being circular and not rectangular. That being said, a square or rectangle is typically a monitor and not a circle, so it makes a lot of sense here, and Apple has executed that with a lot of style, while also making the screen lovely and vibrant with excellent viewing angles, almost a sign of the future for the company.


One final area we feel the need to touch on is the haptics which is excellent and surprisingly strong.

Again, this isn’t the same style of vibrating haptic engine we’re used to, which normally shakes a motor to simulate a button push, usually on a phone or tablet. This is similar, but not the same.

Instead, the Apple Watch feels more like it’s tapping your wrist, and you can control just how much tapping it’s doing, with three levels.

The watch can also ding at you, emitting a sound to tell you something has happened, but the wrist haptic is even stronger, and feels like your watch is actually trying to get your attention, making it more likely you’ll turn and see what the fuss is about, rather than just ignore another notification sound on your phone.


Overall, there’s a lot of good with the Apple Watch, and for a first-generation product, it’s surprisingly polished. We shouldn’t be overly surprised, mind you: it’s Apple, and Apple generally nails it the first or second time, and the Apple Watch is close.

That being said, some things might just stop you, with three specific catches that we could see: customisation, battery life, and price.

Catch one: customisation

Apple has had an interesting history when it comes to dealing with customisation.

When it comes to your Mac, you can customise until your heart is content: change the wallpaper, add a screensaver, throw extra widgets… hey, if you really want to, go for your life and install Rainmeter for a full-on interactive desktop of the future.

It’s a computer, though, so we’re not terribly surprised that you can do what you want, and when it comes to the phones and tablets running iOS, you’ll find you have limitations.

You can change the wallpaper and lock screen image, and there’s finally support for different keyboards, but generally, iOS stays the way Apple wants, and you’ll keep your phone and tablet having well sorted grids of squircle icons because that’s the way it works.

And that’s been one of the biggest reasons this review doesn’t prefer an iPhone to an Android: the lack of customisation that has been left to the user.

Some people like to change the homescreen, to make it more minimalist, more custom, with different styles and shapes and looks, and iOS just doesn’t cater to that, offering a more vanilla grid system that only lets you throw things into folders, but not really change the design.

Apple Watch is kind of like that.


You’re given ten watch faces to work with, and you can customise aspects of them, such as the colour, the marks on the face, and the sort of useful information it shows in different places, but there are no extra faces, at least not yet.

We checked with Apple, and while you can download apps until your heart is content, and you can arrange and rearrange these on the menu, you’re still only let with ten watch faces, with no more to download from the Watch App store.

That’s one of those surprising facts, especially when you consider apps are available — paid apps, no less — but yet no paid or free watch faces. It’s surprising partly because of how much money you think would be able to be made from this feature, and it’s one thing Google’s Android Wear has over Apple Watch at this time.


In fact, one of our favourite Apple Watch faces is the Mickey face from Disney, but seriously, we’d be happy to fork over money for a face with another favourite character, such as Mike Wazowski from Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc,” or Stitch from “Lilo and Stitch”.

Currently, you can’t do that, and according to Apple, there is no SDK out to let developers make this happen.

We’re sure this will happen eventually, but right now, customisation is limited to those ten faces and the replaceable bands, though these can be found for more than the typical cost of an app.

Customisation. Hundreds of thousands of possible combinations, but only on the ten faces Apple currently offers.
Customisation. Hundreds of thousands of possible combinations, but only on the ten faces Apple currently offers.