Apple Watch review

The constant question I had when writing this review is: what's the Apple Watch actually for? It's one thing to get one in for a review, another when you've got no reason to buy one other than it looks a bit fancy.

The Apple Watch both surprised and disappointed in that respect, with some things impressing me with their intuition (being able to add in heart rate monitors was a nice touch, and the overall polish of the interface on the OLED display wasn't something I was expecting from a first-gen product).

Some things didn't work as well as I'd have liked (I was surprised that the interface was so fiddly for an Apple product) but they were relatively few.

We liked

The overall look and feel of the Apple Watch, as with most products from Cupertino, was a major plus for me. The last thing you want is a watch that you have to apologize for visually just so you can find out when Ebay is asking you to bid from your wrist for THAT pair of cowboy boots.

Having used a number of smartwatches over the last two years, there's something about the slickness of the Apple Watch that appeals. Yes, it doesn't do a huge amount, but no smartwatch does, and Apple is primed to get the best of the developers' produce - in just the same way as the iPhone and iPad did - to get the apps that will really supercharge the Watch.

Apple Watch review

And once you've bought the Watch and got over the still-quite-high price, it is a genuinely useful thing to have around at times. Being able to check when you've got a message or see who's calling and be able to make snap decisions feels like the future, especially when exercising or in another situation where grabbing your phone isn't easy.

The new enhancements from Apple WatchOS 3 and WatchOS 4 really do help this smartwatch leap forward, though. It's faster, more usable and comes with watch faces that make it feel more personal. And as more app developers use the new tools, there will be loads more to come too.

We disliked

The original Apple Watch feels exactly like you'd expect it to: a first attempt. Apple's fused its own design ethos with the limited technology around at the moment to make a compelling smartwatch - but it's still a smartwatch, a device that doesn't really have an easy answer when your pals ask 'So, what's so good about that?'.

The fact the time isn't always showing on the face isn't brilliant either - while the wrist raise is among the most infallible I've encountered, there are still times when I'm lying down, want to know the time and have to tap the watch face to find out.

Apple Watch review

When the old technology beats the new, that's where a problem needs to be solved.

And while I find it hard to even bang the 'Apple has made a product that costs more than it should' drum again, this is still a very expensive luxury. You don't need it in the same way a smartphone is a necessity, and unlike the iPad, considering it age it's more expensive than the competition by some distance.

The fitness angle feels underpowered at the moment too - there's a lot of potential there, but the Apple Watch is not something I'd recommend to anyone that's serious about getting into shape... unless they're desperate for all the other elements this device offers too.

Final Verdict

For iPhone users desperate for a smartwatch, the Apple Watch is perfect for you. It relays some iOS apps and all notifications to my wrist without requiring me to constantly pull out and unlock my phone, and that's a nicely convenient thing to have.

This concept is going to become more useful when the hype dies down and new apps emerge, as the best smartwatches work better as an unexciting fashion piece or fitness tracker that fades into the background. That's where it belongs.

That contrasts with an iPhone or an iPad that you constantly pull out to play with in an idle few minutes, and ironically by being better connected with the Watch you'll hopefully start to rid yourself of the smartphone addiction. If you're asking why it can't play YouTube or take photos, you're really missing the point of the smartwatch.

It's a time-telling and time-saving convenience, though one that still requires a nearby iPhone and a hefty sum to buy. The Apple Watch price is rightfully getting mixed reviews from fans, even with the recent price drop. That's why I ultimately recommend the cheapest aluminum Apple Watch Sport with another band for the moments when you want to look more 'grown up'.

The recommended Apple Watch Sport has the same dimensions, functionality and battery life as its pricey steel and gold model counterparts, and when you look lustily at the new and improved Apple Watch 3, there's really little difference for non-runners and swimmers. It's still a solid bet, now at a better price, in 2017.