Apple Watch revisited: Let’s see how my strange examination binds up, 5 years later


The initial Apple Watch, 2015.

Sarah Tew/CNET

I’d adore to contend that when we initial put on a Apple Watch, I’d never seen anything like it before. But of course, that’s not true. By late 2014 I’d been surrounded by smartwatches for a few years. So when Apple announced it was creation a possess watch, my suspicion (as so mostly with Apple) was: finally.

The initial smartwatch we reviewed during CNET was a Martian Passport, an analog watch that could make phone calls. It sounds so obsolete now, yet it was cold in early 2013. The Pebble Watch followed, and a Steel chronicle became my favorite: It was like a Casio watch incited into a useful small pager-assistant. It was elementary and had prolonged battery life, and it was great.

There were others, too: Samsung’s initial smartwatches were desirous (a camera?). Google’s initial Android Wear watches arrived in 2014. Meanwhile, there were Fitbits and Jawbone trackers galore.

I contend this to lay a grounds for a Apple Watch and what a impact was. Like a iPhone wasn’t a initial smartphone, a Apple Watch wasn’t a initial smartwatch… yet it done a biggest footprint. It was another step validating that a universe of wearables was here to stay. 

I was means to wear a Apple Watch a month before it went on sale. we spent a ton of time with it, removing used to both how it rubbed phone calls, and a activity tracking rings. we looked during my heart rate measurements. I incidentally systematic an Xbox One with an early Amazon app.

The Watch was, many like a initial iPhone, infrequently feature-limited. But it also had some facilities that already stood out.

My strange examination was updated a year later, that we can examination here. Some tools have changed, clearly, and Apple has updated a OS. But I’ll criticism on what we wrote then, and how we felt, and how that’s evolved. Quotes from a strange examination are in italics.


The bullion Apple Watch, approach behind when.

James Martin/CNET

An glorious design, with oppulance overtones

Apple wants we to consider of a Apple Watch as glorious jewelry. Maybe that’s a stretch, yet in terms of craftsmanship, there isn’t a some-more elegantly done square of wearable tech. Look during a Apple Watch from a distance, and it competence seem mediocre in a rectilinear morality compared with bolder, round Android Wear watches. It’s clearly a revamped arrange of iPod Nano. But get closer, and we can see a seamless, glorious construction.

The initial Apple Watch came in aluminum, steel and ramped all a approach adult to a bullion denote costing some-more than $10,000. Compared to other smartwatches, it screamed luxury.

Certain touches felt luxurious, too: a fine-feeling Digital Crown, that spun ever so uniformly like a genuine watch part, for instance. The OLED display, that was a initial for an Apple product, looked frail and bright.

The many extraordinary part, maybe, were a watch bands. Apple combined a unequivocally good array of specifically designed straps, from a steel couple to a crafty captivating Milanese filigree that were intensely costly and impressively engineered. 

Its watch face designs were great, too, and they integrated some information from a iPhone that directed to supplement at-a-glance palliate of use. There was a Mickey Mouse watch face that danced! The Solar face arrangement morning and sunset, and a astronomy face that showed heavenly alignments and moon phases, felt like magic. we wanted more, yet Apple’s collection of watch faces was limited, and it didn’t concede for third-party watch face design. That’s still a box now.

A lot of a Apple Watch reminded me of a strides Apple began with a iPod Nano, which also had watch mode… and a Mickey Mouse watch face.


Sarah Tew

New technologies during first: illusory haptics, a force-sensitive display

All Apple Watches have a new S1 processor done by Apple, that “taptic” haptic engine and a force-sensitive and unequivocally splendid OLED display, that is differently sized on a 38mm and 42mm models. The watch has a possess accelerometer, gyrometer and heart-rate monitor, yet no onboard GPS. It uses Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz Wi-Fi to bond to your phone or your home network. There’s a built-in orator and microphone, yet no headphone jack.

As we wore a watch on a initial day, we felt a rippling hum and a lead ping: one of my credit label payments showed adult as a message. Apple’s “Taptic Engine” and a built-in orator communicate both a operation of modernized taps and vibrations, and sounds. Unlike a hum in a phone or many wearables, these haptics feel sharper: a singular tap, or a sputter of them, or thumps.

Sometimes a feelings are too subtle: we don’t know if we felt them or illusory them. My wrists competence be impassive from too many intelligent devices. we set my alerts to “prominent” and got crook nudges on my wrist.

The initial watch introduced some ideas that eventually done their approach to other iPhones. A “taptic engine” delivered on some amazingly polished quivering effects, trimming from a croon to a ping to a peaceful tap. These were approach forward of what anybody else was doing — and they weren’t usually a gimmick. The presentation forms compared with singular vibrations felt distinct. Sometimes, a relocating taps on a initial Watch weren’t as absolute as we wanted. But with after updates, a haptics done tools of a interface seem real: practical wheels, clicking as if relocating with invisible gears.

The some-more modernized haptics done their approach to a iPhone next, creation us used to them now. Other phones, diversion consoles like the Nintendo Switch, and VR accessories, have developed haptics since, yet a Apple Watch was a initial mainstream device that upped a haptics game.

Force Touch was another furious idea: Apple done a watch arrangement force-sensitive, definition a deeper press could work like pulling a button. Though this thought was polished serve into 3D Touch on a iPhone 6S, 3D Touch was a record that never became as required as expected, and stream iPhone models have forsaken a pressure-sensitive arrangement tech completely.

The Apple Watch still has Force Touch, though, and we consider it always will.


Digital Touch: we never used it many after that.

Sarah Tew

Lots of features. Too many features?

As we can see, this is a lot of stuff. Did we have fun regulating a watch? Yes, mostly, yet there are so many facilities that we felt a small mislaid during times. There are so many ways to interact: swiping, touching, dire harder into a display, a symbol and a clickable digital crown-wheel. Plus, there’s Siri. Do we swipe, or click, or force hold or speak? Sometimes we didn’t know where an app menu was. Or, I’d find removing behind to an app we usually had open would need an irritating array of climax clicks, swiping by apps, afterwards opening a app again.

There’s a reason we used a word “complicated” to report my feelings regulating that initial Apple Watch. Setting adult pieces of information, called complications, was delayed and not always intuitive. Apps took a while to load, and were infrequently so delayed that it was easier to check my phone instead. Quick glances and notifications, and phone calls, were fine. Apple Pay on a watch was clever, yet would we use it? we wished a watch had some-more battery life.

I didn’t like a overcomplicated feel. The pattern of a OS, and a card-like swappable mini-view apps that used to be on a Watch like a dock, altered over time. It’s gotten improved since.

Storing song on a watch, while it took a while to sync, was easier than attempts on Samsung Gear or Android Wear. Of course, we had to hunt for a good span of Bluetooth headphones to bond with a watch.

Today we still forget to dive into and make a many of a apps on a watch. we usually dusted off Walkie Talkie: it’s cool. There’s sound monitoring. One app lets me remote control my iPhone camera, that has been a outrageous assistance for my stay-at-home self-shot videos. The Remote app helps me when we remove a Apple TV remote each other day. 

Third-party apps, and a grid of options? It turns out we don’t use them many during all. we don’t puncture down low into a layers of functions. we cite what’s on a surface: watch faces, and their readouts. But I’ve come to conclude a watch’s startling series of options and settings. It’s improved than not carrying them during all.


The rings were a beginning.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Fitness: The ring thought was usually a beginning

The Apple Watch doesn’t work any aptness miracles that a rest of a wearable universe hasn’t already invented, and it doesn’t boat with any new enchanting sensors that change a game. But a Apple-made integrated aptness apps, Activity and Workout, are distant and divided a best aptness apps on any existent smartwatch that isn’t a dedicated “fitness watch” (Samsung Gear, Android Wear, Pebble and a like). A crafty three-ring process of tracking daily activity, that concurrently measures and rewards daily calorie burn, active practice and station up, feels like a alloy of rewards and metrics seen on a Nike FuelBand, Jawbone Up, Fitbit and others. 

I appreciated Apple’s complete-the-ring motivational activity tracker, that felt desirous by wearables like a Nike Fuelband (not surprising, given Apple’s conduct of fitness, Jay Blahnik, arrived from Nike). For a red ring’s daily goals, it’s great. It felt too easy to finish a blue Stand ring, and it still does.

There are tons of aptness advancements Apple has done on a Watch in a final 5 years: GPS, resting heart rate, examination controls, amicable sharing, third-party app integration, swimming, modes for accessibility, activity trends — and we haven’t even discussed Apple’s large health aspirations like adding ECG, checking for falls, monitoring towering or strange heart rate or women’s health tracking. There is some form of coaching and motivation, too. But I’d still adore to see some-more of that. we strike a wall when perplexing to be fit, and there’s usually so many watches seem to help.

The initial Apple Watch was some-more of a Fitbit. Now, it’s some-more of a health companion. Those dual worlds still feel like they need to dovetail and grow. There are blank features, too, like nap tracking, that feels like a unavoidable subsequent step.


You still need an iPhone, usually like in 2015.

Sarah Tew

It was, and still is, an iPhone accessory

Much like many other smartwatches, a Apple Watch isn’t a standalone device — it’s a phone accessory. Android Wear, Samsung Gear, Pebble and others work a same way. But here, we contingency possess an iPhone 5 or after to use a Watch. A few Apple Watch functions work divided from a phone, yet a watch essentially works alongside a phone as an extension, a second shade and fundamentally another partial of your iOS experience. It’s a symbiote.

One thing we remarkable behind afterwards was that we indispensable an iPhone to use a Apple Watch. Unlike other wearables that can span with Android or iOS, or even sync with a computer, a Apple Watch was always designed to live symbiotically with a iPhone.

That’s still a box now. Even with eccentric mobile options, and an on-watch App Store, we can’t use a Watch but pairing to an iPhone. And it still won’t work with Android. It’s a shame, since a entirely standalone watch could be a unequivocally useful apparatus for many people who don’t have iPhones, and it could even be a phone choice (for kids, maybe).

Apple’s AirPods combined a tool threesome where a Watch, a iPhone and AirPods can all work seamlessly together. But that threesome is an costly one. The entrance cost of a Apple Watch has dropped, during least. But it feels like an prolongation of a iPhone some-more than a possess device, even now.


The Apple Watch Series 5: many better, with a few similarities.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Today: a best watch in a fight of attrition

You don’t need an Apple Watch. In many ways, it’s a toy: an extraordinary small do-it-all, a crafty invention, a presumably time-saving companion, a wrist-worn assistant. It’s also mostly a phone appendage for now. In a months and years to come, that might change: with Apple’s collection of iPads, Macs, Apple TV and who knows what else to come, a watch could finish adult being a remote and appendage to many things. Maybe it’ll be a pivotal to clear a universe of intelligent appliances, cars and connected places. In that form of world, a smartwatch could finish adult feeling definitely essential.

I consider behind to what a Apple Watch was competing opposite behind then: Jawbone, Pebble, Fitbit, Google’s Android Wear, Samsung’s watches, a Microsoft Band. A lot of competitors are left now. Fitbit was acquired by Google. Samsung still has watches. Garmin creates lots of dedicated aptness watches. There are still copiousness of more affordable relations newcomers, too.


The strange Apple Watch, with a Pebble Steel, Moto 360 and a strange iPod Nano with wristband (clockwise from tip left).

Sarah Tew

In a margin of fewer alternatives, a Apple Watch’s unchanging further of new facilities and ongoing opening improvements has done it a best option. It’s Apple’s joining to light improvements that has done it a stand-out watch now, generally compared to a struggles of Google’s Wear OS.

The Apple Watch is still an iPhone accessory. And it’s still not an essential product. But it’s turn a unequivocally liquid and useful device, one with lots of pivotal upgrades that work, and one that’s a lot easier to use.

What’s a best smartwatch now? The Apple Watch. That doesn’t meant we don’t wish to see improvements: battery life, nap tracking, a watch face store and many importantly, Android support and loyal standalone function. If a final 5 years are any indication, Apple will tackle these problems on a own… time.

All of a new Apple Watch faces

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