Trying on the Apple Watch

Yesterday I made a quick appointment to try on the Apple Watch and have a look at the new MacBook at the nearest Apple Store. It was no problem to get an appointment on the same day. Simply select a time that you want and head in.

Once I got into the store, it was the usual “What’s your name?” and “Someone will be with you in a little bit” that you know if you ever scheduled a Genius appointment. With the difference I didn’t have to wait a minute to get someone to help me. There were a couple of people trying on their selected watches but it wasn’t crazy at all. That said it was also 16:00 on a Friday afternoon.

But it makes me wonder, how much interest there actually is for the Apple Watch in the general public. Most normal people I talk to don’t really care for the Apple Watch. It’s not like a new iPhone, where those people are excited to at least have a look at it and want to know what’s new.

The try on

My first choice for my try on was the 42mm Apple Watch Sport in Space Gray. The same model I have on pre-order right now, but with a delivery in June.

First impression of the rubber – pardon me, fluoroelastomer – band was that it feels way softer than you’d expect. It actually feels really nice. I still think it’s odd that Apple has the same band for the $10.000 (and more) Apple Watch Edition, but it doesn’t feel cheap. I got the chance to put the band on and off myself and it certainly takes some fiddling around to get it on. But I guess after you’ve done it a couple of times you’ll get quite good with it and it won’t bother you anymore.

I asked how tight it would have to be so the heart rate sensors would work properly, but the Apple Store employee didn’t have an answer because he didn’t know. The same happened when asking how directions would work on the Apple Watch, as in how the Taptic Engine would notify you of an upcoming intersection. Will it just tap you to let you know that you should look at your watch or will it for example tap differently if you have to turn right versus left. The employee didn’t know, but was guessing it would just tap to notify. Using the demo units can’t clarify this either, but more on that later on.

The second model I tried on was the stainless steel Apple Watch with the leather loop band. At this point I just went on to try different bands, but you could tell the weight difference between the aluminium and steel models. I really prefer the space gray version versus the shiny steel (silver or black). Mostly for the looks, but I also simply prefer the lighter aluminium watch.

But back to the band. The leather loop seemed like a good idea thinking it would make putting on the Apple Watch easier. It does that, but the magnetic segments in the band make it tricky to get around the loop when you want to tighten or loosen the band.

The last model was another steel Apple Watch, this time in 38mm, with the Milanese Loop. The band is much tighter “knitted” than the images make it look. I don’t think there’s a chance your arm hair would get trapped in it. It’s not my style, but it was comfortable.

Even on my comparably small wrists the 42mm is perfectly fine and I feel a 38mm is too tiny. It also comes with a shorter battery life and due to the smaller display it’s probably harder to use. Once again, hard to tell with the demo loop the try on units go through.

Overall I was let down by the demo loop the try-on watches are running through. All units I wore took some time to turn on, the second one with the leather loop didn’t turn on at all. The employee guiding me through the process was close to taking the first one off because it took long to turn on and start the loop. Eventually it came to life.

The try on models won’t let you try various functions of the Apple Watch, that’s what the iPad & Apple Watch combo units are for. But you can’t wear them to try out the Taptic Engine for example. The demo loop has some points where the watch will tap on your wrist though.

Using the Apple Watch

The iPad station is separate from the try on area. Here you can play with the actual Apple Watch and the stock apps. After my appointment I took some time to play around. The interface seemed complicated. There are so many things you can do with the small device. I kept pressing the side button to get to a home screen, only to watch it going to the contact list.

The demo unit also got laggy a couple of times, for example while trying to go through the sample iMessages. I thought the watch had crashed because it wasn’t responding to anything, taps, pushes on the crown or side button. It came back after a bit of waiting.

Overall the Apple Watch hasn’t yet won me over. I’ll keep my pre-order for now, guessing there might be a software update or two even before the order ships to make these things go smoother. Also there’ll hopefully be a couple of apps to try out in the Apple Store by the time we hit June.

The MacBook

My Apple Store was lucky enough to actually get some MacBook demo units in time for the launch. They had two models of each color on display. The space gray once again looks stunning. It’s unreal how small and compact the device is, you’ll have to see it in person. I’m certain this is where the upcoming MacBooks are going from a design standpoint.

The keyboard takes some getting used to, but it’s hard to judge without actually sitting down in front of it and typing at least a few hundred words and using it for a couple of days before making a final judgement whether it’s good or bad. I think I could get used to it.

Some people are saying it’s hard for them to get used to the less amount of key travel because they tend to slam on their current keyboards. That’s not the case for me.

My primary concern is performance – or lack thereof. Browsing the web, email, writing in general and regular “office tasks” should be fine, but once you start using Photos or use Final Cut, you’re in for delays. I’ll stick to my 13″ Retina MacBook Pro for now, even though I really like that new MacBook.