My mind was made up long before I strapped on an Apple Watch on Friday morning, and 15 minutes later, I felt exactly the same.
This thing’s going to sell in the millions. It will be the first smartwatch to become a full-fledged mass-market hit.
And I’m not buying one. Because cool as it is, I really don’t need one.
For some reason, Apple declined to ship me a review unit; maybe someone in Cupertino read all the unkind things I’ve written about similar devices from companies such as Samsung, LG, and Motorola.
So like thousands of others, I crawled out of bed at 3 a.m. and made an appointment to get a personal demonstration of the Apple Watch at the company’s Boylston Street store.
I turned up a little before 10 a.m. to find a couple dozen others already in line.
A fair number of them weren’t there for the watch. They had come to check out the latest MacBook laptop, a pamphlet-thin oddity that combines a sophisticated new touchpad, a sluggish Intel processor, and a ridiculous $1,300 price tag. But for me, first things first.
The Apple Watch floor show was a bit of a letdown. Sure, a smart and friendly Apple clerk lent me “the watch of your choice.” But that choice was slightly limited by my inability to check out the elite Apple Watch Edition series. Boylston Street is one of a select few stores exhibiting these 18-karat gold watches, priced at $10,000 and up. However, there’s a separate sign-up process for Edition test drives. By the time I found out, it was too late — all slots were full.
So I lowered my standards and strapped on a $700 stainless-steel model with an elegant leather strap. But the try-on watches are loaded with a demo program that shows off the most attractive features, over and over in an endless loop. Again and again, I got the same meaningless text message from a complete stranger or saw the same weather report from Silicon Valley. Still, it gave a good taste of the watch’s “taptic” interface, which alerts you to important data with vibrations that feel like firm, friendly finger jabs.
A second Apple Watch, bolted into a theft-resistant display case, actually worked, so I got to launch apps and speak verbal commands. First impression — not bad at all.
The screen features a cluster of tiny icons that seem too small for normal-size fingers. Then you try them and find you’re popping apps open with surgical accuracy. Street maps expand and shrink with a pinching motion, just as they do on a smartphone. I’m not sure why you would want to draw on the tiny screen, but you can. And the digital crown, which looks like the wind-up wheel on a standard watch, lets you easily manage vital functions — scrolling through messages, for instance.
I’ve tried a host of high-end smartwatches; by far this one’s the best. It’s only worth buying if you also own an iPhone, but that’s about 40 percent of the US smartphone market. If, say, 10 percent of them buy an Apple Watch, and Apple racks up similar numbers in the rest of the world, it will be a solid success.
But I won’t help Apple make its numbers. I’m not a big fan of watches, smart or dumb. I might just be willing to pay $100 or so for a simple fitness monitor and appointment tracker, yet I have no interest in strapping a full-fledged computer on my wrist. That’s what the iPhone in my hip pocket is for. And it’ll take more than a 15-minute floor show to change my mind.