The Apple Watch was announced, introduced and priced in the early hours of this morning, and we know when it’ll be out in Australia. But it’s not that simple. Here’s one important thing that the Apple Watch does so right, and here’s one thing that it just gets wrong.
The Best Thing: Two Different Case Sizes
The Apple Watch will be available in two different sizes. I can’t tell you how important this is for the average watch buyer, and how other smartwatch makers have been so blinkered in ignoring this so far.
Having a 38mm and 42mm case size — with a circular analog timepiece, the case size is the edge-to-edge diameter of the entire watch including the bezel but excluding the crown — means the Apple Watch will suit both girls’ and guys’ wrists, as well as the wrists of children and adults alike. The Watch’s various straps, too, are designed to suit one of the two case sizes, as well as being sized to different wrists so you don’t have to pick a one-size-fits-all compromise.
For a comparison, take the LG G Watch R, which has a case size of roughly 43mm, or the 46mm Moto 360. The Moto 360 is definitely big enough that it’s oversized on a girl’s wrist, and even the G Watch R looks a bit too chunky on some male arms (I’m looking at you, bird-wristed Gizmodo Australia editor Luke Hopewell). In going slightly smaller with its large version and a lot smaller with the small, Apple has made a watch that caters to male and female users of all different ages and body types.
To be honest, even the 42mm case size isn’t incredibly large, especially a world of big TW Steel and TAG Heuer and Breitling oversized fashion watches and the unending coolness of the plus-size chronograph. But it’s definitely better than just releasing a single 38mm variant or a 40mm compromise between the two. I know I’d pick the 42mm variant, but I’d get the 38mm for my girlfriend. And all the different finishes are available in both case sizes, too, so there’s no missing out except when stock is tight.
This may seem like a small thing, but it’s not — it’s a carefully thought out decision — and it has vastly increased the potential purchasing market for the Apple Watch in one fell swoop.
The Worst Thing: The Price
No, the battery life isn’t nearly as bad as everyone was worrying about. Yes, it’ll be able to answer your phone calls and handle a quick chat for you over its internal mic and speaker. Yes, it’ll handle all of your fitness tracking and The worst thing about the Apple Watch is exactly what you were expecting and, possibly, dreading.
It’s something we all knew full well about for the Apple Watch Edition, the top-of-the-line 18-karat gold-plated watch that will be only showcased in a couple of Apple Stores around the world — probably only the flagship Sydney store and one or two others in Australia — and apparently stored inside a bespoke safe for safety against after-hours thieves. That’ll set you back a cool $14,000 for the 38mm case and $17,000 for the 42mm case — that’s a cool extra three grand for having a larger wrist, by the way. Everyone knew that the Apple Watch Edition was going to be expensive, and I’d say very few of us were actually planning on buying it.
But it’s the $499 entry level price for the Apple Watch Sport with its satin aluminium case and the $799 entry level price for the mainstream Apple Watch in stainless steel that actually stings. $499 for the cheapest possible timepiece with a silicon strap, when the LG G Watch R (with leather strap) is $359 and the even more attractive Moto 360 is $329? Honestly, no thanks.
The battery inside the Apple Watch isn’t anything magical or revolutionary, and neither is the touchscreen or the overall design, which Asus leapfrogged somewhat with the ZenWatch announced last September. The internal computing hardware will be up to Apple’s usual high and exacting standards, but there’s nothing on the face of it that suggests to me Apple should feel justified charging over $1,000 for a watch that LG and Motorola can make for $600 less.
And the straps and accessories are equally expensive. $379 for a leather strap? Sure, it’s leather, but Apple is saying that it’s artisanal… “A small French tannery established in 1803 produces the supple Granada leather for this elegant strap.” When you’re almost certainly keeping dozens of these straps in stock at any half-decent Apple Store, your tannery of choice can’t be that small. About the only strap that I can see worth its asking price is the precisely linked $229 Milanese loop. I’m sorry to break the illusion, but it seems like you’ll be paying a fair bit of Apple tax for the Apple Watch.
To be honest, I’m conflicted on the Apple Watch. I really want to like it, and I remain open to being convinced once it has been on my wrist for a week. I’m happy switching between iOS and Android, so I’m not tied to one specific ecosystem like most users. But at this point in time, I don’t think I’d buy one — especially with the quality Android Wear options available.