Hands-on

Australian T3 - - APPLE WATCH -

ost of us ex­pected the Ap­ple Watch to ap­pear in 2015, but it made a (semi) sur­prise launch along­side the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in Septem­ber 2014.

While the world’s most an­tic­i­pated smart­watch is now avail­able for us all to buy, the Septem­ber launch was a de­lib­er­ate ploy by Ap­ple to make sure you weren’t buy­ing a Sam­sung, LG or Moto 360 in the run up to Christ­mas.

And the good news is, it was well worth hang­ing on. We’ve now seen the Ap­ple Watch in all its glory, with all the vari­ants avail­able to choose from, and we can hap­pily con­clude that this is a very stylish wear­able in­deed.

Ap­ple’s clearly aim­ing this at the fash­ion mar­ket as much as the per­son who loves to be an early adopter – given the smart­watch mar­ket is still yet to take off, it makes sense to fo­cus fur­ther afield in terms of con­sumer tar­get­ing. It also packs NFC, al­low­ing it to be used as part of the new Ap­ple Pay sys­tem – some­thing that’s ei­ther go­ing to be re­ally help­ful or a big turn off to some.

The Ap­ple Watch comes in six dif­fer­ent ver­sions: there’s the Ap­ple Watch, the Ap­ple Watch Sport and the Ap­ple Watch Edi­tion. And each of these comes in two sizes, for those that like a larger or smaller de­vice for their wrist. In terms of com­bi­na­tions, with straps that’s a whop­ping 38 op­tions. De­sign You can’t call it a lady or man’s watch – it’s gen­der neu­tral, which is a rar­ity in the watch mar­ket and a clever move by Ap­ple. While we ini­tially ex­pected it to be round, the Watch looks like a small fu­sion be­tween the iPhone 6 and iPod Nano. It’s cer­tainly at­trac­tive, but re­mains on the chunkier side of things.

It’s rounded at the sides, which works in its favour, and the very slightly curved back makes it feel nice, if a lit­tle heavy (de­pend­ing on the band) on the wrist.

The Edi­tion, er, edi­tion is a de­cid­edly heavy de­vice. It’s one that will look great but feel like you’ve spent thou­sands of dol­lars on it. In­deed some peo­ple will have: it costs up to $24,000 (though other it­er­a­tions are much, much more af­ford­able).

The de­sign is clearly try­ing to say – as most watches his­tor­i­cally have – ‘money money money MONEY’. Even the sports band, the ba­sic rub­ber strap you use to stop your sweat de­stroy­ing the leather, has a gold pin. In­ter­face The in­ter­face is a cu­ri­ous thing, and Ap­ple has done bet­ter than most with the way it’s ap­proached in­ter­act­ing with a wrist-dwelling de­vice.

The Dig­i­tal Crown is es­sen­tially a scroll wheel that lets you zoom in and out of the in­ter­face, so for apps (with a fun new home­screen that looks noth­ing like the iPhone’s ver­sion, more a spher­i­cal look at all the apps avail­able on the watch) it’s a new way of do­ing things.

The spher­i­cal in­ter­face may take a lit­tle time to get used to for some. The demos we saw showed a slightly tricky method of hit­ting the right area to open a de­sired app, lead­ing to a need to use the Dig­i­tal Crown more of­ten than not.

It has a very smooth ac­tion when twisted and pressed, where we ex­pected it to be a click­ing feel ( just be­cause that’s what you get with a watch). It will be in­ter­est­ing to see if this be­comes em­bed­ded as a way of us­ing the Watch, but any­thing that takes away from hav­ing to touch the screen will be a good thing. Tap­ping the crown in­wards sends you back to the home­screen, but you can also use the touch­screen to in­ter­act with apps.

The but­ton be­low the Dig­i­tal Crown serves two func­tions: to take you to your con­tacts, and to ac­ti­vate the Watch as a pay­ment ve­hi­cle. In­ter­ac­tion The con­tacts app is an in­ter­est­ing propo­si­tion, as it en­ables you to send things through to your friends that go be­yond the nor­mal mes­sag­ing par­a­digm. It’s a cir­cu­lar dial that cy­cles through your con­tacts, which is far more en­joy­able than just tap­ping their faces in rows.

That said, the Ap­ple Watch is adept at do­ing the ba­sic smart­watch things: you can make and re­ceive calls from your wrist (with mic and speaker) and it will scan in­com­ing mes­sages to work out if it can gen­er­ate an easy re­sponse for you to tap.

So if some­one asks ‘Fish or chips for din­ner?’ the Watch will ask you to tap ‘fish’ or ‘chips’ as a re­ply. Al­though if it’s re­ally smart, it will of­fer both as an op­tion. Be­cause ev­ery­one loves fish and chips.

Be­yond that though, you can send some re­ally weird things. For in­stance, you can draw pic­tures and send them over (al­though let’s be hon­est, you’re go­ing to be get­ting lots of pic­tures of male gen­i­talia from your friends sent to your wrist when you’re in meet­ings), or a vi­bra­tion code that you’ve agreed on with a pal.

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