Have you heard? The Apple Watch is coming: pre-orders start this Friday.
Before its debut, a handful of tech reviewers were granted early access to test the wearable. The general consensus: It's gorgeous, well-designed and genuinely useful, although perhaps hard to justify at $350 to $17,000.
While many reviewers concede that it won't change your life -- a pretty high standard to measure any product by -- most seem deeply infatuated with the device.
Here's what people are saying:
Tricky to learn to use but worth the effort
Unlike the rest of the company's products -- which are designed to work right out of the box -- the Apple Watch "is not suited for tech novices," writes Farhad Manjoo for The New York Times. "It is designed for people who are inundated with notifications coming in through their phones, and for those who care to think about, and want to try to manage, the way the digital world intrudes on their lives."
But the watch justifies its steep learning curve, which includes a refiguring of notification settings, so they are more subtle and less frequent. "By notifying me of digital events as soon as they happened, and letting me act on them instantly, without having to fumble for my phone, the Watch became something like a natural extension of my body -- a direct link, in a way that I’ve never felt before, from the digital world to my brain," Manjoo writes.
While the watch's high cost means that it is not an essential purchase for most consumers, Manjoo believes the product will usher in a new age of electronics: "The first Apple Watch may not be for you -- but someday soon, it will change your world."
"The Apple Watch is an excellent, elegant, stylish, smart and fundamentally sound device," writes Mashable's Lance Ulanoff who, during his three-week trial, apparently fell hard. "Everything about [it] whispers craftsmanship."
Combine this attention to design and detail with the watch's technology capabilities, and you have "a breakout star…an object of true desire."
By far the best smartwatch to date -- but not for everyone
"Smartwatches are still unproven, but Apple has made a pretty strong case for them," concludes Re/code's Lauren Goode in her review. While impressed with the watch's design and its many capabilities -- most notably the health and fitness functions, which tracks steps, records workout sessions and provides a continuous heart-rate reading – she stipulates that the device is clearly designed for certain population.
"Not everyone has an iPhone 5 or later, which is required for the watch to work. Not everyone wants her wrist pulsing with notifications, finds animated emojis thrilling or needs to control an Apple TV with her wrist," she continues. "Smartwatches can sometimes feel like a solution in search of a problem."
Overall, however, Goode is impressed. The Apple Watch, she writes, "is the first smartwatch that might legitimately become a mainstream product, even as competitors flood the market."
Excellent, with a few small downsides
Like most other reviewers, Yahoo's David Pogue is quick to praise of both the Apple Watch's function and design. However, he does highlight a few problems. Chief among them: its short battery life. Because the Apple Watch needs to be recharged every night, you can't sleep with it on, which means the watch can't track and measure sleep.
"One of the great joys of the Up band, Fitbit, and other bands is that they track not just your steps, but also your cycles of deep and light sleep," Pogue writes. "Not the Watch. For a device so thoroughly designed to help monitor your physical well-being, that omission is a heart-breaker."
A hit, even if it isn't life changing
"Apple has succeeded in its first big task with its watch. It made something that lives up to the company’s reputation as an innovator and raised the bar for a whole new class of devices," Joshua Topolsky writes for Bloomberg in a review that judges the device on an (almost ridiculously) high-standard, namely: Is it life changing? No, Topolsky concludes, it's not. "It is, however, excellent," he continues. "Apple will sell millions of these devices, and many people will love and obsess over them…It is more seamless and simple than any of its counterparts in the marketplace. It is, without question, the best smartwatch in the world."