Ars Technica reviews Apple Watch, misses the mark

“Make no mistake, the Apple Watch is a thoroughly optional accessory,” Andrew Cunningham writes for Ars Technica. “Even if you think you want it, wait if there’s a shadow of a doubt in your mind — if not for the inevitable hardware revision, then at least for the OS and the surrounding app ecosystem to firm up. A $349-or-more pricetag is still a lot of money to spend on a question mark.”

“But after spending a week with an Ars-purchased 42mm space gray model (and spending a substantial amount of time with Android Wear), I can tell you that unnecessary things can still be useful,” Cunningham writes. “If you buy or like using your Apple Watch, you’re not an idiot who is wasting both your money and your precious time on this earth.”

“I still find ‘notifications on your wrist’ to be a poor reason for any device to exist, but the fitness features, the general quality of the first-party apps, and the potential of the third-party apps are all real positives,” Cunningham writes. “The biggest shortcoming for buyers today, aside from the general 1.0-ness of the hardware and software, is that the watch is more complicated than it looks. It takes a non-trivial amount of effort to learn how to balance the watch’s potential usefulness with its potential irritation.”

Read more in the full review here.

MacDailyNews Take: This is the rare Ars Technica verdict that misses the mark. Read the review for usual incursions into battery life, etc., but not for buying advice. Perhaps Cunningham would have had reached different conclusions if he spent more than just a week with the Apple Watch.

Andrew, nobody needs anything beyond food, water, and shelter. Everything else is gravy and therefore unnecessary. And, BTW, nothing worthwhile is achieved with a trivial amount of effort. The Apple Watch is extremely useful in the right hands, namely, in the hands of someone who can afford it (who’s not constantly fretting over the money spent and therefore nitpicking it to death and/or inventing negatives in order to reassure themselves that they were right not to spend money they couldn’t afford to spend) and who is willing to take the time necessary to attune the Watch for their needs. This is Apple’s most personal device ever. It doesn’t come that way out of the box. You make it so by first really learning how to use it and then tailoring your Notifications, Glances, third-party apps, etc. to fit your personal needs.

We come out of this “review” with the idea that Andrew thinks the Watch costs too much for himself, personally, and so he’s going to do his damnedest to convince himself that Apple Watch isn’t worth the money while taking everybody else along on his his self-delusional ride.

Here’s the basic fact, from us Apple Watch-wearers: If you can afford an Apple Watch, it offers a wide ranges of features (that grow every day with new apps) and, once you use it properly, you’ll find that it’ll become indispensable.

Once the world gets it and its collective wrist is festooned with Apple Watches (and the inevitable Apple Watch knockoffs), it will be fun to look back on this review, with its nonsensical, untrue, and weirdly fatalistic quotes like “of all of Apple’s products, it offers the fewest features for the price” and “no matter how many gadgets you buy, one day you will die” and laugh at it.

50 Comments

    1. This watch fails on just about every single level.

      1. Unintuitive UI (the learning curve is huge)

      2. Uninspired design (casio watch, circa 1980s)

      3. Non-innovative (only replicates existing iPhone functions)

      4. Exhorbitantly expensive

      5. Uses cheap, malfunctioning components

      6. Pre-Order Purgatory (that’s how Apple thanked the idiots who actually ordered them)

      Count this a a big, rainbow colored “FAIL” on Apple’s post Jobs legacy!

      1. Your post is a huge “FAIL” of FUD. I had an Watch appointment at the Apple Store and I learned how to use the vast majority of the UI in just a few minutes.

        Your “uninspired design” comment is just laughable. What do you want, a watch that covers your entire forearm? Would that be “inspired design” or “innovative” enough for you?

        The Watch Sport is in the same ballpark as most AndroidWear crap, well, at least until the AndroidWear makers realized how poorly their designs matched up and discounted their devices by about 50%.

        Apple caught a supplier-manufacturing problem BEFORE any defective parts shipped to customers. That’s not “cheap, malfunctioning parts”, that’s quality control. Any manufacturer has problems with bad parts occasionally, but Apple caught their problem and prevented customers from receiving defective merchandise. How exactly is that a problem?

        The pre-order problems appears to be a combination of the portion of haptic engine defects reducing available inventory with the unbelievable demand for the Watch. BTW, the Watch PRE-ORDERS for the first couple of hours outsold all AndroidWear crap combined for the past year.

        Thanks troll, please move on to forums on how to re-decorate your mom’s basement.

        1. You must be kidding, right?

          You would either have to be a celebrity or a complete douchebag to wear an Apple Watch, and the two are not mutually exclusive!

          You have an Apple Watch appointment, do you? First off, I wouldn’t brag about that. Secondly, those who bought Apple Watches also bet on Manny Pacquaio, bought Pet Rocks, and voted for Mitt Romney… see a pattern here?

          Anyhow, enjoy your Apple Watch, and when you lanlord comes by for the rent you can send him a pulsating love message, lol.

          1. 28 year old libtard here who was so fascinated by his free hands on and instructive Apple Watch appointment that he pre ordered his Apple Watch and loves it!

            Never voted for Romney. Never had a pet rock and who is this Manny?

            Apple courts many types of people, not just rich well established republicans. The Apple Watch Sport was certainly not the cheapest thing I’ve bought lately but it WAS cheaper than my PS4, and to be fair I spend a lot more time with my watch than my PS4 as I’m working class.

            And if my landlord drops by it won’t be for rent, it’ll probably be for a demonstration of my Apple Watch.

            1. @Yoho

              As I’ve stated in previous posts, between me and my wife we have: a Macbook Pro, a Mac Mini, An iPad Air 2, two retina iPad Minis, two iPhone sixes (a 4.7 and a Plus), and my wife also uses a 4S for work.

              The reason I haven’t purchased Apple’s latest i-device is because I possess an i-Brain. Also, Apple restricted pre-orders of the Apple Watch to i-idiots ONLY!

            2. If you are indeed someone who owns that much Apple hardware, I’m surprised you are so negative about the Apple Watch. It’s one thing to be unimpressed and pass on a new gizmo- it’s another to call everyone who wears one a douchebag. Did your father beat you with a Casio watch or something? Sorry if am not sensitive…(guess I’m just a douchebag)

      2. Retort:
        1. Quit Simple. Took just one eve to figure it all out.
        2. I happen to like the way it looks, of course beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
        3. No, it does more, guess you would have to own it. It extends a number of items.
        4. If you don’t want it, don’t pay for it, you can get your Moto 360 for $100.00 if that is what you want.
        5. I am wondering why you even put this one in here. Nothing to back that up.
        6. Got two the first day, I have two Stainless Steel 42mm, one for wife and one for me.
        FAIL is such a lousy word, unless it is aimed at the lower cost, no sale, Android personal devices. But you have fun with them!

      3. “Uninspired design (casio watch, circa 1980s)”

        Seriously? Find me just one example of a Casio watch with a design that foreshadows the Apple Watch. I’ll wait.

      4. 1. Either you’re stupid or I’m a Genius. It only took me a couple of hours to figure out how to use it. Apple have some nice videos.

        2. Casio? They had a lot of buttons and were not square. I had a few and liked them. This looks nothing like them.

        3. What phone can measure your hart rate?

        4. Not compared to a lot of watches today. It has three price points. They are for the middle class, to bad that is disappearing.

        5. Who else is making a SoC that small and powerful.

        6. Did not find the process that hard. It was delivered over a week before they said it would be.

        Like everything else it is not for everyone. It can’t do everything. But if you’re going to bitch then find actual problems. At least make it difficult to counter every thing you say. You can’t even fag bash well.

          1. Yoho don’t take “fag bash” too seriously. I am gay and I do take violence seriously. The word fag not so much.

            I was referring to orandy’s last line “Count this a a big, rainbow colored “FAIL” on Apple’s post Jobs legacy!”. It was a cheep shot at Tim Cooks sexual orientation. A very stupid one. Fag bash is what it made me think of. It was my cheep shot at him.

            I come from the George carlin school that there are no bad words. Just bad intentions. I apologize to you and anyone else who found it offensive.

      5. <>

        <>

        I don’t know how many reviews I’ve read this comment in.
        Maybe I’m some kind of genius, but after watching the videos on Apple’s site I jumped right in and started using the Watch. I was expecting a huge learning curve (based on the reviews) — unless you consider watching the videos “huge”, it was not much of a learning curve at all.

        It is true, you cannot use the device that well by simply turning it on and randomly trying things on the screen. However, it’s a new product, you cannot expect that with any new product.

        <>

        Dude, I’ve owned Casio watches — right up to the point my Apple Watch arrived — the Apple Watch is clearly classier.
        The only design complaint I have is that the “digital crown” looks to be a bit large compared to the rest of the Watch (out of proportion). I have a 42mm, btw.

        <>

        BS.
        Have you actually used one?
        And even if that’s all it did, the convenience factor is *way* high. Not to mention that as new apps come on line that haven’t been rushed for release day, I think we’ll see some amazing stuff.

        <>
        Maybe for poor folks like you. It was cheaper than my phone and my iPad. Certainly cheaper than my MBP. And it’s improving my life (activity monitor) in ways the phone and other products never could.

        <>
        Troll.

        <>
        Well, I got mine, too bad you haven’t gotten your’s. Sour grapes? Are you upset someone else could afford Apple’s new toy and you couldn’t? Too bad. Next time, you should stay up until midnight and order it so you won’t feel so bad about yourself…

        <>
        Actually, I was kind of “meh” on the product until I wore it for one day. It is an amazing product. Well worth the money I paid for it.

    2. With all due respect to u guys, the Apple Watch is mainly grabbing your attention because ur geeks. Nobody needs it.

      I know your delusion tells u to believe it’s a great product and everyone should buy it. But they won’t. The world is not going to wear Apple Watches en masse. Watch. Wait. And see. iCal me.

      I think it’s a cool product but not necessary. Sales will be comparatively sluggish and u guys will make every excuse imaginable. The only thing I’ll give u is a terribly botched launch. Worst launch I’ve ever seen from Apple.

        1. bereanbob:

          You’re an idiot. Here’s a question: how many Apple Watch’s did Apple sell? You don’t even know, you’re just talking crap.

          The recent estimates are in the mere hundreds of thousands. That they also have yield issues.

          We have NO IDEA if millions of people will buy it. Right now, every indication is that they have yield issues and can’t produce them properly. Coupled with this, what may happen is that the initial demand is from select geeks and fanboys but the overall sales of the product paltry.

          In other words, if they could produce as many as they wanted, it may only translate in comparatively marginally more sales as the product may not appeal to the masses.

          This latter is what I think is happening and will happen. I do not see any near future where masses of people wear an Apple Watch. I think it’s an unnecessary product that’s only being bought and sought after by severe Apple Fanboys and geeks that will carve out a niche market and only sell a small percentage compared to the iPhone.

          Yes, iCal me. Please iCal me. We’ll revisit this in 8 months.

  1. Based on this all technology gadgets would be superfluous according to this guy.

    Sounds like a hit piece. What does he mean when he says, notifications are not for the wrist. Is he kidding? My wife loves this “notifications on a wrist”. She looked at me puzzled when I asked her if they were “annoying” or “not meant for the wrist”.

    Unfortunately I have to resort to my wife’s experience since when I look at my wrist it is STILL WITHOUT my A-Watch.

  2. Again, MDN is spot on – tired of reading reviews about Watch (or any other tech product) where the author is worried about my money. Review the product – compare the company’s claims with the actual performance. Let your audience determine based on that analysis is the product is worth it to us. My (our) discretionary income is not your worry. I’m tired of having to read between the “you probably can’t really afford this” lines to get the main points of the review.

    1. Yup. People determine what they can afford, and if they want to spend their money on an Watch, Nike Air Jordans, a day at the spa, a pizza party for 50 of their closest friends, football season tickets, Breaking Bad Blu-Ray box set, or whatever. For reviewers to worry about the price is silly; mentioning it and giving your opinion as to its value (in comparison with other similar products) is relevant, but shouldn’t be the over-riding theme.

      1. John Gruber focused on this topic of need vs want in his review on Daringfireball.net. His more complete article mirrors the MDN take. Most things people buy are WANT products, not NEED products. I don’t see this type of distinction in most any other product review. Now the recommendation to wait for v2 of the Apple Watch is fair. Every gen 2 Apple product gets better. But the same can be said for gen 3, 4 and 5. One has to choose when to get on the bus.

  3. The cost is prohibitive for the average person and you can live your life without an operation if you just walk around with your hand pressed firmly into your groin. Nobody really need this sort of operation.

    – Ars Technica future hit piece.

  4. I think there’s a lot of wisdom in both the Ars review and the MDN take. They’re both right. It fulfils a want, not a need. It’s not essential, but it is very useful.

    The exciting part I think, is that both Ars and MDN seem to be pointing in the same direction. The quality of the experience and the utility of the device today guarantee a place for the Apple Watch on at least some wrists, some of the time. (Maybe even most wrists, most of the time.) And the potential of the product once a killer app or killer service emerges, could easily make it a necessity tomorrow.

    1. It will take both Apple and developers some time to figure out how to best utilize this new device after seeing how people are using/trying to use it.

      Remember, the iPhone had no apps at first.

  5. Another reviewer who comments on a “difficult learning curve”. I haven’t received my watch yet, but I’ve played with one at the Apple Store. I don’t think a rocket science degree is needed to use it! It seems pretty simple, pretty elegant, and potentially pretty useful. Time will tell if I’ll be dumbfounded by its use, but I doubt it.

  6. People don’t need a spouse. They can take care of themselves by hand and don’t really need to procreate. Children are just a huge cost and don’t add that much (if any) to your life. got married just because so many others do and now have to take the time and effort to make love to them. Nobody really needs this sort of thing.

    1. Convince everyone to take your position, and the human race will be extinct in less than 90 years. If you survive to old age, you will experience extreme deprivation as society collapses.

      I think that would be a Very Bad Thing. Unlike the Earth Firsters, I think humanity is not a plague on the earth. Unlike you, most people value highly family, friends and the continued evolution of knowledge, art, music and shared humanity. Without humanity, who would be left to care about the earth, or anything else that persists over time? Cockroaches? No!

  7. I’m buying mine (Apple says I’ll have it between May 27 and June 11) so that I can learn as much as I can about it so that when the inevitable upgrades/apps emerge I’ll already be a power user.

  8. I really don’t get the “steep learning curve” comments that reviewers keep giving. I thought it was pretty straight forward and that I pretty much had it 80% mastered within a couple of minutes.

    I can’t help but wonder though if an iPhone-like launch may have alleviated some of this criticism. That is to say, launching the Apple Watch with just a basic set of Apple apps, with 3rd party apps not being launched until later.

  9. MDN must be forgetting the passive-aggressive Apple reviews Jacqui Cheng used to foist on Ars readers back in the day. Andy’s just running with the baton.

  10. We come to your web site to find out what is available to get now and you tell us to wait because there will be a better version in a year or two?
    Perhaps we should all stop reading Ars Technica for the next year or two because they will have better, more up to date, articles to read then.

  11. I’m really having a hard time understanding why these tech journalists are having problems with the Watch: I spent some quality time with it at the Apple Store this past weekend, and it took me all of 5 minutes to get the basic navigation and functioning worked out. It all seemed very straight forward to me. The display is awesome, and the watch is beautifully designed.

    A big problem is that these journalists are suddenly using a new measure to judge an Apple product: “Do I *really* need this?” This is actually pretty easy to answer: not too long everyone considered a watch indispensable, no one would have asked, when reviewing a watch, “Do I really need this?” Readers would have thought this a silly question.

    The problem is that 1) smartphones largely have replaced the need for a watch, at least to tell time, and 2) the Apple Watch takes the idea of the Casio computer watch and totally obliterates it, much like Apple did with iPods, smartphones, and tablets. These tech journalists simply don’t know what to make of this device, but like the iPad they will come around once they notice millions of people having fully integrated it into their lives.

  12. This site is really something else.
    A review. Of a review. And why? Because the reviewer dared, yes DARED to do an objective analysis instead of just showering the latest Apple product with mindless praise.

  13. Ars Technica is employing Obama’s favorite rhetorical trope – the one that goes: “Make no mistake…”

    Whenever someone says “Make no mistake…”, I figure that, like Obama, they’re lying through their ever-lovin’ teeth.

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