A few thoughts on Apple Watch from folks who have actually used smartwatches

We've been using smartwatches for a while now. Android Wear since summer 2014. Pebble before that. Samsung's own Gear line. Various other iterations here and there. And so it's been fun to watch (sorry) our pals at iMore as the days have ticked by (sorry again) as they gear up (OK we'll stop now) for the release of the Apple Watch. There's now a launch date — April 24, with preorders on April 10. But there still are a number of questions to be answered.

We all watched Monday's announcements. And we have some thoughts on them.

Let's start with some thoughts on the Apple Watch, following today's event. And it's worth another reminder that it's not like the Apple Watch is competing with Android Wear yet. One runs only on iOS. The other with Android. And while there have been rumblings about Android Wear coming to iOS later this year, ain't nothing official until it's official.

This is sort of stream-of-consciousness from the Android Central collective.

  • Surprisingly little time was spent using the "digital crown" by the people conducting demos during the event, which is odd when the big selling point for that feature was how it would save you from using fingers on a tiny screen.
  • That watch interface looks … confusing. It seems to require lots of taps and plenty of scrolling lists — precisely what you don't want to deal with on a tiny screen. It makes you appreciate the simplicity of Android Wear's design with a minimal set of available gestures.
  • We'll be lucky if crudely rendered flowers are the most offensive thing drawn and sent on an Apple Watch. This is going to get bad.
  • There are 38 different models of the Apple Watch for sale. Even Samsung is confused by that one.
  • "All-day battery life" is the same thing we hear from Android Wear manufacturers. Only one way to find out if it's true.
  • Still, 18 hours of actual use — as in the time you put the watch on your wrist to the time you have to charge it again — isn't really off from what we've experienced with most of the Android Wear watches. It really depends on the circumstances. Some days you'll do great. Others you'll be scrambling to charge.
  • Magnetic charging docks are great — we use them on our G Watch and G Watch R. Using any Qi dock with the Moto 360 is even simpler.
  • Producing a product that starts at $10,000 is only going to further the idea that Apple overcharges its customers. Maybe the fancy gold version of the Apple Watch is worth $10,000 (starting price), but popular opinion is what it is.
  • Then there's the question of obsolescence. A fancy traditional watch might set you back a few thousand, but it won't be superseded within a year or two like a smartwatch. (This problem is universal to smartwatches, but the Apple Watch Edition's huge price tag only highlights it.) Spending the equivalent of $10 to $20 a month for smartwatch just makes a lot more sense.
  • Interesting to note Apple's tap and scroll-led interface versus Google's voice-led approach. Getting anything done on Android Wear without voice actions is still kind of a pain. That said, there are a few software tricks that pretty much need to come to the next major Android Wear release. Connectivity over Wifi is a big one, as is answering calls directly over the watch.
  • Pebble should say "thank you" for largely staying out of its price range.
  • 316L stainless steel is pretty premium. It also might be what the watch on your wrist now is made of.

And a few non-Apple Watch thoughts:

  • HBO Now on Apple TV is a big deal. It'll be interesting to see what other premium channels follow.
  • But Apple's exclusive (as reported by Buzzfeed) only runs three months — coincidentally around the length of the upcoming Game of Thrones season. Coming to Android TV after that? We can only hope.
  • The new MacBooks look hot. But there's never been a time when we wanted fewer ports. That might well not be an issue for "normal" consumers, though. And it'll be interesting to see how the graphics hold up.
  • For all the talk of how "wireless" this new MacBook is, you'll need more connectors, adaptors and dongles than ever to hook the damned thing up to basic stuff like SD cards and plain old USB-B peripherals.
  • An $80 adapter, at that.
  • The "contoured battery" thing is cool. And also what smartphones have been doing for a while. Neat to see it scaled up.
  • Please don't buy a gold MacBook.
Phil Nickinson