CUPERTINO, California—It’s been quite a while since Apple unveiled a new device that made people say, “Ooh, I want to play with that.” A lot of people are going to play with the new Apple Watch, which was unveiled Tuesday in a massive event near the company’s headquarters.
At first glance—which is basically all anyone got of it—it has a shot of redefining an entire category of devices, wearables, much as the iPhone did for cellular phones.
I was able to heft the watch, try it on and wear it for a few minutes—but not to actually use it for anything. The software was set to play a demo loop, and the gadget itself won’t actually be available for purchase until sometime early next year. That’s a downer for eager would-be buyers, and perhaps for short-term investors hoping it would be out in time for the Christmas buying season. But it’s similar to the playbook Steve Jobs used to launch the original iPhone: Announce in January, ship in June. And that seemed to work out for Apple.
A few quick observations:
- The device is considerably thicker than a conventional watch—not a surprise given how much technology is packed into it. But I was surprised at how light it felt. The one I tried had an aluminum case that seemed much lighter than not only, say, the Samsung Galaxy Gear watch, but even the stainless steel conventional watch I was wearing.
- Fashion is a key part of the experience. The Apple Watch will come in two sizes (38 mm and 42 mm tall), three “collections,” and a dizzying array of materials (aluminum, stainless steel, gold), bands, and looks. The starting price may be $349, but I’m betting it will top out in the stratosphere.
- The screen on the 42 mm model I tried was very readable and super-bright—which raises the issue of battery life, something Apple said little about. Clearly, you’re gonna have to use the new induction-charging system every night; the question is whether you’ll need to take it along with you for a quick recharge during the day if you make heavy use of it.
In short, we still don’t know a great deal about the Apple Watch, and won’t for months yet. But yeah, I want to play with it. And that says a lot right there.
(Here are my thoughts on the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus after handling them today.)
Rich Jaroslovsky is vice president of SmartNews Inc., and a veteran technology journalist. Follow him at @RichJaro.