Should you buy an Apple Watch? Well, that depends

Window shopping.
Window shopping.
Image: Quartz/Dan Frommer
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The Apple Watch goes on sale April 24 in nine countries—Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, the UK, and the US—and pre-orders start at 12:01 am Pacific time tomorrow, April 10.

Should you buy one? The early reviews have done a decent job at summarizing some of the watch’s features, strengths, and weaknesses. But most shy away from giving the only advice that matters: Is this thing worth your money?

Here’s how we’re thinking about that question.

You should buy an Apple Watch if…

You already have an iPhone 5 or newer—required to use the watch—and fit one or more of these criteria:

  • You like having the hot new gadget before your friends. No matter what, the Apple Watch is going to get you attention. And maybe some eye rolls. Everyone is going to know what it is and many people will ask you about it.
  • You’re into the idea of strapping something on your wrist all the time. The consensus is this is the best smartwatch on the market, and it will likely remain so until Apple’s next version, whenever that is. But you do actually have to wear it.
  • You want to feel like you’re living in the future, even if it’s imperfect. Look, this is the first edition. It’s kind of bulky and sounds a little buggy. Imagine how thin and sweet it’s going to be in a few years. But as an early adopter, you’ll have lived that evolution and experienced that platform—not just watched from the sidelines.
  • Your friends will all have them. This is about network effects, not peer pressure. Some Apple Watch features, such as watch-to-watch messaging, only work when people close to you also have one.
  • You’re a casual fitness participant and you could use a little cheering. Without its own GPS chip, the Apple Watch isn’t going to replace current location-tracking watches for many serious runners, for example. (The heart-rate sensor, which many other wrist-worn fitness trackers don’t have, is more interesting.) But the Apple Watch is better than nothing for many people who could use some help getting or staying in shape.
  • You’re a mobile app developer or designer. If you’re smart and lucky, the Apple Watch could make you a billionaire. All you need to do is figure out the WhatsApp, Uber, or Snapchat for the wrist-computer era, and build it. (In the meantime, it will be helpful for your day job to understand where the future might be going. Same goes for journalists and/or sci-fi writers.)

You shouldn’t buy an Apple Watch if…

  • You have a classic watch that you absolutely love wearing. One watch on each arm just isn’t a good look.
  • You’re an Android fan. The watch is iPhone-only for now.
  • You’ll be embarrassed or uncomfortable using a computer on your wrist. This isn’t going to be subtle. It requires two hands to use it, by definition.
  • You need the $350+ to pay rent, or anything important for survival. This is not an essential tool yet. It’s an optional luxury.
  • You just don’t want one. Or at least not yet.