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Do You Need an Apple Watch? A Look at What the Critics Are Saying

As the pre-order date fast approaches for the shiny new Apple Watch, a select number of media outlets have begun publishing their reviews and hot-takes of the wearable computer.

As the pre-order date fast approaches for the shiny new Apple Watch, a select number of media outlets have begun publishing their reviews and hot-takes of the wearable computer. Boiled down, most critics find the watch to be an impressive piece of technology — “light-years better” than other smartwatches, one says — but that it is also a bit glitchy, perhaps complicated, and just plain nonessential in its present state. Especially when it costs between $350 and $17,000 to get one. Wait ’till the next version, they say. Here’s a roundup of several reviews:

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While The Verge‘s Nilay Patel calls it the “first smartwatch that might legitimately become a mainstream product,” he points out that as it stands, it’s kinda clunky.

“There’s no getting around it, no way to talk about all of its interface ideas and obvious potential and hints of genius without noting that sometimes it stutters loading notifications. Sometimes pulling location information and data from your iPhone over Bluetooth and Wi-Fi takes a long time. Sometimes apps take forever to load, and sometimes third-party apps never really load at all. Sometimes it’s just unresponsive for a few seconds while it thinks and then it comes back.”

New York Times writer Farhad Manjoo “fell hard” for the Apple Watch. He writes that wearing it changed his behavior for the better — “my wife told me that I seemed to be getting lost in my phone less than in the past” — and that it was useful when paying for things like cabs and groceries. He also echoes just about every other reviewer in saying it “works like a first-generation device, with all the limitations and flaws you’d expect of brand-new technology.” Those flaws include outside applications.

“Third-party apps are mostly useless right now. The Uber app didn’t load for me, the Twitter app is confusing and the app for Starwood hotels mysteriously deleted itself and then hung up on loading when I reinstalled it. In the end, though, it did let me open a room at the W Hotel in Manhattan just by touching the watch face to the door.”

Marissa Stephenson of Men’s Journal says the watch’s “stream of incoming emails, texts, calls, and notifications” feels more needy and overall distracting than a phone that you can just sequester in your pocket.

“The unexpected side effect to triaging communication around other people is that it made me seem like a Dick Tracy, minus the Tracy. After all, what’s the international gesture for ‘Wrap it up, I have somewhere else to be,’ and ‘This conversation is boring me’? Glancing down at your watch. I found myself in work meetings getting the buzz-buzz-buzz of incoming data, but avoiding looking down to check the updates because I didn’t want to seem distracted or rude. At drinks with my former boss, I felt the buzz on my wrist, and instinctively checked my watch. Put-off, she asked, ‘Do you have somewhere to be?'”

Scott Stein’s review for CNET highlighted the watch’s “beautiful” construction, its fitness software and the hundreds of apps already available. Qualms include the fact that the watch doesn’t work unless you have an iPhone 5 or later, a semi-confusing interfacing and a short batter life.

“The watch is beautiful and promising — the most ambitious wearable that exists. But in an attempt to do everything in the first generation, the Apple Watch still leaves plenty to be desired. Short battery life compared with other watches and higher prices are the biggest flags for now. But Apple is just setting sail, and it has a long journey ahead.”

Joshua Topolsky of Bloomberg Business calls it “the most advanced piece of wearable technology you can buy today.” One of his notes for Apple developers, however, was regarding the device’s most basic function: telling time.

“The Apple Watch activates its screen only when it thinks you’re looking at it. Sometimes a subtle twist of your wrist will do, but sometimes it takes… more. Many times while using the watch, I had to swing my wrist in an exaggerated upward motion to bring the display to life. Think about the way people normally look at their watches, then make it twice as aggressive. As a normal watch-wearer, the idea that I might look down at my wrist and not see the time was annoying.”

David Pogue over at Yahoo! writes that the wearable’s texting app, namely its ability to conjure an animated emoji, will sell more Apple Watches than any other feature. He also marvels at its price and calls the watch’s navigation a big weakness, saying “you feel like a dolt” every time you press the watch or turn the knob and nothing happens.

“But the true answer to that question is this: You don’t need one. Nobody needs a smartwatch. After all, it’s something else to buy, care for, charge every night. It’s another cable to pack and track. Your phone already serves most of its purposes. With the battery-life situation as it is, technology is just barely in place to make such a device usable at all.”

Not enough takes? Check out more reviews from the Wall Street Journal and Re/Code.