First impressions: going hands-on with Apple Watch

Apple Watch faces CNET 002

Apple opened up pre-orders for Apple Watch earlier this morning, and although these won’t ship until April 24, the company has outfitted its store with hands on areas where you can try on Apple Watch, and get to have a feel for what it’s like to hold the future on your wrist.

After making an appointment at my local Apple Store, I was able to try two different models, and play with one of the Apple Watches that were available for everybody to play with. These are my first impressions of Apple Watch after going hands on with a Stainless Steel with Leather Loop band, and a Space Gray aluminum with white sport band, as well as the various working units they had on display.

Before an Apple employee came and shut me off, I was able to record this video that I streamed to Periscope. I apologize in advance for the poor quality, but this is as hands-on as it gets. In this 16-minute video, I show you various aspects of the UI, most applications and features, and even answer questions from other Periscopers.

Design & feel

The design is exactly what you would expect from an Apple product. It’s beautiful and has this great build quality feel to it. Surprisingly, Apple Watch didn’t feel as bulky as I thought it would be. It is significantly thicker than the Pebble I’ve been using for a while, but the 42mm models I tried on didn’t look awkward. I don’t have large wrists and I feared the 42mm model would be slightly oversized for me, but it’s not. If anything, I realized that the 38mm model is definitely more feminine due to its noticeable size difference.

Looking at the specs for each model on Apple’s website, I had realized that all models were significantly heavier than my Pebble, especially the stainless steel version, which I believe came in at about three times the weight of my current watch. It’s something that I feared would be noticeable once on the wrist, but it is not. Quite honestly, even at 132g, it feels like it’s not there. I think there is just not enough weight on it for you to even notice it’s there, especially if you’ve been wearing a watch before.


As mentioned above, I only got to experience the Leather Loop band and the white fluoroelastomer sport band.

I had read somewhere that the leather loop felt a little cheap on the touch, and I can definitely confirm that. Actually, let me rephrase that. The leather loop band doesn’t feel as the amazing leather handcrafted in Italy that Apple advertises. If you had told me it was glorified plastic, I would have certainly believed you. This being said, it does feel good on you. It just doesn’t feel like a luxurious item on the touch. Because it’s leather though, I have the feeling it might need a little wear and tear before gaining its full richness.

The sport band felt great at first touch, and is extremely comfortable. If you have a bad opinion of rubbery bands (hello Pebble), then fluoroelastomer will definitely change your mind. When some rubber band might sometimes feel sticky and pulling your hair, the fluoroelastomer band were the complete opposite. Putting it on was a little more challenging than I would have wanted, but like every new thing, it’s something you’ll probably get used to after a few days.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to try on other bands, but I do intend to return to the Apple Store later on for more hands-on experiences with the various models.


As small as it is, the screen is just plain gorgeous. It is crisp and has these deep colors that really pop. Coming from a Pebble, it is obviously a big change, and a good one.

Taptic Engine

On the first watch I tried, I simply didn’t feel the haptic feedback from the Taptic Engine at all. It was playing a demo loop and the Apple employee kept telling me “here you’re going to feel it now,” and while I could hear a sound, I just couldn’t feel the haptic feedback.

It was a little more noticeable on the other watch I tried on but still not really noticeable. My guess is, unless you’re doing nothing, you probably won’t feel the tap. If you’re running or doing any kind of activity that will require some sort of focus on your part, I doubt you will feel it.

It’s worth noting that the force of the Taptic Engine can be adjusted in the settings, so that shouldn’t be too much of a concern at this time.

Digital Crown

I came in with enormous expectations about the Digital Crown. Reviews and first hands-on had sold this mechanical feature as the best thing since the invention of the wheel, and while I must admit it feels great, it’s not something that I would necessarily sell my friends on. It works as advertised, it feels good, and that’s all I made of it. I certainly won’t have dreams at night about it.


Reviews complaining about the unintuitiveness of the UI were wrong. Of course, I’m not quite the average guy when it comes to tech, and maybe I watched way too many demo videos of Apple Watch, but I immediately felt right at home on Apple Watch. Once you figure out how things work, you’ll just be navigating this thing just like you would with your iPhone.

The UI is actually pretty simple. Digital Crown is your Home button as well as your up/down, zoom in/out button. In most cases, you can also navigate just by swiping with your finger, just like you do on your iPhone. Once you understand that, then you’re good to go.

I did experience a few lags here and there while playing around with the watches they had on deck, but nothing that I would consider too serious at this time. I am confident that software will be updated to take care of these little things, maybe even before the watch starts shipping at the end of the month.

I wish I had more feedback to share about the overall UI, but again, it’s so simple and intuitive that I don’t feel there is much more to be said here. It just works.

Force Touch

Speaking of UI, Force Touch is probably the one feature I had a hard time with. Not because it’s complicated, but rather because it’s so new and I have no real understanding of how hard you have to press. I expected the press to be harder than it actually needs to be, so I found myself Force Touching on many occasions when I just wanted to tap the screen.

I don’t want to sound too defensive about it, but I really believe this is one more of these instances where a few hours with the device will allow you to have a clear understanding of how it works and how hard you need to press.

Final verdict

I am of course very bullish when it comes to Apple Watch. This is the device I’ve been waiting for for years now and these few minutes spent at the Apple Store confirmed all the expectations I had about it. It’s a beautiful device that works just as well as Tim Cook and co. advertised, albeit with a little lag here and there, but nothing that software can’t fix.

While my words certainly won’t change the mind of people that aren’t sold on Apple Watch, I’m hoping that this will at least give you a better idea of how it looks and more importantly how it functions.

If you have questions you’d like to ask, feel free to hit me up in the comments section.