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Nobody exactly NEEDS a smartwatch. But the entry of Apple(AAPL) into the category has helped jump-start the category and moved high technology from pockets and purses to wrists. (From there, who knows?)
So it’s understandable that the first reviews of the new watch — revealed as part of the same event where the company detailed its latest iPhones — can seem to vacillate between evaluating it as a high-quality curio, and imagining it as something that could be essential personal technology some day.
“The Apple Watch Series 4 is more of an evolution than a revolution. It doesn’t have some new fundamental change that upends what we thought a smartwatch could be,” Steven Pulvirent wrote in a post published by Bloomberg. “Instead, it makes a number of incremental changes, some that you’ll experience every time you raise your wrist and others that you might never notice, but the end result is an Apple Watch that feels like it has a clear idea of how you should be using it and how it can be helpful to you.”
Here are some other viewpoints:
• First off: What’s the damage? Here’s Dieter Bohn, writing for The Verge, about pricing: “This Watch is not especially cheap. The smallest, least expensive model comes with GPS and Wi-Fi and costs $399. But if you start piling on the upgrades, you can quickly jack up the price to something that feels exorbitant, especially if you’re upgrading from a Series 2 or Series 3. It’s $29 more for the larger size, $100 for LTE compatibility (plus $10 per month or so from your carrier), and the stainless steel models are $200 more (and only come with LTE). Add in Apple Care, and you can end up spending a lot.”
• Writing for USA Today, Edward Baig praised the display. “One reason I’m seriously thinking about an upgrade comes with an edge-to-edge display that provides more than 30 percent extra screen real estate, whether you opt for the bigger 44 mm case or the 40 mm version,” he wrote. “On a modest-size screen, 30 percent is a lot, and the payoff for consumers comes with larger text and bigger buttons (again, a potential boon for older people).”
• If you use “Watch Siri,” you’ll be able to hear her more clearly now, writes David Phelan for The Independent.
“That speaker was previously two small slots which were placed one above the other with the microphone alongside. Moving the microphone means the slots sit side by side and are slightly bigger. Which explains why the Watch is much louder than before,” he wrote. “Ask Siri a question and you’ll definitely hear her response. Apple says it’s 50 percent louder than before but it feels like even more than that. Shh, Siri, everyone can hear you.”
• CNet’s Scott Steinwent into detail about the watch’s faces, which — since they’re generally what you look at when you look at a watch — matter quite a bit.
“I really love unique watch face designs,” he wrote. “Apple’s very first watch had some really bold ones: Astronomy, with its solar system and Earth views, or the Solar face with its sunrise/sunset cycles. There aren’t any singular new “idea” faces this time, which is surprising. It seems like, with the larger display and faster, more powerful processor, the Series 4 could be doing a lot more.”
• Apple made a big deal of the Watch’s use as a health device during its unveiling, and the New York Times’ Brian X. Chensaid some of those innovations marked “perhaps one of the most significant developments in wearable gadgets in years.”
“People with heart problems can easily use the EKG app to take electrocardiograms whenever they sense something abnormal,” he wrote. “And the data can be shared immediately with their doctor, which could open a conversation about next steps, like going in for a visit or modifying treatment.”
• A few writers have tried to test the watch’s new fall detection.
“Apple advised me against trying to trick the watch into thinking I’d fallen, but I couldn’t resist,” Scott Rosenfield wrote for Wired. “I tried to trigger a false warning by tripping onto a yoga mat, jumping on the bed, and flailing around while attempting to powerlift. No dice.” (At TechCrunch, meanwhile, Brian Heater noted that he was unable to set off a “false positive.”)