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Apple Watch Reviews Are Mixed Bag

The Apple Watch is the best smartwatch ever made, it’s loaded with more apps than anyone could use, and you don’t need it. That, in a nutshell, is what early reviewers are saying about Apple’s wearable, which will hit stores for pre-ordering on Friday (April 10).

According to SeekingAlpha, reviews were “positive, but not glowing,” and there were recurring themes: On the positive side, the Watch is better at measuring heart rate than several fitness-tracking bands, it’s stylish enough to feel like a real accessory, and it has many well-designed apps. On the downside, it has too many apps to figure out, it feels slow, and battery life was a common complaint.

At The Verge, Nilay Patel called Apple Watch “the most capable smartwatch available today” and said he liked the potential of its Taptic Engine. But he described it as “kind of slow,” and said the device’s obvious ambition “robs it of focus: it can do tiny bits of everything, instead of a few things extraordinarily well.”

CNET’s Scott Stein said the Watch was “beautiful, with complications,” but after a lengthy walk-through, concluded, “You don’t need an Apple Watch. In many ways, it’s a toy” — though in the future that could change, he wrote.

At Yahoo, David Pogue liked the apps that implement Passbook, Remote and Workout, along with the ability to reply quickly to texts with pre-typed responses and animated emojis, but said navigation and battery life were weaknesses.

Bloomberg’s Joshua Topolsky was disconcerted by the fact that the Watch doesn’t actually show the time much of the time. (That’s to save battery life.) “As a normal watch-wearer, the idea that I might look down at my wrist and not see the time was annoying,” he said. He also found it distracting, with the Watch tapping at him during a meeting to inform him that “Twitter has suggestions for people to follow,” though he admitted he saved time by glancing at the Watch to check emails and texts.

The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern liked the look (that’s “what the Apple Watch does best,” she wrote), but recommended waiting for Watch 2.0: “The body is bound to get thinner,” she wrote. “Soon, we won’t have to charge the battery every night, the software won’t ever get stuttery and those health sensors will get even more accurate.”

At Techpinions, Ben Bajarin liked the Watch fine, especially small touches like the ability to silence a call by covering the watch face, and found the digital crown “dramatically more useful than I initially thought” as a user interface.

And then there were the reviewers’ takes on Apple Pay.

The WSJ’s Stern didn’t mention payments at all. Neither did Techpinions’ Bajarin. CNET’s Stein did mention payments — “As I wore the watch on the first day, I felt a rippling buzz and a metallic ping: one of my credit card payments showed up as a message” — but that was an alert, not an actual example of Apple Pay on the Watch. Bloomberg’s Topolsky didn’t mention payments. And Yahoo’s Pogue mentioned payments in passing — “the Apple Pay business” — as one of the Watch’s “welcome grace notes to life.”

But one reviewer did actually try Apple Pay on the Apple Watch. “I love using Apple Pay with my phone, but it’s even better with the Watch, some mild contortions to line it up with payment terminals aside,” wrote The Verge’s Patel. That makes Apple Pay “my favorite part of the entire Watch, a little blast from the future.”

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