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Hands-on with the new Apple Watch

9/10/2014, 10:10 a.m.
After Tuesday's unveiling of two new iPhones and a heavily anticipated smartwatch, Apple gave press and special guests (including models, ...
Apple unveiled the Apple Watch smartwatch, the company's first wearable device, at their September 9, 2014 announcement. The Apple Watch pairs with iPhone 5 or newer to display notifications. It features a magnetic charger, health and fitness apps and a crown that controls zoom and scrolling with a twist. (Photo: Apple)

— After Tuesday's unveiling of two new iPhones and a heavily anticipated smartwatch, Apple gave press and special guests (including models, fashion bloggers and Gwen Stefani) some supervised hands-on time with the gadgets. Here are our first impressions of the Apple Watch.

This watch is still under construction

It appears Apple is still ironing out the details of its new smartwatch, which is scheduled to be available early next year.

In the large white showroom Apple custom built for the event, rows of iPhone 6s and Apple Watches were on display. While everyone was welcome to pick up and test the phones, interaction with the watches was carefully controlled. The available demo units ran a prerecorded loop of screens and features, so there was no real testing of the touch screen, buttons, dials or user interface. Apple employees put them on people's wrists and removed them. (They wore working versions of the watch and demonstrated a few features.)

The company is still mum on many of the device's specs, including memory, battery life and screen resolution. The exact differences between the low-, middle- and high-end watches are also still blurry. Behind the scenes, the company is likely rushing to iron out any issues with the entirely new operating system and hardware.

It fits!

One thing we can start judging is looks. Full disclosure: I have dainty wrists. I have tried on many smartwatches and, so far, the straps and watch faces have all been cartoonishly large and heavy.

Apple has always focused heavily on the design of its products, and that legacy really shows with the Apple Watch. There are a surprising number of options. There are three versions of the square watch face, each with its own color selection (including an actual 18 karat gold enclosure). All are available in two sizes (the small is 38mm and the large is 42mm) and there are six strap styles.

When I tried on the smaller size, it actually fit just like a somewhat oversized but normal watch. It seemed lightweight enough to wear all day and it was curved to be flush against my wrist (necessary for the heartbeat sensors on the back to work). The sportier plastic bands might be useful for workouts, but they look a little cheap. The nice metal and leather straps are on par with what you'd find on a similarly priced watch.

At a glance, there is a chance someone might mistake an Apple Watch for a regular timepiece. Once you look closer, it's obvious the square screen is not a real watch face. No matter how cool the features, that could be a turn-off for many potential customers.

A new shorthand

This is not a wrist phone. You can't write emails on it. If you want to have in-depth communications, you'll need to use your iPhone (don't worry, it's already in your pocket because you have to have it for many of the watch's features).