Apple Watch is almost here. After months of speculation following the Cupertino announcement in September last year, we now have almost all the details of the new smartwatch from Apple: how it will work, how much it will cost, what the battery is going to be like, and how you'll use it. And pre-orders start on Friday 10 April for shipping on 24 April.
How we are going to use it is the last piece of the puzzle, and one that we got to experience beyond a demo loop for the first time during its official unveiling.
The gold Apple Watch
Given a selection of devices, we of course headed for the 18K gold model that would set you back a cool £8,000. In technical terms, there is no difference in the models apart from the materials it is made from. Those on a budget can opt for the aluminium £299 Apple Watch Sport.
Coming in two sizes - 38 and 42mm - we tried the larger 42mm version.
On the wrist, the gold version was warm to touch, partly because it had been worn by others before, and partly down to the properties of the metal. It certainly has a premium feel to it, and the build quality is exquisite, whether that's the leather strap or Milanese stainless steel strap, which costs just as much as the standard Apple Watch.
The proportions are spot on; it is neither too large and bulky, or too dainty and thin, sitting somewhere in the middle. The square design isn't as watch-like as the efforts from Huawei, LG and others, but like Pebble, Apple realises that a square screen and therefore square design is far more useful when it comes to reading notifications.
The complexities of the interface
The watch professes to do so much that controlling, accessing, and inputing is fairly complex. You can scroll, tap, long tap hold, swipe, two finger tap, press, and roll your way through the apps and interface before you.
Being walked through a 5-minute demo of some of the features of the new Apple Watch was fairly mind-boggling, with a whole new interface to learn on the fly (and an urge to press the button that wasn't the right was strong).
Offering something vastly different to how the iPhone, iPad, or MacBook works is always going to force you to have to "think differently", as Apple would say. Apple Watch offers so much to the end user, and so many customisations, that trying to give users control of that will mean you have to jump through a number of hoops.
If you've struggled to understand new tech in the past, it might be a case of taking a quiet sit down to understand it, rather than the approach we've taken, which is being thrown straight into the deep end at a launch event.
How it will work in the real world, with real data and the time to be able to understand what you are doing and why, will be interesting. In the first 5 minutes we've come away less confident that we were before we started.
With lots of apps tapping into the Apple Watch's notifications, you get glance cards to see what's happening, whether that's your next calendar appointment, the stock price, a hotel booking or your airline ticket. You can scroll through these from left to right, but you can't jump back to the beginning. If you have too many apps, we can see you getting bored of swiping. This is going to take some fine-tuning to hit your magic number of glances and what you feel comfortable with in the real world.
To ease you into some of those features and settings, the Apple Watch will ship with an Apple Watch companion app. It will let you manage the apps and some of the settings of the watch. We've not seen that app up close, but talking candidly with Apple employees, we get the feeling it will run in a similar way to Pebble's iOS and Android companion apps.
Within that app, you'll be able to set up a list of friends that you can scroll through on the watch. The experience is very iPod-click wheel, and it is from this area you can opt to send people drawings or your heart beat. They all vibrate on your arm and are cute and scary at the same time. How you'll use this with your partner or friends is yet to be seen; however, we suspect comedy messages and toilet humour to decent fairly quickly amongst friends. There's also the question that while we would happily share a heartbeat of a loved one, we aren't sure people are ready to share that with other people willy nilly.
Again the options are numerous and in some case overly so. The Apple Watch will track seemingly everything you are doing, allow you to set goals, change and set your running options and probably a lot more besides. It is a full-blown fitness experience, and that's before you start to look at third party options from the likes of Nike.
We look forward to seeing this in action on a run rather than just the quick glance through the screens we've seen in our demo.
The potential of what the Apple Watch can do is going to be huge. We feel we've only just scratched the surface in our demo. How Power Reserve works, how live notifications work, whether you really will use the voice calling capabilities to make calls have yet to be answered.
Beyond the potential, we also worry about the complexity of the experience. There are a lot of alternative ways to access things (be it the screen, voice, buttons, or that digital crown), and how that will work with all the elements of the watch and the accompanying apps will be interesting to see.
The experience in the real world might be different once we've used it beyond a demo and in a controlled environment. Learning a new interface is always tricky, but this doesn't feel as natural as previous Apple products we've tried.
The Apple Watch certainly leaves us with plenty of intrigue, and at this stage that is probably a good thing. Like any first-generation product, we suspect many will be learning on the go.
The big question, however, is: by trying to do too much, has Apple over complicated things? At the moment that verdict is still out.