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Apple Watch hands-on: a rounded, square wonder

Is your wrist ready?

The Apple Watch is amazing and boring at the same time.

Update: Read our Apple Watch review.

After nearly two years of rumors, the Apple Watch has finally been unveiled. (Don't call it the iWatch.) Designed to work in tandem with an iPhone, the Apple Watch is packed with sensors that can be used to help monitor your activity. Of course, as with other smartwatches, it'll also run apps and help you keep tab on your incoming notifications. And even more intriguingly, you'll be able to make purchases with the included NFC technology at a variety of retailers, from McDonalds to Whole Foods.

Apple Watch on arm

The Apple Watch will come in two distinct sizes — 1.5 inches and 1.65 inches — with multiple color and style options for each. Pricing begins at $349, but it won't go on sale until early next year. Apple put huge emphasis on the multidimensionality of the Watch, both in terms of its hardware and software. This watch is meant to work for everyone, no matter what you like or what you want to do.

Leading up to Apple's event today, we were expecting two watch sizes, both capped with sapphire crystal panels overlaying small displays. Apple delivered exactly that. We were also expecting Apple to be the first company to deliver a smartwatch that looks great and can last all day (something the Moto 360 couldn't quite pull off). Unfortunately, Apple actually skirted around addressing the watch's battery life, leaving open some big questions for when this thing goes on sale next year.

We got our hands on the smaller model first, and it feels very solid and surprisingly light. The sapphire screen curves down to run flush with the rest of the pebble-shaped body, and the screen itself was crisp and viewable — though it did seem to be a little more reflective than I expected. The wrist strap on the model I was using felt great; I don't know if it's the particular variant that Jony Ive referred to as "supple," but it certainly felt like that.

Overall, I think the looks are better than most of the smartwatch competition out there, but unfortunately that's not very high praise. To my eyes, the Moto 360 makes a bolder statement — but that's the thing with watches, they're so personal that my tastes probably don't align very closely with yours.

The "digital crown" that Tim Cook spent so much time enthusing about on stage did its job when an Apple representative showed it to us, but unfortunately I wasn't able to try it for myself. That said, if the model running the demo loop is any indication, the dial offers very little resistance. It didn't exactly spin around freely, but neither did I feel any clicking or other forceful feedback as I twisted it. Presumably the feeling that I wasn't getting much feedback from the dial itself is mostly a function of the fact that it wasn't doing anything on the demo unit — and so spinning it will feel quite different when it's moving software around.

There's a lot to like here, a lot of interesting ideas, but there's nothing so immediately striking about the Apple Watch as to seem really, truly groundbreaking. Of course, we've only gotten our first glance of the device, and there's likely much more to do — and many more questions to answer — before the watch ships in early 2015.

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