Is it just us, or does it feel that every weekend is a Bank Holiday weekend at the moment? Not that we’re complaining of course – we’ll save that for the weather, which is looking predictably unpredictable.
That said, we’re going to work on the naive assumption that the weekend will be basked in glorious sunshine and we’ll all be dusting off our BBQs. For that reason, we’ve compiled a list of unusual gadgets to impress and, in some cases, confuse your friends with. So lets kick off with…
The Half Pint Glass
Want to pace yourself at the BBQ? Why not buy yourself one of these half pint glasses – from one angle it looks like a full pint, but then from the side it reveals itself as just a half slice. It has the bonus factor of confusing your drunk mates – although be prepared for some spilt beer as we can see them knocking this over in their excitement. It’s made from high quality glass and it’s dishwasher safe, although hand-washing is recommended. Take me to it!
Steel Ice Cubes
Hopefully the Bank Holiday is going to be a scorcher (we can dream!). If so, these unusual ice cubes could be handy. As well as looking cool (pun-time!) they also benefit from the fact they’ll freeze faster than normal ice cubes. Better still, they won’t water down your drink or leave it with that strange freezer taste! You get 6 in the pack and they’re suitable for ages 8+. Take me to them!
Is your garden looking a bit bare? Why not rope your BBQ friends in to helping with this Throw and Grow Flower Grenade. Made of clay it contains buttercup, poppy and ryegrass seeds and technically it’s made for ‘guerilla gardening’ – i.e. drop them in desolate places so the pot smashes and the seeds can grow and create life. That said, we thought it might be a fun way of seeding your own garden! As the ‘grenades’ are made of biodegradable clay, you don’t have to worry about the impact on the environment as they’ll dissolve when it rains. Don’t expect instant results, the buttercups and poppies will take at least 3 weeks to start growing and the ryegrass about 1 week. Sound like fun? Check them out here.
Twister Picnic Blanket
Who doesn’t love twister? Well us, actually – but don’t let that put you off! While you sweat away at the BBQ worrying if your chicken is cooked properly or not, your friends can entertain themselves on this large (140cm x 170cm) Twister picnic blanket. What better way to get to know your friends than to twist yourselves around them while trying not to fall over. Go on, you know you want to – you can find/buy it here.
Star Wars Lightsaber BBQ Tongs
Geek up your BBQ with these Star Wars Lightsaber BBQ Tongs. The tongs come with a heat-resistant plastic handle, metal tongs and a red storage case. You can really impress(!) your friends by sliding the button on the lightsaber for sound effects. May BBQ sauce be with you..! Sound strange/cool enough for you or a friend? Then go to this page.
That’s a wrap…
Enjoy your Bank Holiday and if you enjoyed this list then please be kind enough to share it with your friends. Also a quick thanks to Jun Seita for the header image we used.
In the battle to be the iPhone-equivalent “flagship” of the Android system, Samsung’s S series and LG’s G series keep staking a fresh claim. It’s the latter that’s about to make the next move with the G4 and it looks to be a case of evolution, not revolution.
Unless LG has some surprises up its sleeve for the forthcoming launch, it appears the emphasis is on enhanced quality rather than revolutionary features. The most visible example is the rear case of the phone: LG has confirmed it will indeed be made of leather, with style and comfort the watchwords. The cover takes a full three-months to manufacture, with several parts of the finishing done by hand.
There are also the usual “best screen ever” claims, with an HD-busting resolution of 1,440 x 2,560 pixels. On the 5.5 inch display that works out at 538 pixels per inch, a third more than the iPhone 6. Not only is LG claiming the screen is significantly brighter and has a higher contrast than rivals, but it says the screen’s range of possible colours is 20 per cent above the industry standard. It also says a revision to the touchscreen technology means you can still use finger controls when the screen is wet.
On a usability note, the phone looks set to offer both a removable battery and a microSD slot, something that’s become a rarity among high-end handsets.
The main camera will have a 16 megapixel sensor, though the main selling point is a f/1.8 lens, meaning a faster shutter speed than the Samsung Galaxy G6. The key there is that you should get more detail and less blur, even in unfavourable lighting conditions.
As usual this all comes at a price. The US release looks set to cost $825 outright, which translates as £550 even before you factor in the mark-up that’s now traditional in the UK. For contract buyers, mobiles.co.uk is pegging the likely price as £30 to £34 a month. For more information visit LG.
Having slipped seriously behind in the smartphone arena it’s interesting to see how Microsoft aims to keep pace with the handheld and wearable market, one area of which – fitness tracking, resulted in the launch of the Microsoft Band. It’s a relatively new market and one that’s been flooded quite quickly with a range of varying quality competitor solutions, but despite some capable devices that appeal to both budget-conscious and more serious audiences we’re yet to be convinced it has long-term appeal.
The Microsoft Band looks to make some wiggle-room for itself by offering a flexible solution that isn’t tied to Windows phones – there’s support here for iOS 7.1 and Android 4.3 upwards. It has a 1.4” display at 320×106 resolution, Bluetooth 4.0 and a battery that’s quoted as lasting 48 hours for normal use. It’s been available for long enough to get a proper feel for how capable it really is, so let’s see if it cuts the mustard.
Wareable should know a thing or two about wearables, and this being the case it doesn’t get Microsoft off to a good start. Its review awards just 2.5/5, and pulls no punches in stating that this is “a chunky beast at best and an absolute insult to the wearable tech movement at worst.” The look and feel is a real problem here – “looks awful” and “feels awful” are two of its three criticisms in fact, with the third being battery life. All very important considerations for any new gadget, let alone a wearable, so where to go from here? Well, the things it gets right include a fairly impressive display that’s quite “Windowsy” with that familiar tile-based UI that does feel natural and helps the device to remain fairly intuitive to use. Built-in GPS is also very nice, allowing it to track location data without a tethered phone – it works well and is undoubtedly one of the big highlights, with few competitors handling this at all, let alone as well. There are a few teething issues though, such as loss of signal and GPS connection in some cases that make it difficult to rely on the accuracy.
Elsewhere there’s 24/7 heart monitoring, a UV monitor “and the sensor check-list continues with a 3-axis accelerometer, a gyrometer, an ambient light sensor, a skin temperature sensor and a galvanic skin response sensor.” All things that are debatably useful in a real world environment, but even though the basic fitness tracking seems to work well enough, we still end up with the initial faults ruining the overall experience. Sleep tracking for example provides:
“key metrics such as duration of sleep, your efficiency percentage (time spent sleeping divided by total time), how many times you woke up, how many calories you burned while sleeping, how much of your sleep was ‘restful’ and what your heart rate was”
But that’s only if “you manage to get to sleep with the world’s most uncomfortable fitness band on your wrist.” Other features, such as the running app, are quite basic, and there’s no opportunity to install extra apps from third parties – Microsoft expects you to be happy with the lot it has provided.
So what has it provided? The Telegraph goes into some detail and talks about how the 1.4” display is:
“crisp and easy to navigate, throwing up key information including the number of steps you’ve taken that day, kilometres travelled, calories burned and heart rate within a few taps.”
Data from the wide range of sensors is fairly nicely reported on the screen itself but it’s the Microsoft Health app that will keep all this in check on a phone. This is fairly comprehensive, with the sleep monitoring capability described as “one of the more sophisticated that I’ve used.” There are also a series of downloadable workouts and short videos to watch thanks to Microsoft’s partnership with Nuffield Health, and though these have potential are described as “slightly clunky”. Elsewhere the band is quite limited though you can sync with data collated from fitness apps like MyFitnessPal, and overall “the Microsoft Health app has some way to go in presenting the data it collects in more coherent, easily-trackable ways” so this doesn’t appear to be a strong enough area to offset its flaws.
Finally, PC Pro rounds off this disappointing performance with a full review that awards the Band 3/5. It is also less than enamoured by the looks, describing the design as “a curious mixture of the functional and the downright ugly.” The display is reasonably good, with well-defined text that’s bright enough to read on sunny days, and the ARM Cortex-M4 processor helps it tick along smoothly. It’s also fairly easy to use, both from the band itself and via the Microsoft Health app, but none of these positives are enough to outweigh the bulky design, the fact that it gets uncomfortable after extended use and a few other basic but frustrating issues.
“Unlike Samsung’s Gear Fit, for instance, there’s no option to switch the display to a vertical orientation. This makes it necessary to twist your arm around rather awkwardly to read onscreen messages, or to glimpse at exercise-related data such as your current running pace or heart rate.”
The small display can be awkward to read while running or cycling, it’s only splash and sweat resistant so you’ll have to watch out for water and the battery life was far from expected, never lasting longer than 24 hours. It wraps things up by saying that despite the guided workouts, simple interface and competent app, the Band “has huge potential, much of which – at least for our particular needs – falls frustratingly short of the mark”.
The Microsoft Band is available now for £175. Visit Microsoft to find out more.
Whether you call it 4K or Ultra HD, the next generation of monitors is still too pricey for most consumers. However, for professional use ViewSonic’s new VP2780-4K looks to be a viable budget option.
It’s a 27-inch display with a 3840×2160 pixel resolution. When you’re working on graphics or video editing, a sharp picture isn’t sufficient: you need as wide a range of colours as possible. PC Advisor notes the monitor can show every one of the possible colours covered by the older sRGB colour system, along with 80 percent of the potential colours on Adobe systems.
PC Pro was impressed with the display’s colour and contrast, but noted that in its review model at least, images had an unwanted “warm, reddish tint.” It also criticised the variance in brightness across the monitor.
Another key feature of the VP2780-4K is that it’s among the first to support HDMI 2.0. That means double the bandwidth of the more-common HDMI 1.4, in turn making it possible to run a 4K resolution with a 60Hz refresh rate. PC World notes that previous 4K monitors have been stuck at an “unusable” 30Hz, so this is one of the first monitors to fully exploit 4K’s potential.
Several reviewers criticised the monitor’s on-screen menu set-up. It uses a touch-sensitive input on the bezel, but PC Advisor found this required such a firm press that you’d need to hold the monitor in place with your other hand.
While £699 puts this firmly in the professional category, the VP2780-4K seems to be very much a budget model within this context. If the early reviews are anything to go by, it’s a matter of viewpoint: you can see the annoyances and limitations as unacceptable in such an expensive purchase, or you can see the screen quality and resolution as making it a bargain compared with rival models that can cost almost twice as much.
SIM-only contracts for smartphones are getting cheaper all the time and more and more discerning individuals are opting not to tie themselves into a talk plan for years, even if that does mean stumping up a fair whack for a new phone. For many this puts the flagship phones from the major players just out of arms reach, but if you’re willing to forgo the more established brands there are some pretty special devices vying for our attention.
So says Huawei anyway, with a new handheld we’ve been hearing a bit about recently. It’s called the P8, and is the new flagship model for a Chinese manufacturer that’s been gathering a bit of a following among those who aren’t afraid to think outside the box.
When you look at the specs, you can see why Huawei is using this as its current head-turner. It has a 5.2” display at 1920×1080 resolution and 424ppi – the same as the Xperia Z3. There’s 3GB of RAM, between 16 and 64GB of storage with microSD and a Quad-core 2 GHz Cortex-A53 to keep things ticking over. For media you’ve got a 13MP primary camera capable of full HD video at 30fps, with an 8MP selfie on the front. It’s water and dust resistant and has even shelled out on Gorilla Glass 3 for a toughened screen. And it looks pretty sweet as well – check out that slim side bezel.
But looks can be deceiving, as can an apparently impressive collection of internals, so we’ll cast our eye over some early reviews to see if it lives up to its billing.
Let’s begin where we left off with the design. The Independent is a fan and calls it “a leap forward in design and build quality” for the company, lauding its all-aluminium one-piece frame and the fact that:
“Huawei proudly boasted that a higher proportion (78.3 per cent) of the front of the phone was screen than on rivals like the iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S6.”
The display in action is thankfully up to scratch:
“The wall-to-wall screen looks great, even if its HD resolution is less impressive than the Samsung Galaxy S6’s far higher pixel count. Even so, the screen looks attractive and full of rich, realistic colours and detail.”
Some of the other tricks in Huawei’s arsenal are examined here, such as the Voice Wake function, which works a bit like one of those car-key whistle locators except here you speak a pre-recorded phrase and the phone wakes, plays music and sings “I’m here”. It also proves that it’s down with the current generation with something called Perfect Selfie – a soft focus effect designed to enhance those spotty head-shots, and a light painting mode that:
“Essentially lets you shoot a video which combines light effects into a still picture, though the examples given included dazzling fireworks brandished around remarkably brave models.”
It summarises by saying that good things could be on the horizon for Huawei in terms of breaking into the western market – it’s “a company that for some time now has felt like it’s been on the brink of the big time”. Could this be the thing that tips it over?
TechRadar is fairly measured and likes the premium design, the display and feature-packed camera, but does have some issues with the performance. It’s not quite as snappy as the Galaxy S6 Edge you see, though considering the price point on that beauty we’d be surprised if it was, and the jury is out on Huawei’s Emotion UI – its OS overlay that leads the reviewer to suggest:
“Don’t get too excited at the mention of the Lollipop operating system either, as it hasn’t escaped the clutches of Huawei’s Emotion UI on the P8.”
Elsewhere the camera impresses, and it points out that Huawei claims it “outperforms the snapper on the iPhone 6 Plus”, which would be an impressive achievement. This is likely down to a new technology:
“Low light enhancement promises clearer, brighter images in poorly lit areas thanks to the world’s first four colour RGBW smartphone sensor, independent DSLR-quality ISP (image signal processor) and beefed up OIS.”
TechRadar concludes by saying “The Huawei P8 is the most exciting handset to come out of the Chinese firm over the past few years, possibly ever, and it shows some very real promise.”
But all of this is a bit early doors. What we really need is someone who’s put the P8 through its paces, and here we turn to PC PRO. It has a full review with benchmarks, awarding the phone 4/5 but suggesting it’s not quite up to the task of challenging the big boys. There’s nothing wrong with the design though, being “super-slim, measuring a mere 6.9mm from front to back, it weighs only 144g, and it looks great.” The removable microSD gets a mention, as do water and dust resistance when comparing it to the Samsung Galaxy S6, which has none of these.
As for those fancy camera tricks, PC Pro says
“The results are impressive. The camera is quick to launch and take pictures, plus it focuses quickly and confidently. Importantly, the quality is fantastic, particularly in low light” and “In good light we were impressed to find that the camera dealt well with even tricky scenes, retaining detail in bright skies without losing detail in shadowy areas. Video looks just as good – crisp and rock-steady in all but the most extreme situations.”
The only downside was slightly washed out pictures in some conditions, and that some of the software functions seemed a bit gimmicky, but otherwise it seems like good news for snappers.
When it comes to performance it’s unfortunately not up to scratch against the likes of the HTC One M9 and Galaxy S6, with the GPU being the main cause. For pure number crunching it’s still fairly good though, so if you’re not an avid gamer you might not notice much of a difference.
And when it comes to the battery it’s a similar story – it lags behind rivals such as the Xperia Z3 and Galaxy S6 to a noticeable degree, sucking around 15% of power for an hour of video playback and around 7% for streaming audio, both below average.
Still, there’s plenty to like about the P8 overall and some features, such wind-noise reduction, automatic microphone sensitivity and earpiece volume control sound genuinely useful, even if others, such as ““Knuckle sense” that allows you to capture a screenshot with a tap of your knuckle” do not.
PC Pro concedes that the P8 certainly has its attention but “it isn’t quite cheap enough to get our wholehearted recommendation”, which brings us back to our original point.
Is this affordable enough to keep you from the suffocating embrace of a two-year contract? Just about. The standard version will cost £360, with the premium £430, which is around 25% off what you’d pay for a “badge” with a similar spec and possibly more if you factor in how cheap microSD cards are. Even despite potential performance issues, we definitely think this is worth keeping an eye on.
As smartphones incorporate increasingly sophisticated lenses and photo editing software, traditional camera manufacturers need to differentiate their pocket devices from those pesky cellular competitors. One area where a handheld camera can stand apart from a smartphone is in terms of its strength and durability, and the new flagship product in Olympus’s STYLUS TOUGH range represents a classic example of this.
With its 25-100mm wide-angle lens offering a 1:2.0 maximum aperture at wide zoom settings, the uppercase-only TOUGH TG-4 has the potential to become the deep-sea diver’s best friend. Its red or black casing incorporates a manometer pressure gauge, a customisable mode dial that can be adjusted while wearing gloves, and waterproofing down to 15 metres. It can also withstand up to 100kg weights, -10°C temperatures and seven-foot drops, which is good news for anyone who likes taking elevated selfies in sub-zero conditions. Video recording can be carried out in full 1080HD, while the 16-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor delivers impressive performance in low lighting, and the 3-inch LCD display is a fair size.
The rugged camera market is already saturated with products from other leading camera manufacturers, but the TG-4 has so far received a fairly positive reaction from critics and reviewers. Imaging Resource acknowledged the introduction of RAW capture and an improved GPS module, as well as praising its ability to focus on objects just one centimetre beyond its lens. In terms of accessories, they noted that the TG-4 is:
“compatible with a growing system of accessories such as cases, float straps, an underwater housing, plus fisheye and telephoto conversion lenses, as well as the LG-1 LED light guide introduced with the TG-3.”
Mention of last year’s TG-3 leads onto a criticism made by PC Mag – specifically, that the TG-4 offers little over and above the specifications of its predecessor. However, PC Mag did admit “that’s not a bad thing”, having previously described the TG-3 as “one of the best rugged cameras money can buy”. They had also praised the TG-3’s 16-megapixel image sensor and macro capabilities, which have been subtly improved upon in the TG-4. An entirely new feature was picked up on by the American PetaPixel website, who reckoned the introduction of AF Target selection would “open the door to a new world of quality and composition.”
According to CNET’s review, other changes worth noting include: “Live Composite setting that allows for the effect of a long exposure without overexposing the image, an Underwater HDR mode to help with difficult exposures, and improved GPS.” Those underwater credentials were put to the test by The Phoblographer:
“Considering that we did this product shoot under a running sink and that the camera continues to work, we have to say that the build quality is pretty solid.”
They concluded with the sentiments expressed by a number of reviews:
“The image quality seems fairly decent, but we think that some of the biggest features that folks will love are the RAW file offering and just how rugged the camera is.”
The Olympus TG-4 will be available in May for £349.99. Visit the Olympus website for more information.
At last, the highly-anticipated Lumia 640 has hit the high streets and online stores. Lumia’s latest addition to its portfolio will soon be joined by the Lumia 640 XL, due to be available by the end of April.
So how are the latest Lumia handsets bearing up to the scrutinising eye of the tech press?
According to Wired, Microsoft is expecting ‘big things’ from the latest ‘hero’ in its budget stable phone. In a hands-on review, Wired – notoriously not easy to impress – seemed pretty bowled over by the 640.
Claiming the 640 to be a pretty decent mid-range phone with matching mid-range specification, for Wired, what lifts the 640 out of the conundrums of the ordinary, is the fact owners get a free year’s subscription to Microsoft Office 365 Personal. This means you can have Office apps on the phone as well as an additional PC or tablet.
So asides getting the main Office apps plus Publisher, Access and Outlook, you’ll get 1TB of online storage and 12 month’s free Skype calls, a package normally worth £60 year – a nice little extra for sure.
Okay, so we all love extras, but what about the real guts of the phone?
Wired are pleased to see that the new Lumia’s screen size has been increased from 4.5 inches to 5 inches, and with an HD 1,280×720 pixels, the resolution has improved too.
The Wired reviewer is also quick to point out that the 640 runs of Windows Phone 8.1, which is “slick and functional” and requires “less grunt from the processor to deliver a quick and smooth performance.”
The voice recognition is pretty good too. The ‘Cortana’ assistant genuinely helpful, says Wired.
On the downside, the processor could be a bit more powerful, concludes Wired, but for £120, it’s a general thumbs up from techies that are not easily awe-struck.
‘The world won’t change’
In a quick play around with the 640, Tech Radar admitted that with the same design language as its predecessor, the Lumia 635, the world won’t change with the 640.
Despite its predictable design, the new handset’s bonus is, according to Tech Radar, its removable back panel, which means the SIM card and microSD slots are hidden but could prove tiresome to remove if you’re using them regularly.
On the upside, during a play through of the apps, the 640 looked beautiful and was “one of the brightest Windows Phone handset” the reviewer had ever used.
For selfie-lovers, the device’s front facing camera should be able to cope.
In its review of the Lumia 640, PC Advisor concentrated on the camera and admitted that despite taking trial shots in difficult conditions, the camera did a pretty good job.
However, PC Advisor’s net verdict isn’t too inspiring as despite being nice looking and relatively cheap, there’s no need to get excited in terms of spec, as the 640 offers little more than what’s already on offer in a crowded Lumia market.
Lumia 640 XL
So what about the yet-to-be-released 640 XL, the 640’s bigger and beefier version, what’s the word on the street so far?
According to Recombu, despite the handset’s thickness, it doesn’t come across as bulky and is in fact quite the opposite. Its matte finish is accompanied with a pillowed back for extra grip and comfort.
With vivid colours, good visibility in bright sunlight and respectable viewing angles, the XL’s display “packs a wonderful punch”, claims Recombu.
Retailing from £219, the XL’s affordable price is one of its plus points according to the Tech Radar review. Other ‘pros’ include its large battery, bright screen and the fact it feels good to hold. On the downside, it’s only available on Windows Phone 8.1 – for now – and is 1080p on a 5.7 inch screen.
It’s finally here. Well, almost. After months of speculation and anticipation the Apple Watch has become available in the UK for pre-order. Will it revolutionise another market? Will it change the way we live our lives? Will it turn us all into fitness gurus? Only time will tell. Always predestined to become the biggest selling smartwatch due to its hordes of loyal followers it almost seems like a nailed on success already. But for less dedicated Apple fans and those who have been sitting on the fence when it comes to a wearable investment, it’s probably worth finding out if it’s any good.
Let’s get a quick reminder of the specs. It’s available in two sizes and resolutions – 1.5” (272×340) and 1.7” (319×390), and has a whole range of different straps from colourful plastic to classic buckle – in total in fact there are 34 different combinations. It runs on Apple’s S1 chip, has 8GB of storage with 2GB for music and Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi built-in. There’s also IPX7 waterproofing, which is the fairly basic one that safeguards it against “short durations of immersion” at a depth of less than a metre.
The battery, which we’ll come back to later, is claimed to last 18 hours, or 3 hours talk time, 6.5 hours audio playback and 48 hours if you just check the time. Through inductive charging it claims to boost 80% in just an hour and a half, with a full charge taking an hour longer.
Of course many of these specs don’t mean a great deal at this stage – it’s all about real world use. And for this we go to a number of lucky journos who have already got their hands on this year’s most desirable gadget.
The Telegraph can kick things off by gushing over an area that seems in little doubt – the looks. It’s “a luxurious, even beautiful fashion accessory” and “from the clever magnetic strap to its understated design, it has attracted attention for all the right reasons.” The fashion test is declared “passed” here, the range of strap and face combinations makes for an interesting degree of personalisation and the face itself adds a whole new layer of control – it’s described as “almost infinitely customisable”.
When it comes to actual operation the Apple Watch is quite accurately described as a “filter for your phone”. This is both good and bad, as while notifications and alerts are now sent to the more accessible area of your wrist, having too many appearing can result in “an irritating blizzard of notifications that I quickly started to ignore altogether.” Core functions like making calls can be done through the watch, or if you don’t want to talk into your wrist and are wearing a hands-free set you can answer and reject calls from the wearable’s display. Text messages can be replied to with intelligent, contextually aware phrases, and a music app lets you control what’s playing on your phone – there’s no headphones port to listen directly via the watch but it can stream via Bluetooth if you have a compatible headset.
Interacting with all this is a mixed experience. There’s an initial learning curve for what seems like overly complicated controls that often require what seems like one button press too many.
“It takes two clicks of the crown to get the device to turn on then move from watchface to apps. It’s hard to see how to do it better, but it’s imperfect nonetheless”.
It also comments on the fact that the apps are generally easy to find, but rarely feel properly developed. Overall The Telegraph concludes that Apple fans should perhaps think twice about rushing out to buy, history does after all tell us that it takes a second or third generation device to iron out a lot of the creases.
CNet has given the Apple Watch a full review, and awards it 3.5/5, which is hardly the stellar result many die-hards will have been hoping for. It also likes the design and construction and lauds the range of features, but the battery life has been given a test here and predictably doesn’t come out too well – just 5/10 for this sub-category in fact.
A thorough test of the features offers some examples of how it can be used:
“I’ve tracked walks and measured my heart rate, paid for lunch, listened to albums while exploring parks without my phone, chatted with family, kept up on email, looked for Uber cars, kept up on news, navigated on long car trips for Passover, controlled my Apple TV with it and followed baseball games while I was supposed to be watching my 2-year-old.”
But despite cramming so much functionality into its first generation device, “the Apple Watch still leaves plenty to be desired.” One fairly central reason is that it needs the iPhone to do just about anything – or rather it needs to be within 30 feet or so unless connecting over Wi-Fi. Then there’s the battery life – despite best efforts it still never lasted longer than a day, and “hit 50 percent or lower in battery capacity by around 2-3 p.m. pretty regularly.”
And finally it can be a little awkward to use – “there are so many features that I felt a little lost at times.” Knowing whether to swipe, click, touch or speak can be a dilemma, and issues with lost notifications, nested interfaces and managing the pairing process can be frustrating. On the plus side it has a positive mention for Siri, which seems to be a fair bit more useful on a watch as “a catch-all way to speak and do things in ways that can cut through the menus and swipes.”
Finally, The Verge has given it a particularly fancy looking, extensive review and awards it 7/10, calling it “easily the nicest smartwatch available” but goes on to cite issues with performance, notifications and price. It’s described as “kind of slow”, stuttering with notifications and struggling to pull data wirelessly, with apps that take a bit too long to load. Apple promises software updates to help address these issues. The display is terrific though, “easily the best smartwatch display on the market”, and the interface is nicely customisable with app icons that can be rearranged to make them easier to prioritise and access.
One feature that does seem to work well is the activity tracker. This is split into Activity and Workout, with the former being “beautiful, but extremely basic” and allows you to manage goals and calories during exercise and standing, which are displayed with three concentric rings and prompts for you to stand up or get a bit of fresh air if needed. Workout has a series of presets for cardio that again work nicely on the whole, though it’s noted that there’s no social element here for sharing data with friends and the heart rate monitor did struggle at times for accuracy.
Other features such as Digital Touch – the ability to send drawings, heartbeats and taps seems fairly gimmicky – in fact being described as:
“all remarkably small-time. It’s cute, but it’s a weird thing to hype as much as it’s been hyped, especially because it has such a deep network effect problem — it’s only useful if you know other people with Apple Watches.”
So what to make of the Apple Watch so far? Bloomberg seems to sum it up quite nicely in an article entitled “Apple Watch Review: You’ll Want One, but You Don’t Need One”, and this seems to be the general consensus.
Pricing starts at £299 for the small “Sport” version, which is built of anodized aluminium instead of stainless steel. The regular models cost between £479 and £949 with the price difference amazingly just based on the type of strap – and the most expensive isn’t studded with diamonds, it’s just a black stainless steel link bracelet. And let’s put a shout out to the 18-carat gold edition, which will cost you between £8,000 and £12,000.
If you’re still determined to splash the cash and can’t wait for the second or third generation, you’ll still have to wait a bit longer for the first. Apple’s initial shipping date for the Apple Watch was April 24th, though we’ve been hearing it has been delayed in some areas so you might want to find out more before you get too excited.