Hands-On With the Apple Watch: A Developer's Experience at Apple's WatchKit Labs
Earlier this month, Apple began inviting a select number of developers to an Apple Watch development lab in Sunnyvale, California, located near the company's main Cupertino campus. Developers were invited to reserve a testing appointment to test their Apple Watch apps on actual Apple Watch devices to get ready for the device's April 24 launch.
One of the developers who had a chance to visit Apple's WatchKit lab and get hands-on time with the Apple Watch shared his testing experience with MacRumors and gave us some of his thoughts on the device after spending all day using it.
Apple maintained strict control over the Apple Watches that developers were allowed to use for testing. Security guards were on hand, and developers were not allowed into the room until receiving a badge, which had to be worn at all times. Entering into the lab was done through two doorways, each of which was locked and could only be opened via an electronic keycard.
Developers had to cover their cameras and leave their bags on shelves, and they were not allowed to pair the Apple Watch with their own iPhones. No one was allowed to go to the bathroom or run out for coffee until they let Apple's security see their wrists to prove they weren't leaving with a watch.
Apple has used similar tight security when bringing the Apple Watch on location to be featured in magazines as well, and it's clear they're making sure none of these devices leak out ahead of April 24.
In the lab, there were 5 rows of long tables, and approximately 10 developers could fit at each table. Apple had five engineers on hand to help developers put the finishing touches on their apps, and all of the engineers in the room were described as helpful and insightful. It's still not clear what criteria Apple used to decide which developers to invite to Sunnyvale, but a lot of major app developers were there, as were teams from various startups and bigger companies.
Developers were given 42mm Apple Watch Sport models to test their apps with, and 38mm models were only supplied upon request. The developer we spoke to thought the Sport models were "extremely light" and did not look tacky or cheesy. He also thought that the 42mm Apple Watch was the ideal size, neither too big nor too small. The extra 4mm of screen size made a big difference when it came to reading text on the device, and he thought that people who used the Apple Watch for long periods of time might better appreciate the larger screen.
The design and the feel of the watch were described as "absolutely amazing" and software was described as "fluid" and not like other smart watches available on the market. "Animations on the Apple Watch are really what separate it from its competitors," he said. Handoff works very well, letting users transfer tasks from the Apple Watch to the iPhone with ease, and Siri's functionality was described as "absolutely phenomenal."
He also shared a bit of information about battery life. Wearing the watch all day, he used it regularly to send messages and test his app, and he said the watch battery lasted all day with some to spare. He was really impressed and said, "When Apple says all day battery life, they mean it."
Overall, the developer that we spoke with thought his time at the Apple WatchKit lab was an "inspirational experience" and in his opinion, Apple is on the right track with the Apple Watch.
Apple has heavily guarded the Apple Watch thus far, but two weeks from today, the general public will be able to see the device in person and test it out after Apple begins its in-store try-on period. The company will let people schedule 15 minute appointments beginning on April 10, which is also the day that Apple Watch pre-orders will begin.
The Apple Watch will officially launch on April 24, but pre-orders are recommended because supplies may be constrained.