The smartwatch thread: Android Wear / Apple Watch / Samsung and beyond

Aurelius

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Just realizing that we don't really have a general place to talk smartwatches! It usually ends up being about specific devices in relative isolation. I think (or at least hope) it'd be nice to have a thread on the subject.

To me, what's interesting is how the major contenders so far are all taking very different approaches to smartwatches -- there isn't a lot of overlap in philosophy and interfaces. With that in mind, I don't think we have a platform that does everything well

Android Wear is all about contextual alerts, and it's probably going to be the best at that (at least, for a while). It's awesome to know how long it'll take to get home, or what the sports score is. However, it's terrible for getting many things done; it relies a lot on voice commands, and launching apps is unnecessarily difficult (tap the screen, hit a button at the very bottom of a list, and find your app). It'll save you from getting your phone out of your pocket to respond to an alert, but you can't really take the initiative a lot of the time.

Apple Watch feels like the opposite, at least from what we've seen so far. It doesn't have nearly as many contextual alerts, but it's much, much better at letting you start something from your watch. Want to send a tweet? Launch the Twitter app. Want to find out where you are? Launch the mapping app. Apple does have "glances," but it's hard to know how well those will work in practice just yet.

Microsoft Band is like the Switzerland of smartwatches; it's trying to stay out of the platform wars altogether by courting all sides. There are some things you can do straight from the Band, like paying for Starbucks, but it's more of a notification and fitness center than a platform. That limits its potential, since it's sort of a lowest-common-denominator device, but it also means you're not locked out of most features.

Pebble has a platform of sorts, but it's purposefully keeping to the budget realm; even the Pebble Steel stops at $199. It's limited, but that actually provides some advantages (long battery life and an always-on e-paper display). It's actually easier to launch apps on a Pebble than on Android Wear, which amuses me to no end. This is what you get if you're less worried about style and spiffy features, and more about getting the core features of a smartwatch for the least amount of cash.

Samsung's watches are, well, classic Samsung: trying to be everything to everyone. Cameras! Heart rate sensors! Cellular data! And that's awesome if you're looking for features, since you're bound to find a device that meets your demands. The Tizen interface feels half-cooked, though. It has apps, but they're definitely not high-priority, and it doesn't have Google's contextual alerts.

And for all of them, I'll say this: right now, there's a desperate need for genuinely attractive smartwatch design. The Moto 360 and ZenWatch are kinda there, but most of the designs out there were clearly crafted by the same people making the smartphones, with little consideration for the nature of the watch as a fashion item. Apple might get there since it's much more concerned about these aspects, but it's hard to know how well it pulls that off until people can start buying its watch in a few months' time.

So, with that, I'll ask: whose camp are you in, if any? And who do you see succeeding? Please keep it civil and intelligent, folks!
 

CHANG3D

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First, Samsung is also only compatible with few models of Samsung phones, so I will never consider it. The difference between this and Apple is that Samsung is making this distinction for no good reason. So the below will completely ignore them from existence.

I agree with most of what you're saying here. But most smartwatches is Generation 1 (or Generation 0 in Apple's case as it isn't released yet). Pebble is technically Gen 2, but it pretty much the same as before using the same exact hardware. Pebble is currently the smartest watch on the list, but Android/Apple/Microsoft will eventually catch up. The best looking one is clearly the Moto 360. I had originally thought that I wanted a LG G Watch R, so I tried it on. It looks too much like a rugged black Timex. But its screen is definitely better than the Moto 360's.

I will wait for Gen 2 to arrive before I spent this kind of money for a smartwatch. The next Moto 360 is supposed to be full circle with a more efficient SoC. That would probably be what I will get unless there is something awful about it.

Another one I'm looking forward to hear more about is Sony's E-Ink 7 day watch, assuming GOP doesn't destroy Sony... I want to know about it's development kit. Is it the Pebble killer?
 

Trimlock

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I personally think the Microsoft band is the best fit for what one would typically use it for.

I'm waiting on more long term, usage based opinions on it first before I buy one but it looks to best of the bunch currently.
 

Aurelius

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First, Samsung is also only compatible with few models of Samsung phones, so I will never consider it. The difference between this and Apple is that Samsung is making this distinction for no good reason. So the below will completely ignore them from existence.

I agree with most of what you're saying here. But most smartwatches is Generation 1 (or Generation 0 in Apple's case as it isn't released yet). Pebble is technically Gen 2, but it pretty much the same as before using the same exact hardware. Pebble is currently the smartest watch on the list, but Android/Apple/Microsoft will eventually catch up. The best looking one is clearly the Moto 360. I had originally thought that I wanted a LG G Watch R, so I tried it on. It looks too much like a rugged black Timex. But its screen is definitely better than the Moto 360's.

I will wait for Gen 2 to arrive before I spent this kind of money for a smartwatch. The next Moto 360 is supposed to be full circle with a more efficient SoC. That would probably be what I will get unless there is something awful about it.

Another one I'm looking forward to hear more about is Sony's E-Ink 7 day watch, assuming GOP doesn't destroy Sony... I want to know about it's development kit. Is it the Pebble killer?

The question to me is just when we'll get watches that are clearly second-generation. If you're thinking about the industry as a whole, it's possible that Apple will launch a second-generation watch (higher-res displays, purpose-built processors, upscale designs)... but we won't know until both its final launch and when competitors put out the second wave of Android Wear products. In short, you probably won't see a significant change in the market until the spring, if not later.
 

CHANG3D

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We're also forgetting Meta, but they are forgettable...

One thing I do like about Microsoft Band is that if Microsoft had made a round watch instead, I'm in. The fitness band look doesn't work for me professionally.
 

BiH115

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Plan on grabbing a moto at this point to go along with my droid turbo. I'm also eagerly waiting for the next generation moto, but I like to have things asap. Been tough to find the moto up in New England, but stock is becoming better it seems. My main reason for wanting the watch is that it'll be invaluable for getting quick alerts. Sure, it's seemingly fast to pull the phone out, but being able to note information at a glance is a real necessity for me.
 

harsaphes

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OP you forgot to list LG. LG R basically has good reviews. I just ordered one over the Moto. The new Samsung version does not run Google Wear so is basically a no go for me. Apple looks awful so that's out.
 

CHANG3D

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OP you forgot to list LG. LG R basically has good reviews. I just ordered one over the Moto. The new Samsung version does not run Google Wear so is basically a no go for me. Apple looks awful so that's out.
LG is inclusive inside of Android Wear. Samsung has its own Tizen watches.
 

BiH115

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OP you forgot to list LG. LG R basically has good reviews. I just ordered one over the Moto. The new Samsung version does not run Google Wear so is basically a no go for me. Apple looks awful so that's out.

I'm just a fan at all of the looks of the LG R, despite that it may be a technically better watch...it's the look that kills it for me.
 

Aurelius

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I'm just a fan at all of the looks of the LG R, despite that it may be a technically better watch...it's the look that kills it for me.

Yeah, I'm not a fan of the G Watch R's design, even if it's miles better than the original G Watch or the Gear Live. It just comes across as a smartphone designer's abstract notion of what a watch looks like, rather than something you'd actually want to show off.

I harp on this a lot with people, but it's worth reading Hodinkee's look at the Apple Watch from a watch expert's perspective. He's almost too cynical about the chances of smartwatches replacing mechanical watches, but he has an important point: if you're going to get a broader audience wearing smartwatches, your design has to compete with traditional wristwear. You can't approach it as if you're making a facsimile of a watch (G Watch R) or a tiny smartphone (Gear S), or you're only going to appeal to fashion-blind geeks.
 

CHANG3D

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Yeah, I'm not a fan of the G Watch R's design, even if it's miles better than the original G Watch or the Gear Live. It just comes across as a smartphone designer's abstract notion of what a watch looks like, rather than something you'd actually want to show off.

I harp on this a lot with people, but it's worth reading Hodinkee's look at the Apple Watch from a watch expert's perspective. He's almost too cynical about the chances of smartwatches replacing mechanical watches, but he has an important point: if you're going to get a broader audience wearing smartwatches, your design has to compete with traditional wristwear. You can't approach it as if you're making a facsimile of a watch (G Watch R) or a tiny smartphone (Gear S), or you're only going to appeal to fashion-blind geeks.
The ASUS ZenWatch is also one good looking watch. It's thin with a great battery life, but it needs to have more sensors on it for me. The Moto 360 doesn't have many sensors either, but it's round and just so good looking that I will omit the lack of sensors. Seriously, if Microsoft makes a watch with as many sensors as the Band if not more, I'm getting the Microsoft Watch. I just can't be wearing a fitness band, because I'm not exactly in the best of health right now and wearing one looks hypocritical.
 

marshac

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I've had a 360 for about two months now- it's awesome. Love it. The only bad thing is that it can't seem to check my heart rate while working out. I also use a running companion app called "Zombies Run!".... the developer has made a version for Glass.... but no wearable interface? Hopefully they fix this... I now have music and bluetooth pairing on my phone.... but no Zombie app :(
 

portalgun

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I have a g watch r coming for Christmas I'm hoping, researched it vs. the moto 360 to exhaustion and while I'm a little worried about p-oled screen burn in and the slightly smaller screen. The g watch R trumps the 360 in design I think (no ugly cutout on screen), battery life (360 ips screen can't stay ambient for a whole day) and it's a lot thinner. What the 360 gains in smaller footprint it gives up vertically and ultimately I think a talled watch would end up getting knocked around a lot more than a flatter wider one.

It does seem like android wear is in it's infancy but android seems to progress faster than any other OS out there due to widespread use and customization, so I don't it will be too long until its a lot more polished looking.
 

marshac

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I have a g watch r coming for Christmas I'm hoping, researched it vs. the moto 360 to exhaustion and while I'm a little worried about p-oled screen burn in and the slightly smaller screen. The g watch R trumps the 360 in design I think (no ugly cutout on screen), battery life (360 ips screen can't stay ambient for a whole day) and it's a lot thinner. What the 360 gains in smaller footprint it gives up vertically and ultimately I think a talled watch would end up getting knocked around a lot more than a flatter wider one.

My experience- YMMV- on ambient mode my 360 would hit single-digits after a 16 hour shift. That's too tight considering that sometimes I'm not actually off after 16 hours, so I usually leave that mode off. PM me or something and let me know how it goes with your R. Second, the 'cutoff' is something I don't even notice, mainly because of the watch faces I use- (I've been using this mainly)- with a black background you don't don't see it. I suppose if you used a watchface to mimic a real watch you would notice it, but after <1 day of having my wearable try and look like a "normal" watch I started to look for things to actually make it MORE useful than a typical watch. I suspect this is the path most people take once they actually one a wear device. Anyways- that has been my experience and again, ymmv.
 

Unknown-One

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Loving my Microsoft Band so far. Here it is in "watch mode":

q954wLw.jpg


I have it paired with a Lumia 920, so I also get to use full Cortana integration. A long-press of the bottom-right hardware button brings her up. Voice-assistant functionality on the Microsoft Band is exclusive to Windows Phone (it doesn't integrate with Siri or whatever Android has).

Has a decent selection of 1st party apps you can load up onto it, and an SDK is supposed to be coming out at some point which will allow 3rd party apps to get in there.
 
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Aurelius

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One thing I've come across using the Moto 360 and Pebble recently is an important factor: the cuff test.

I'd say a number of current smartwatches have trouble with dress shirt (and likely blouse) cuffs due to their thickness, which is a bit of an issue by itself. The Moto and Pebble are just thin enough that they usually work. However, there are certain watches where that kind of clothing isn't even an option. I'd like to see someone try to wear the Gear S while wearing a well-fitted shirt, and without rolling up their sleeves... bet you can't do it!

And that's why you shouldn't buy claims that smartwatches will repeat the forever-getting-bigger cycle of smartphones. Unless you want to leave your watch at home, you'll frequently need a watch no larger than your wrist (and reasonably slim, at that) whenever you dress up for more than a casual or business casual event. Bezels can get thinner to maximize the available screen space, but you're not going to see supersized watches take off in the way phablets took hold in the phone world.
 

mi7chy

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Several wrong assumptions. In the real world...

Large watches are masculine. Small watches are feminine.

Watches are about fashion first and functionality second. Moto 360 is fashionable. Gear S is functional and modern. Zenwatch and G-Watch R are passable. Apple Watch you would probably hide under your cuff.

People who wear dress shirts get them custom fitted instead of off the shelf where it's too loose or too tight around the wrist.

People wear nice watches so they can be seen and not to hide under the cuff unless it's a watch that looks like it came out of a bubble gum dispenser.

Plus, Gear S isn't the thickest smartwatch which would affect cuffability:

Asus Zenwatch 9.4mm

LG G-Watch R 11.1mm

Moto 360 11.5mm

Samsung Gear S 12.5mm

Apple Watch 12.6mm

Compared to popular big tradional watches like Breitling Super Avenger II at 17.75mm

Reasoning behind the popularity of big traditional watches:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/25/fashion/mens-watches-keep-getting-bigger.html
 

///AMG

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I have the Moto 360, and the Samsung Gear S which I broke because the band easily undoes it self when I take my hand out of my pocket. I also have the pebble and so far the 360 is easily my favorite. Id like to try the LG G-Watch R sometime soon. But for watches I have an analog one I've been wanting for a while so I will probably buy that before anymore watches.
 

Aurelius

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Watches are about fashion first and functionality second. Moto 360 is fashionable. Gear S is functional and modern. Zenwatch and G-Watch R are passable. Apple Watch you would probably hide under your cuff.

There's an irony to implying that the Apple Watch is an embarrassment and then trying to hold up the Gear S as a worthy design. It's made of plastic and rubber. The casing is as large or larger than many people's wrists of any gender. It looks like a melted Galaxy S. One of Bell & Ross' aviation-themed watches looks modest and elegant by comparison.

People who wear dress shirts get them custom fitted instead of off the shelf where it's too loose or too tight around the wrist.

People wear nice watches so they can be seen and not to hide under the cuff unless it's a watch that looks like it came out of a bubble gum dispenser.

Plus, Gear S isn't the thickest smartwatch which would affect cuffability.

People need to wear long sleeves for many reasons, so an under-the-cuff fit matters whether or not you want to show off. You just can't question this. And when I say well-fitted, I mean well-fitted, not tight or loose. And width matters as much as thickness here, if you know your basic physics. I'd rather have something that's merely thick than something that's thick and covers a large area.

Look, as much as you may want to pretend that the Gear S is stylish and will sell in the millions within months... it ain't happening. People haven't bought Samsung's five previous smartwatches in large numbers, what makes you think that a bulkier, more expensive model that requires a cellular plan to justify the price is going to fare any better?
 

Ramses

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Anyone using any of these as a vibration wake-up alarm?
My wife has been bugging me to find an alarm that does not wake her up, google'ing
around opinions seem to be all over. I'm a heavy sleeper apparently.
I see a bunch of the regular non-smart watches have vibration now too.
 

///AMG

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Anyone using any of these as a vibration wake-up alarm?
My wife has been bugging me to find an alarm that does not wake her up, google'ing
around opinions seem to be all over. I'm a heavy sleeper apparently.
I see a bunch of the regular non-smart watches have vibration now too.

I did with my Gear S when I was using it. Its hit or miss, I would not feel it vibrate sometimes.
 

Ramses

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A night of bleary eyed reading seems to say the original pebble worked fairly well for it but the steel was less.

Any android wear apps to control vibration on the LG R or M360?
 

mi7chy

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There's an irony to implying that the Apple Watch is an embarrassment and then trying to hold up the Gear S as a worthy design.

Doesn't matter what I think when the public consensus on the Apple Watch is a low <10% even on pro-Apple site/poll:

http://www.theverge.com/2014/9/9/6127859/poll-are-you-buying-a-next-gen-iphone-what-about-an-apple-watch

http://www.droid-life.com/2014/09/09/tuesday-poll-better-looking-watch-apple-watch-moto-360-or-g-watch-r/

And width matters as much as thickness here, if you know your basic physics. I'd rather have something that's merely thick than something that's thick and covers a large area.

It's actually a more basic variation of the round peg in a round hole vs square peg in a round hole problem. Semi-square Apple watch isn't going to fit as well in a round cuff hole vs the curved Gear S.

SquarePegSol2.gif


more expensive model that requires a cellular plan to justify the price is going to fare any better?

If you're wearing a dress shirt and can't afford $5 per month on Verizon or TMobile then something is wrong. I know you were trying to perpetuate the dress shirt wearing affluent would wear Apple Watch but not Gear S so the "can't afford $5 per month" doesn't help your argument. If you have to iron a few dress shirts yourself a month to come up with that $5. Plus, data plan is optional on the Gear S as you can tether it to phone. No can do if you want to use your Apple Watch stand-alone and leave the ginormous iPhone 6+ behind no matter how much you want to pay.

Please keep it to facts and not FUD, folks!
 
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Aurelius

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Really? You're trying to use two informal self-selecting polls, conducted months before launch, to reflect the entire public consensus? And one of them is from a pro-Android site, while the other asks you to choose either the iPhone or the Watch (preventing you from choosing both)? That's not proof -- it just shows that you don't have a basic grasp of scientific methods.

Like I said, the goal was to maintain an intelligent discussion. You're clearly not interested in that, so please don't post in this thread again.
 

mi7chy

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This is not a private forum to spread personal agenda and FUD. It's a public forum that needs balanced opinion and facts.
 

Aurelius

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This is not a private forum to spread personal agenda and FUD. It's a public forum that needs balanced opinion and facts.

Pot to kettle: you're black!

I just showed how your evidence was fundamentally flawed. It's cherry-picked, using incomplete and obviously slanted poll data that echoes your pre-determined opinion (Apple Watch is dooooomed). That's not representing the public at large. That's not "balanced opinion and facts." It only shows two things: that people given an either/or choice between an iPhone 6 and an Apple Watch will typically choose the iPhone, and that hardcore Android fans don't like Apple products.

As I've mentioned before, put up or shut up: show me a rigorously constructed study that shows the broader public's tastes in smartwatches, whatever they may be. If you can't... well, you don't have evidence. When I talk about maintaining an intelligent conversation, that means having claims that hold up under scrutiny. Yours don't.
 

marshac

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Apple Watch will be a smash hit even if it sucks. So many other doctors have said "hey, is that the Apple watch" (gesturing at my 360).... I say no, it isn't..... they then inform me of their intent to purchase the Apple Watch the day it comes out. Seriously- that fucker will sell even if it sucks hard. It's Apple.
 

mi7chy

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You need more than FUD and emotion to convince anyone. Where's the public opinion, data, links, etc.?

For example, you knock a non-Apple brand for having too many superfluous features but haven't said anything about Tim Cook influenced feature of sending heart beats or to finger you through his Apple Watch and you feel it on yours. Who's even asking for that creepy thing per the public consensus? Unix digital finger is nerdy but acceptable but not a creepy physical finger. WTF?

http://www.zdnet.com/article/so-apples-watch-turned-out-to-be-a-thick-ugly-expensive-yawner/

Reading through the comments in the other two links (have you?) I wouldn't be surprised if Apple intentionally delayed the release until 2015 so they can go back to the drawing board to redesign based on public feedback which is a positive thing instead of traditionally forcing what they want on customers.
 
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Aurelius

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Apple Watch will be a smash hit even if it sucks. So many other doctors have said "hey, is that the Apple watch" (gesturing at my 360).... I say no, it isn't..... they then inform me of their intent to purchase the Apple Watch the day it comes out. Seriously- that fucker will sell even if it sucks hard. It's Apple.

That's likely true, although those sales could taper off quickly if people don't like it (see the Power Mac G4 Cube for an example). The real question is whether or not rivals will have what you could call a "Motorola Droid moment." You know, that point at which their offering is both good enough and iconic enough that even complete non-techies are aware that it exists. We'll probably have a much better sense of the competitive landscape within a year.
 

mi7chy

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Apple Watch will be a smash hit even if it sucks. So many other doctors have said "hey, is that the Apple watch" (gesturing at my 360).... I say no, it isn't..... they then inform me of their intent to purchase the Apple Watch the day it comes out. Seriously- that fucker will sell even if it sucks hard. It's Apple.

Hmmm... Maybe those doctors are to something like doing physicals on each other without the awkwardness of being in the same room.
 

Aurelius

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You need more than FUD and emotion to convince anyone. Where's the public opinion, data, links, etc.?

That's just the thing -- we don't know. There's a Changewave survey which claims there's a lot of hype, but that's locked behind an analyst paywall (and historically has a small survey sample). The only concrete things that suggest the Apple Watch could be a hit right now are Apple's strengths in marketing and distribution. As most researchers will tell you, it's okay to admit that you don't have enough good data to reach a conclusion.

For example, you knock a non-Apple brand for having too many superfluous features but haven't said anything about Tim Cook influenced feature of sending heart beats or to finger you through his Apple Watch and you feel it on yours. Who's even asking for that creepy thing per the public consensus?

Oh, that's totally a gimmick. I'm not denying that! But it's also far from a tentpole feature. Gimmicks mostly become problems when they're sold as important advancements and are either quickly forgotten or don't work well, like HTC's depth camera tricks or Samsung's Smart Scroll. I think that the Gear S, many Android Wear watches and the Pebble line are largely gimmick-free; it's just a question of execution.

http://www.zdnet.com/article/so-apples-watch-turned-out-to-be-a-thick-ugly-expensive-yawner/

Reading through the comments in the other two links (have you?) I wouldn't be surprised if Apple intentionally delayed the release until 2015 so they can go back to the drawing board to redesign based on public feedback which is a positive thing instead of traditionally forcing what they want on customers.

Comments (and I have read them), like blog polls, are not methodically collected data. You can never use them to make an argument for public consensus. And no, Apple didn't schedule the release that far in advance to redesign the thing. It expanded its Watch page in November and released the developer kit with hardware specs to work from, so what you see is basically what you're going to get. Remember, the iPhone didn't ship until nearly six months after it was announced; the wait is because the software isn't done yet, that's all.
 
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