Pre-Ordering the Apple Watch

In the categories of “no one cares” and “first world problems”, I thought I’d share my experience today–which began in the wee small hours of the morning–of ordering the Apple Watch.

Everyone knows I’m a huge Apple fan.  On my confidence and enjoyment of their products, I have pre-ordered the watch even before I ever saw it or touched it in person.  Pre-orders started today at 2 am CDT.  I guess I was excited, because I planned to do it as soon as my alarm went off, but I actually woke up shortly after 2 am and so I thought “might as well”.  The process was simple enough using the Apple Store app.  Experience has gone to show that trying to use the website is terrible because everyone is hitting it and it drags.  But the app was very smooth.  Unfortunately, those few minutes after officially going on sale was enough to delay the shipping time from release day on April 24 to May 13.  I was much grieved by this and after debating whether I should settle for another model, opted not to and placed my order.

I do have a couple hesitations with the Apple Watch.  One, I’ve never worn a watch.  I don’t know how I’ll feel about it.  Heck I’ve never even worn a ring until recently when I got an OBU class ring, and quite frankly sometimes I’m like “get this thing off my finger with all haste” because there are times when I can just constantly feel it.  (Like right now as I’m thinking about it.)

The one I ordered but not the one I got to try on. 38 mm space grey sports model.
The one I ordered but not the one I got to try on. 38-mm space gray sports model.

Two, it IS a version 1 product.  I am very aware of technology’s upgrade cycle.  (Like v2 I could easily see having a FaceTime camera.) So the model I really wanted was the steel with modern buckle at a whopping $749.  But at that price, I would have to keep this model for at least 4-5 years and I just don’t see that happening.  So the $349 entry level sports model with rubber–er fluoroelastomer–band it is for now.  And it will arrive two weeks later than release day.

(I’m also very aware of Apple’s desire for a headline and the conspiracy theorist in me questions if this was an intentional short supply so they could say “look, we sold out in minutes”.  But hey, maybe it IS way more popular than all the tech sites were predicting.)

Fortunately, I WAS able to get a try-on appointment for today and took my lunch hour to go do so.  But that’s where all the fortune ends, because my experience was not great.  Yes, I know it is day 1, but as much as I’ve read about Apple’s training and expectations, not to mention the kind of experience I expect for these premium products, I expected better.  It was completely disorganized and chaotic.  Let me walk you through it.

All the pretty watches! Sports, regular (what do you call this?), and Edition.
All the pretty watches! Sports, regular (what do you call this?), and Edition.

I walk into the store and to a group of chatting employees.  I let them know, “I am here for my watch try-on appointment”.  Worker A takes me to Worker B back near the door.  Worker B says I need to see Worker C.  Worker C checks me in, asks Worker A if she can do the try-on, she replies that she cannot, and then I’m told someone will be with me shortly.  My concierge arrives a couple minutes later as I glance at the display table.  We go over to the try-on table.  Now, this table has six stations each with a display model and iPad for looking at info, and a foam mat.  Under each station is a hidden drawer that can only be opened by the worker placing his iPhone/store contraption against a particular and well hidden spot to unlock it.  All of the employees were fiddling with it, not quite being able to get it right, but eventually the drawer would come open.  Inside were various models.  They were told they could take no more than two out at a time.

Looks and fits very nicely on my wrist. 38 mm was a great choice. Glad I didn't get white!
Looks and fits very nicely on my wrist. 38 mm was a great choice. Glad I didn’t get white!

I told my guy I had pre-ordered the 38 mm black sport model.  He started looking for it but it wasn’t in that drawer.  So he went to others.  Didn’t find it in any of them.  He found a 42 mm version.  So for the look of it, I tried it on.  For a split second I thought I should have ordered the bigger one but I think in the long run I’ll be happier with the smaller.  The bigger one was just too bulky looking.  The black color looked good but I needed to feel the size model I ordered so I just tried on a random 38 mm sports model.

The fluoroelas—oh forget it, the rubber band is way more difficult to get on than it should be.  I found myself pressing my arm against my chest or the table and contorting my arms to try to get the peg into the hole.  Once that’s accomplished, the excess band goes neatly into a little slot.  It feels comfortable but was a pain to get on every time I tried.  I even had my guy do it once and he took several tries at it.

The display model that could be played with.
The display model that could be played with.

Each try-on watch had a demo running, so they weren’t able to be manipulated.  (The one on the table display was.)  But wouldn’t you know.  I double tap the side button to access the demo and right after I feel the taptic feedback of an incoming message, the thing crashes.  At least I got to experience the tap!  It was just flat out dead.  The guy had no idea what to do.  My intuition told me to hold down the crown and side button together to reboot it.  That worked, but when it did, it came back up to a WiFi screen that we couldn’t get off.  So I gave up.  Sigh.

I had a couple other bands I wanted to try, including the Milanese loop and a modern buckle.  The loop was not at all what I thought it would be.  Very thin and not very sturdy feeling, nor as good looking on my arm as I wanted.  I eliminated it as a choice very quickly.  Then the search began for a modern buckle.  ANY modern buckle.  Back around the drawers he went.  (And keep in mind they are fumbling with the unlock mechanism every time.)  Finally a pink one was found.  I really liked this strap (sans pink); it snaps right into place magnetically and felt secure.  But at $249, I have to pause before considering it.  I mean, who’s to say that two models from now (because I feel certain not the next one) Apple starts tweaking the body of the watch such that none of these straps work any more?  Now I have a $249 useless band.  No thanks.

Trying watches on. I guess the two-watch limit was more of a guideline than a rule.
Trying watches on. I guess the two-watch limit was more of a guideline than a rule.
The difficult to open, apparently secret drawer of try-on watches. In no particular order.
The difficult to open, apparently secret drawer of try-on watches. In no particular order.

Even though I was past my limit of two–which apparently not only applied to how many could come out at a time but how many I could try on total–I tried a classic buckle and knew pretty quickly that if I were to buy another band, that would be it.  The leather was a little stiff but I think long-term it is the better choice over the rubber.  So we’ll see.

As all this was going on, I’m constantly being told “excuse me” as other workers step in hunting in drawers and allowing walk-ins to do try-ons.  It was my understanding from tech sites that try-ons were appointment only, but there was a significant crowd around the table.  I feel like I stood away from the table more than I stood by it.  And I started getting conscientious about trying too many because every time I took one off, the employee had obviously been instructed to wipe the watch down and immediately place it back in the drawer.  I could also hear whispers between employees akin to “we aren’t supposed to do [this or that]”.  When I had questions and the employee didn’t know, he’d go to the iPad on the display to search, but, on par with how this was all going, it was frozen.  I snapped some photos, including the one of the drawer open, and the store manager happened to be there and passively aggressively said “I guess we shouldn’t be allowing people to see this”, then immediately closed it.

In the end, I never actually tried on the exact model I pre-ordered.  I chatted up another employee and we discussed the possibilities and excitement of the new product.  I told her I was most eager to get to use Apple Pay, since I’m not eligible for a phone upgrade for 8 more months.  And I’m really still not sure how this will fit into my life.  But figuring that out, as well as working through the kind of day 1 issues I was (and probably will be) experiencing is part of the gig of being an early adopter.  So I’m not complaining per se, but I do wish it had all gone different.  I wish my watch was getting here on release day–and maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised with an email that says it is shipping sooner–and I wish I had felt like I’d been treated better in the store.  But my enthusiasm for trying the Apple Watch out has no less waned.

The Apple Watch Edition. $10,000-17,000. As close as I'll ever get.
The Apple Watch Edition. $10,000-17,000. As close as I’ll ever get.
Pre-Ordering the Apple Watch

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