Apple Watch reviews read like iPhone reviews from 2007

The first iPhone was puzzled reviewers when it first came out too. But the Apple Watch has a bigger problem

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 9: Apple CEO Steve Jobs holds up the new iPhone that was introduced at Macworld on January 9, 2007 in San Francisco, California. The new iPhone will combine a mobile phone, a widescreen iPod with touch controls and a internet communications device with the ability to use email, web browsing, maps and searching. The iPhone will start shipping in the US in June 2007. (Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiling the iPhone during his 2007 Macworld keynote. (David Paul Morris/Getty)

The Apple Watch reviews are in and they’re… not exactly glowing.

Generally speaking, reviewers aren’t saying anything unexpected. The new gizmo—officially available April 24—is technologically impressive, but there also isn’t a good reason for the average person to own it, let alone any smartwatch.

A smattering of the opinions:

  • “Of the half-dozen smartwatches I’ve tested in recent years, I’ve had the best experience with Apple Watch,” writes Re/Code’s Lauren Goode. “But that doesn’t mean Apple Watch is for everyone.”
  • “For all of its technological marvel, the Apple Watch is still a smartwatch, and it’s not clear that anyone’s yet figured out what smartwatches are actually for,” writes The Verge’s Nilay Patel.
  • “You don’t need one. Nobody needs a smartwatch,” writes Yahoo Tech’s David Pogue.

Many reviewers seem to be at pains to say really nice things about the watch, a big change from the normally effusive adjectives typically found in Apple reviews.

It’s hard to believe after Apple’s unprecedented run of hits, but this isn’t the first time one of its products has received lukewarm reviews. Indeed, the opinions on the Apple Watch seem to echo those of the very first iPhone.

Here’s a smattering of those thoughts from 2007:

  • “Despite some important missing features, a slow data network, and call quality that doesn’t always deliver, the Apple iPhone sets a new benchmark for an integrated cell phone and MP3 player,” wrote CNET.
  • “Here’s the verdict I’d give any good friend: Wait to buy the iPhone,” wrote Gizmodo.
  • “There are a lot of things to love about the iPhone and a lot of things to hate,” wrote Ars Technica.

The situations surrounding the two product launches are arguably similar.

When Apple came to the market with the original iPhone, there were already a handful of companies making “smartphones,” although they weren’t really called that yet.

BlackBerry, Palm and Microsoft via Motorola and a few other manufacturers had devices that were capable of data communications, but none of them really did it right, which opened the door for Apple. As reviews on that first effort show, the company didn’t initially nail it – but there were hints of the greatness to come.

The iPhone as a phenomenon really coalesced a year later in 2008 with the 3GS, when the company added 3G wireless speeds and the app store. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Apple Watch is in a somewhat similar situation. It’s not the first smartwatch to market by any stretch, but like the iPhone, Apple’s effort looks superior to all those that have come before. As several reviewers suggest, the company could fix outstanding issues with another iteration or two, in which case it could have another bona fide smash hit.

It’s fine logic, but there’s one big difference between the iPhone and the Apple Watch. As virtually every reviewer has noted, there’s no clear case for why anyone should need a smartwatch. It is, however, very difficult to get by in modern society without a cellphone.

It’s a case of luxury versus necessity. And a luxury market just isn’t a big one by its very definition.