Wearable Tech World Feature Article
April 30, 2015

Apple Watch: Display Shattering Belies Claims of 'Durability'

Reviewers have at times called the first generation of the Apple Watch “aspirational” and “rough around the edges.” Overall, the assessments have been falling in the nice-to-have bucket. But a real-life demonstration of the gadget’s ability to handle wear and tear could give some would-be purchasers pause.

TechRax took the 42mm blue Apple Watch Sport and decided to see how the display held up when dropped on concrete. A demonstrator first dropped it randomly from his wrist—as-one would if having an accident putting it on—from about four feet up. As seen in this video, the watch kind of clatters to the ground, not hitting its face, and bounces off of the wristbands. No damage is registered.

But then, the researcher drops it face-down, and the results are dramatic—the face glass is completely shattered—not just a crack, or a few fractures, but completely shattered.

“Are you serious, Apple?” the person in the video said. “That was not even that bad—that was about 3 and a half feet.”

He then picks up the watch and tosses it away from him—when it hits the pavement, the entire face of it pops out. “They call this durability?” he said incredulously.

The Apple Watch was greeted with fanfare and no little patting-itself-on-the-back-ness on the part of Apple, but clearly there are some caveats to consider when plunking down $550 to $1,100 for the wrist candy.

The Sport version, to be fair, doesn’t have the same “ultra-hard” Sapphire screen that the higher-end versions of the watch do—though Apple makes that far from obvious in its advertising or online tours. It is instead, Apple said, “strengthened by Ion glass.”

Apple explains: “It’s fortified at the molecular level through ion exchange, with smaller ions being replaced by larger ones to create a surface layer far tougher than ordinary glass.”

A consumer could be forgiven for assuming that the face of an expensive, cutting-edge tech toy would come reinforced from damage from average droppage—especially when it comes with the impressive-sounding Ion technology.

There are other issues with the Watch that have popped up too. For instance, tattooed tech lovers—conceivably a sizable chunk of the Apple fan base—may be out of luck when it comes to the built-in heart rate sensor. 

As Apple explains, “Apple Watch uses green LED lights paired with light-sensitive photodiodes to detect the amount of blood flowing through your wrist at any given moment. When your heart beats, the blood flow in your wrist — and the green light absorption — is greater. Between beats, it’s less. By flashing its LED lights hundreds of times per second, Apple Watch can calculate the number of times the heart beats each minute — your heart rate.”

According to iMore though, the device isn’t accurately reading the heartbeats of those with wrist ink, because it obscures the LED lights used to determine blood flow increases.


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