Ahead of the Apple Watch’s launch, Apple invited a select number of developers to its secret Apple Watch lab in Sunnyvale, California campus, so they could test out their apps on actual Apple Watches.
The event was invite-only, but one of the developers who visited the lab told Business Insider what the experience was like.
“The event started at 9am, which is when Apple started letting people in one team at a time,” said the developer, who wished to remain anonymous. “When you walked in, the first thing you noticed was a big projection screen on the right, which had a presentation running on a loop.”
Developers were then shuffled through a security check-in of sorts.
“Directly to the left there were one or two people checking in names and putting security stickers over the cameras on our iPhone and laptops, so we couldn’t take any pictures,” the developer said. “There were probably about 25 to 30 developers there, and you you were allowed to bring one extra person so most people showed up with two people per team. They had a lot of desks lines up in long rows, and each desk was numbered.”
Some developers arrived a bit late, as some were flying in on short notice.
“Once everyone was there they gave out the watches,” the developer said. “They were in plastic Ziploc bags, so it wasn’t the polished Apple experience you’re used to seeing. Everyone got the Sport Watches, and everyone was given both models, the 38mm and the 42mm.”
Developers were assigned to a specific table, and were given an iPhone to pair with the watch, as developers weren’t allowed to use their own iPhones out of concern about security.
“There were three or four engineers floating around if you had question, as well as one security guard inside the room and one outside the room. There was one door into the main wing of the building, and one leading inside the lab — both doors required a security key card.”
Apple also went to extreme lengths to make sure developers couldn’t leave the room with any of the Apple Watches.
“If you got up to go to the bathroom or the cafeteria next door, you had to hold up your wrist to show you weren’t trying to steal one — which didn’t exactly make sense since anyone could have hidden one in their pocket.”
While some developers left after only a couple of hours, Apple allowed the teams to stay until about 4:30pm, which meant there was ample time to test out the first-party apps included on the watch.
“I was trying to get a feel for some of the first-party apps, but when you open the mail app and there’s no email in it, you don’t get a good sense for the what the email experience will be like — it was the same for a lot of the other first-party apps. But after using it for about two or so hours, the battery life was still about 80%, and that was under heavy use.”
Interestingly enough, Apple forgot to cover the front-facing camera on one of its loaner iPhones, which allowed the developer to try out Apple’s Camera Remote app, which allows you to take pictures and view what your iPhone’s camera sees, right from your Apple Watch.
“The lag on the camera wasn’t as bad as I suspected,” the developer said. “It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than expected.”
When it was time for the developers to leave at the end of the day, developers had to go through a checkout of sorts.
“They had to take off the security tape to make sure it was done, we couldn’t remove it ourselves, and if you logged into an iCloud account on the iPhone they gave us, they made sure you signed out.”
For developers, this closed-door event was the last time they would be able to test out their apps running on physical Apple Watches before launch day on April 24th.
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