This article was originally published on September 9th 2014
A “new chapter in Apple’s story” are the words Tim Cook used to introduce his firm’s new wearable; the Apple Watch.
Its position as the first smartwatch from the company makes it an historic device, but what does the Apple Watch offer and did it overshadow the iPhone 6?
Simply put, the answer to the latter is no. However, it’s more complicated than that. The Apple Watch works alongside the iPhone (models 5 and upwards). Meaning that Apple chose not to go down the standalone route that Samsung chose with the Gear S.
In terms of design, the Apple Watch shuns a round watch-face in favor of a rectangular display. It comes in two sizes and boasts three variations; the Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch Edition (aluminium, stainless steel and 18-carat gold)
Its unique physical feature is its ‘digital crown’, that’s the rotary wheel on the edge to you and me. Turning this allows users to zoom in and out of the display and scroll through web pages or messages.
Among its features are fitness and heart-rate tracking sensors, as well as apps such as maps, email, music, photos, calendar, Siri and dictation and messaging. The Apple Watch can also store music and allows users to control the music on their iPhone or Mac via the wearable.
Four sensors, or contact points, on the back of the device allow for intelligent functions. These include the screen turning on when it senses the user’s wrist and the ability to use vibration to guide you whilst in the Maps app.
Additionally, inside the watch is an Apple designed S1 processor. Once the watch is rolled out, we will be able to compare it to Android Wear devices to see if Apple’s chip makes much of a difference in regard to speed.
Apple itself showed a demo of the Watch, mainly to illustrate its notifications and interactive wallpapers.
If a notification comes in the watch vibrates using the built-in haptic sensor. The screen displays the notification once the user lifts their wrist. Apple also revealed the device’s ability to read messages and provide relevant replies and actions.
More interesting, however, are the customisable replies and drawings you can send friends. These include emojis that can be enlarged and drawings of your heartbeat, as monitored by the heart-rate sensor.
Apple’s digital voice assistant is also on-board and wearers can ask Siri all the usual questions.
Fitness is currently a major theme for Apple and its Watch is by no means a bystander. You can take it to the track to monitor short sessions via the new built-in Workout app or use it to constantly monitor fitness via the aptly titled Fitness app.
The Apple Watch will be released with six customisable leather straps as well as an array of sports band for fitness-centric use. All of these can be fastened using the magnets placed on the Watch. There is also a classic buckle or stainless steel link bracelet option.
These design elements in conjunction with the smaller sized variation, make the Apple Watch more of a general crowd pleaser than what we’ve seen from its rivals. It looks as though Apple is also targeting women with the wearable – a neglected demographic in the world of smartwatches.
The Apple Watch will hit shelves early next year and will be priced at $349 in the US. Prices for other territories have not yet been revealed.
The Apple Watch now has an official release date – April 24th.
This date will apply to the USA, UK (woo-hoo!), China, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and Hong Kong. What’s more, we also know that from April 10th you’ll be able to stroll into an Apple Store and try one on. This is also the date that pre-orders open.
Pricing is where things get a little more complex. Apple has said that there are more than 20 different models in its Watch range. Technically speaking this is true as there are a ton of possible combinations between faces and straps, but really the Apple Watch comes down to three distinct models.
The Apple Watch Sport is the cheapest edition, starting at £299/$349. That’s for the 1.5-inch model with a basic colourful plastic/rubber strap. You can tap on another $50 if you want to make it a 1.7-inch display.
The Apple Watch is the model that Apple will certainly be hoping to be the best seller of the range. It starts at £479/$549 and comes in a stainless or black stainless steel case, versus the aluminium case of the Apple Watch Sport. The glass is sapphire crystal rather than strengthened Ion-X, too.
Finally we have the Apple Watch Edition, which we frankly don’t see making much of a splash in the consumer market, but will doubtless be a status symbol for the rich and famous upon its release. Encased in 18-karat yellow or rose gold it also has an exclusive (and expensive) array of bands and closures to choose from.
Naturally, the Apple Watch Edition pricing will start at £8,000/$10,000. Yes, that’s absolutely enough to buy you a rather tasty Omega or Breitling, but can a Seamaster read you your text messages? We’ll let you decide if it’s worth the outlay.
Apple also announced that its Watch should deliver you 18 hours of battery life on ‘a standard day’. That’s a little lower than you’d find on most top-end Android Wear watches, and even those got a fair bit of stick for their battery. It’s probably a figure that won’t impress many then.
Fortunately Apple has included a Power Reserve mode which will still allow you to see the time on the device for a further 72-hours, so at least it can perform its primary function for as long as you’ll most likely need it to.
A bundle of 40 new apps for the Apple Watch have also been shown off. Big names like Instagram, Uber, Twitter, WeChat, Citymapper, eBay, Evernote, Shazam and ESPN are all present. Whilst we can instantly envisage how exciting and useful some will be, such as Citymapper, we’re a little more curious as to how something like eBay will work.
The other big reveal regarding the Apple Watch was a new app only possible thanks to its wearable nature. ResearchKit is an expansion on Apple’s HealthKit idea, only this time it’s a little more altruistic.
ResearchKit aims to advance medical research by turning the user into a willing clinical trialist. Various apps within it can be used to target and diagnose specific diseases, allowing the Apple Watch and iPhone 6 to work together to create diagnostics to send to Apple’s relevant medical partners, such as Oxford University and Mount Sinai Hospital.