Well, it’s finally happened. At today’s special media event at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts in Cupertino, Apple gave us our first look at its long-rumoured, and much-anticipated wearable device – the Apple Watch. Yes, that’s the official name, not iWatch, and Apple says it’s the company’s most personal device ever.
We expected Apple’s wearable to look like a fashion accessory, and it does. It has a flexible Retina display and comes in three different “collections” featuring different styles, and two case sizes: 38mm and 42mm. There’s a standard model Apple Watch, a more durable Apple Sport Watch, and a higher end Apple Watch Edition.
The standard Apple Watch comes with either a polished or space black stainless steel case and a choice of different straps. The Apple Sport Watch comes with either a space gray or silver anodized aluminum case and a Sport Band. Finally, the Apple Watch Edition is available with either an 18-karat rose or yellow gold case, and a choice of exclusive straps.
The straps come in a variety of colours and styles depending on which model Apple Watch you go for. They include the Sports band which is available in black, blue, green, pink and white. There’s a Leather Loop in bright blue, light brown and stone. For those that prefer metal straps, there’s a Milanese Loop in stainless steel, and a Link Bracelet in brushed stainless steel and polished space black.
One of the most interesting aspects of Apple’s new smartwatch, is how you actually operate it. Although it does feature a touchscreen, a large number of functions are carried out via a dial that Apple is calling the Digital Crown. Located on the side of the device, the Digital Crown allows you to scroll, zoom and navigate – without obstructing the display with your finger. In addition, it also works as both a home, and Siri button – which I’ll cover later.
Rather than try to shrink down the iPhone’s UI onto your wrist, Apple has created a brand new user interface for the smaller screen. The best way to describe it is to imagine a universe – with the clock being the central point. You can swipe around different areas or neighbourhoods to access different features and apps.
The watchface itself is fully customisable, and includes an especially cool looking Astronomy face featuring an interactive solar system that you can navigate around.
As expected, the Apple Watch works in conjunction with the iPhone, and only the iPhone – sorry Android and Windows Phone users. But it does at least work with older iPhone models, more specifically the iPhone 5 and upwards.
Like many of the smartwatches we have seen from other companies, the Apple Watch can be used to keep track of notifications for calls, messages, emails and more. However, many of these notifications are actionable from the device itself. One particularly nice example of this is in the Messages app. Not only can you select from potential replies generated by the watch, you can also send doodles or animated emojis.
Siri, Apple’s voice activated personal is also present on the watch, allowing you to ask questions such as what movies are playing, and of course, you can also use it for dictation.
Apple’s wearable was rumoured to have a strong health and fitness focus, and it turns out that was pretty accurate. It has an Activity app that measures calories burned, brisk activity and how often you stand during the day, and a Workout app that allows you to set goals for running, cycling and other types of workouts. These new apps use a combination of a built-in heart rate sensor, accelerometer, and your iPhone’s GPS and Wi-Fi.
In addition to the new health and fitness apps, the Apple Watch also includes Maps and Photos. The Maps app features a fully responsive map with walking and driving directions, and you can use Siri to do searches. The Photos app makes use of the Digital Crown to scroll through your photos, and you can use your finger to pan and tap.
Apple is also allowing third-party developers to create apps for the device via a new Software Development Kit called WatchKit. The company provided a brief glimpse of a number of impressive looking third-party apps from Twitter, American Airlines, Pinterest, BMW and more.
Finally, the Apple Watch is compatible with the company’s new NFC-based mobile payment service Apple Pay, which was also announced at today’s media event.
Price & Availability
Apple hasn’t provided detailed pricing for individual models yet, only that the range will start from $349 – which is presumably the standard version. That’s lower than the $400 figure that Apple executives were rumoured to be considering, but higher than many of the smartwatches we have seen from the likes of Samsung, LG, and Motorola. Now for the bad news. As reported, the Apple Watch won’t be available to purchase until early 2015.
With the Apple Watch, Apple looks to have set the standard for future smartwatches. It combines a design that will appeal to the fashion market, and an impressive number of functions and features that will appeal to tech consumers. The only thing we don’t know at this stage, is the battery life. Hopefully, that will be revealed as we get closer to the launch date.
We’d love to hear what you think about the Apple Watch, or any of the announcements made at today’s media event. You can leave a comment below, via your preferred social network, or over on the forums.