The iPhone 6 event in September ended with a very vintage Apple-like one more thing bombshell: The Apple Watch. While some had been saying a watch had been coming for some time, others like yours truly didn’t buy into the rumors and were shocked at its existence. The Apple Watch announcement also did something uncharacteristic for the company of late, introducing a long line item. Most of Apple’s products have been available either on announcement day or just a few weeks after. Next Monday, we’re going to, hopefully, get some answers to the Apple Watch’s remaining questions. Let’s take a look at what we actually know about the Apple Watch.
What We Know
Will it require an iPhone?
Yes, an iPhone 5 or newer. They did specifically say iPhone, so at this time it doesn’t extend to the iPad.
How many versions of the Apple Watch will there be?
The Apple watch will come in two distinct sizes: 42mm and 38mm. This is because all human wrists do not come in a single size. It’ll come in three editions: The Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport, and Apple Watch Edition. The Apple Watch will have a sapphire glass screen and stainless steel cases. It’ll come in two finishes: polished steel and space black. For the more active user is the Apple watch sport. It features a lighter anodized aluminum case in silver and space gray. The last of the three is the Apple Watch Edition. It is made from a strengthened variant of 18 karat gold. It comes in two colors: yellow and rose gold. With 18k gold prices over $900 per ounce, it’s safe to assume that the Edition is not meant for your average geek. It’s more for the geek who happens to own a Mercedes or two.
How will it work?
Like most smart watches, the Apple Watch is built around a small touch screen. However, with that small a screen your fingers actually interfere with your ability to see anything. That is why Apple is employing some physical buttons as well. Think of it as sort of a hybrid solution between Android Wear and the Pebble. One of these is the Digital Crown. It takes a very traditional watch design feature in the crown and turns it into a precise slider button. Pressing the crown also acts as a home button. There is also a side button that will both let you access contacts and give you in-app functionality.
The Apple Watch’s touchscreen has pressure sensitivity so it can differentiate between a quick tap and a press. This will allow you different options in-app despite the lack of screen real estate. The Apple Watch will be able to use voice dictation, emoji, drawings, or even your heart beat for app input. Apple Digital Assistant Siri will be heavily involved as well. What the Apple Watch will not have is an on screen keyboard. If you want to reply to a text message, you must do it via voice dictation.
The Apple Watch also has a speaker and mic, and be used “Dick Tracy”-style to answer phone calls. It can also give the wearer wrist taps for notifications or feedback. The Apple Watch has NFC support allowing use of Apple Pay, and bringing that service to iPhone 5/5C/5S users for the first time.
Will it use Lightning or Micro-USB for charging?
Neither actually. The Apple Watch has a proprietary magnetic charging disk that attaches to the underside of the watch.
What kind of apps will it have?
Apple Watch apps will have three kinds of functionality: Glances, which are quick information modes, notifications, which are fully actionable, and fully-featured watch apps using Apple’s WatchKit SDK. Apps Apple has created itself include a mini version of Apple Maps, Calendar, Passbook, a music controller for your iPhone, Apple TV remote, iPhone camera shutter, stop watch, timer, alarm, weather, photos, and more. Third party apps have been announced such as American Airlines, Facebook, Twitter, SPG Hotels, Feed Wrangler, and various timer and fitness apps. Expect that to grow.
What kind of customizability will it have?
The Apple Watch will give a number of digital watch faces that offer user preference options. You can have traditional watches replicas, digital watches, graphic watch faces, and even an animated Mickey Mouse face. Owners will be able to accessorize your Apple Watch with a number of bands including steel link bands, Milanese loops, sport bands, buckle bands, leather magnetic loops, and classic buckle options.
The Apple Watch ditched fitness, right?
That is completely false. There were some rumors of the Apple Watch having advanced health features such as a glucose meter or EKG functionality, but they were never announced features. Health and the integrated 4-lens heart rate sensor are considered a core function by Apple. It uses the accelerometer to track your movements and somehow gets your iPhone’s Wi-Fi to be a calorie counter. The activity app will track your percentage of movement, exercise, and standing time and the Apple Watch will also help you set goals for your health.
Can the Apple Watch only be worn on the left wrist?
Nope. The Apple Watch has a setting for southpaws. However, there isn’t a dedicated left-handed version so the crown and side button will be upside down.
What We Don’t Know
How do we get apps?
Likely from the App Store, but Apple has not announced the exact method yet.
When does it ship?
Apple revealed a target ship date of April during a recent interview with CEO Tim Cook, but we won’t know until Monday.
What does it cost?
The starting point announced in September was $349, assumed to be the Sport with its less expensive case, band and screen materials. We do not know if there will be a difference between the 42 and 38mm variants. We’re fairly certain the Apple Watch Edition will cost significantly more given that it uses actual gold instead of gold colored aluminum. How much more? 18k gold plated watches can cost just under $1000. If the case is solid 18k, the watch can cost several thousand dollars. That might be incredibly expensive to us, but we’re not the Edition’s target audience.
The same goes for optional band costs.
What are the exact specs?
Not known. Battery life was given very vaguely and while they gave the CPU as the S1, we’re not sure exact what kind of specifications the chip has. Tim Cook has said that owners will “wind up charging it daily”.
Is it waterproof/water-resistant?
Maybe. There have been reports of people who have said that it has been worn in the shower, but Apple hasn’t said one way or another.
What else could we see Monday?
Chances are Apple wouldn’t have a full event just to rehash the Apple Watch reveal. They could have done that in a press release. Chances are we will see other products.
The majority of Apple’s Mac line is getting a little long in the tooth. The iMac and MacBook Pro haven’t seen a major upgrade since 2013 (they have added new models). However, unless Apple has early access to the quad core mobile and desktop versions of Broadwell, they will most likely not show up in this event. An update to the Apple’s best selling computer, the MacBook Air, is possible as dual-core low voltage 5th generation CPUs are widely available. IF announced, the new Airs could be the rumored 12″ Retina model or a refresh to the current 11″ and 13″ models. It could also be both, like they did with the MacBook Pro.
There has been absolutely nothing in the rumor mill about an Apple TV, so this is more a wishlist item. It’s been a full 3 years since the 3rd generation Apple TV was announced. Since then, technology has grown leaps and bounds. Siri now mostly works, mobile chip technology tech is far beyond the single core A5 in the Rev 3 Apple TV, and even cheap Best Buy TVs have CEC control through HDMI. Plus, we’re now seeing affordable 4K UHD TVs. Apple is facing increased competition from Amazon’s Fire TV line and some really amazing set top devices running Android TV have hit the market. The timing is right for something new.
I would be very surprised if a 12″ iPad showed up on Monday.
See you Monday
Join us Monday at 1pm Eastern/10 AM Pacific for the Apple Spring Forward event. If you can’t make, we’ll keep you up to date with posts about the event here on Geek Beat.