Now that we’ve had a chance to see the Apple Watch from the outside, it’s time to take a closer look. What’s so great about it, and what features does it have to offer? What can you actually do with the watch? Here, is a look at everything you need to know.
What Is the Apple Watch?
I’m sure you already know by now, but just in case the Apple Watch is a smartwatch running a tweaked version of iOS 8. It will be fully compatible with Apple’s latest iPhone handsets running iOS 8 which are the new iPhone 6 (4.7-inches) and iPhone 6 Plus (5.5-inches).
Apple has said the watch will be released sometime in 2015, but we have no specific details at this time on the launch date. In addition, it will cost $349 – putting the price much higher on the scale when compared to most smartwatches that are currently available.
As with most Apple devices, you’ll be paying a premium price for a smoother and more streamlined user experience. That said, it makes sense to question what the device can actually do so let’s take a closer look.
What Does the Apple Watch Actually Do?
Since it’s a smartwatch it can do some of the more obvious stuff like receive messages, notifications and alerts from a connected handset.
More specifically, you can receive and respond to text messages, Facebook updates, email and more. This will be especially great since the new iOS devices are larger in size. To be perfectly honest, the option to stow your 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus in your jeans pocket or bag is going to be extremely convenient.
Of course, the Apple Watch is also going to come bundled with a handful of apps pre-installed and more will be available later. Some of the apps demoed during the official product unveil included iMessages, Health, Calendar, Weather, Mail, Photos, Passbook with Apple Pay and Apple Maps. Apple even showed off an app that allows you to control the camera’s shutter button remotely. There are also health and fitness tracking apps, as well. Those will work great with the Apple Watch’s integrated sensors such as the heart-rate monitor.
It wouldn’t be an Apple device without Siri support, so you can expect it to include some kind of voice controls whether they be natively supported or synchronized through a connected handset.
What Does the Apple Watch Look Like?
By now you’ve already seen the pictures so you have some idea of the general watch design. In hindsight, the final product doesn’t look too different from some of the concept renders we’ve seen in recent weeks.
The Apple Watch features a rectangular-shaped watchface and display, with a digital crown (knob) and a single physical button on the side. Admittedly, some may dislike the more square or boxy shaped face compared to a lot of the round designs releasing lately – like the Moto 360. The edges of the face are nice and round though giving it a similar look and feel to Apple’s iPhone branded handsets.
The display itself will be available in two separate sizes: 38mm (1.5in) and 42mm (1.65in) and is protected by sapphire glass. While the case is manufactured with a combination of custom alloys and stainless steel. Apple says the design is going to ensure that it can withstand daily wear and tear.
In addition, the watch will be available in three variants each with the two aforementioned size options. There’s the Apple Watch and Apple Watch Sport, along with an Apple Watch Edition that includes an 18-karat yellow or rose gold bezel. There are three color options, as well: stainless steel, silver aluminum and space black stainless steel. Of course, the 18-karat yellow and rose gold otpions will be exclusive to the special Apple Watch Edition.
How the Apple Watch is Unique: The Digital Crown
There is a circular knob on the side of the Apple Watch modeled after traditional crowns – which generally allow you to adjust the watch time by twisting on a standard watch. Apple has called this knob the “Digital Crown,” and it will be responsible for navigating the software and user interface. You can twist and turn the knob to move up and down, or left and right. It also replaces pinch-to-zoom functionality which Apple says would be much too impractical on such a small display – and they’re right it would be. For example, you can zoom into a particular app selection or a current location in Apple Maps. You can also do things with it like scroll through calendar and event dates, or alter stopwatch times.
In other words, the Digital Crown is going to be the go-to navigation button for the Apple Watch. It even acts as the home button when pressed. Unfortunately, Apple did not include a Touch ID sensor or fingerprint scanner of any kind for security. However, the watch will automatically lock when taken off the user’s wrist, and requires an anti-theft passcode to regain access.
Introducing the Apple Watch Conversation Button
A single physical button below the Digital Crown is known as the “Conversation Button,” and allows you to – you guessed it – start an instant conversation with one of your contacts. Pushing the button calls upon a contact info card for the person in question, while zooming into a contact with the Digital Crown activates the feature. You can also gently tap the button to get a contact’s attention – it sends a vibration or “taptic” feedback prompt to their smartwatch.
It’s a great way to get someone’s attention who’s nearby. For example, if you’re at a party and you want to get your significant other’s attention from across the room you can simply tap your device twice. No one else will be able to hear it, but your significant other has a way of knowing it’s from you instantly.
You can also take advantage of a neat little sketch function through messaging, or even share your heartbeat with someone in realtime. The latter option is a bit awkward, though it may be romantic if you know how to extract a proper swoon.
You Can Swap Out Apple Watch Bands
Most smartwatch manufacturers have been doing this for a while, so it’s nothing new. That said, it’s still great to see Apple supporting the trend. It brings an added layer of customization to the device allowing users to swap out for a custom band of their choosing. The 38mm proprietary bands include several options: a leather modern or classic buckle, a gym-friendly elastomer Sport Band, a Milanese Loop with stainless steel mesh, and the stainless steel Link bracelet.
You’ll have to purchase them from Apple from the getgo, but it’s likely some third party options will crop up eventually. Just take a look at how many damn iPhone case options there are floating around out there.
Yes, the Apple Watch Supports Custom Faces
One of the most interesting aspects of modern smartwatches is that you can swap out the watchface at any time. For instance, if you get tired of seeing the usual analog clock with a minute and hour hand, you can swap to something digital instead.
Apple has promised fully customizable watch faces with “millions of different appearances.” I’m going to assume a lot of those “different appearances” will come from some kind of SDK or watchface creation kit, but nothing has been officially confirmed yet.
At launch, the Apple Watch will include eleven base watchfaces, which each have options to change colors, design elements and functionality. Apple even showed off a watchface with a moving or animated background, along with a few others that used still images.
Apple Watch Battery Life
Apple’s CEO Tim Cook talked quite a bit about the Watch, but he didn’t reveal much on battery life. He did, however drop a hint or two which leads us to believe the Apple Watch will last for a single day, and will need to be charged every night. His statements are that it is designed to be “worn all day” and is “simple to charge at night.”
There’s no official word on the battery capacity, though it has been rumored previously – back when the device was known as the iWatch – that it includes a 400mAh battery. If that’s true it might be able to stretch for about two days under heavy use, depending of course on energy consumption from the software and apps.
The Apple Watch will use a completely unique charging method, however. That was to be expected with Apple though, it would be crazy to assume they’d go with the industry standard of QI wireless charging. The back of the device plays home to a magnetic inductive wireless charging module, that allows you to quickly snap-on one end of the charger.