Everything You Need to Know About the Apple Watch
The wearable space just got bigger. Way bigger. Apple debuted its long-awaited wearable Tuesday, simply called Apple Watch.
There are actually three products: Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport, and Apple Watch Edition. The differences between them are only apparent in the different materials (including aluminum, 18K gold, and pink gold) and wrist strap choices, which vary between feminine, masculine and youthful.
The Apple Watch starts at $350, and it will be available “early next year,” according to the company. Pricing for Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch Edition were not announced at today’s event. The watch will require an iPhone to operate, but it works with the iPhone 5 or later and isn’t limited to just the new iPhone 6 devices.
The interfaces of all three phones are alike, and there are a number of standout features.
Instead of interfacing with the watch by touching the screen, which just gets your fingers in the way and blocks your view, you can navigate through the menus and apps by touching the crown. Twist it to zoom in and out of screens and menus. Press it and you go back to the home screen (just like on the iPhone).
There’s an additional button just beneath the crown. Tapping it brings up something Apple calls “Digital Touch” communication. It’s based around a list of friends you’ve communicated with recently. You can send small pictures and sketches to your friends with just a few taps.
The screen itself works much like a Retina display on iPhones and iPads, but it can also sense force. So the familiar two-dimensional touch input system gains a third, vertical dimension.
On the back, there’s a crystal with LEDs that can measure your heart rate—this adds health-tracking capability to the watch. Also on the back is a wireless, inductive charging mechanism. The charger attaches to the back of the watch via a magnet. There’s also vibrating mechanism on the back so you can get notifications and haptic feedback for each of your finger taps.
Raising your wrist awakens the display. When it pops to life, you see a simplified list of apps made just for the watch. There are also several watch faces to choose from. You get sporty, chrono-style faces, retro digital readouts, and even a whimsical Mickey Mouse face. You can customize the color of the face by rotating the crown, or swipe to change the contents of the face so it shows the date and other fields of information on its screen.
There are some health-tracking features to help you make your fitness goals for steps, calories burned, and so on. The watch also works with Apple Pay, the company’s new mobile payments system.
“We’ve been working on Apple watch for a long time,” Cook says. “It covered every discipline at Apple.”
Kevin Lynch, a new face on Apple’s media event stage who led the software effort, stepped onstage in Cupertino to give us the first live demo of the watch.
Apple wanted to build the watch so functions were easy to find and use. The menu screens are bubbles of circular app icons you can arrange how you like. You can arrange “neighborhoods” of apps. To open an app, you tap it.
Apple also thought it was important to relay other information in a glanceable way. It does this using a new interaction it calls Glances, a swipe up from the bottom of the watch face. You can arrange these how you like, swapping through the water, the music you’re playing on other devices, et cetera. You can also send some sort of silly 3-D animated smiley face, allowing you to share a lot of emotion without doing a whole lot.
Siri is also built into the watch, so you can do things like ask what movies are playing tonight. You can use the crown or your finger to scroll through the list. There’s also a photo app. You can see an overview of photos, displayed in a grid-like Photostream, and you can use the crown to zoom into them, or swipe to scroll through them. You can pull up any collection of photos here.
In a map, you can pan around by swiping, you can also zoom out by rotating the crown. When you press the bottom left, it takes you back to where you are. There’s also a search command, you can search by diction or look through your favorites. Search a location like Whole Foods, you can get store information as well as directions for walking or driving.
A big key to whether the watch succeeds or fails is the buy-in of third-party developers. Using the new development software pack called WatchKit, developers can create rich, actionable notifications for the device. Apple has been busy with partnerships and client applications for the launch, as well. The watch can alert you to friend requests on Facebook. Twitter’s there too. For an incoming tweet, you can reply straight from the message. You can view things on your timeline, look at trending tweets, or tap the top to compose a tweet. For when you’re traveling, American Airlines has an app. You can even unlock hotel room doors at some hotels using the watch. You can also get notified when you’re walking near sight seeing spots you’ve pinned on Pinterest and get walking directions to them. The watch works with BMW cars, you can challenge friends to runs on the Nike app, and you can control things in your home using the Honeywell app.