After much speculation about the supposed iWatch, Apple finally revealed their smartwatch along with their latest iPhone devices. Unlike the iPhone 6 though, many details about the watch were left out and there is plenty of speculation still about what the final product will be like. Android Wear devices from Samsung, LG and Motorola are all available now but consumers will have to wait until the early 2015 before they will be able to get their hands on an Apple Watch of their own. So what exactly did Apple tell us about their new smartwatch?
What They Did Right With the Apple Watch
Watches are about style. They are mostly a fashion accessory these days so having a variety of styles to choose from is pretty important. To this end, Apple offers three base versions (Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch Edition) in two different sizes each and a huge variety of watch bands that can easily be swapped out from the Apple Watch. Want to use the watch while exercising? use the elastomer band. Something casual? There is the mesh band or leather loop. Need a more formal design? Try the stainless steel clasp or classic leather with buckle design. Most of the smart watches to date come in only one basic design with a couple of bands to choose from if you are lucky.
With such a small display on the smartwatch face, having the ability to navigate the watch beyond just a touchscreen is a key feature. Apple’s Digital Crown keeps the styling of traditional watches but by adding additional functionality. Pressing the crown activates the home screen on the device. Rotate the dial to navigate through the applications on the watch or to move through an application’s interface without touching the display. Of course the display is still a touchscreen that can be used but it is nice to be able to see the face more while adjusting things.
Allowing the watch to work with Apple Pay. The ability to pay for things with the the iPhone was introduced with the iPhone 6/6+ and its new near field communications (NFC) and services that are tied in with a large number of retailers and the three major credit card companies. That same ability to just swipe to pay is also built into the Apple Watch so you don’t even have to pull out your phone. Just simply wave your watch over the pay terminal and you are done. In addition to this, the NFC and Bluetooth capabilities are also being integrated into Starwood hotels new electronic locks so the watch can even double as your room key.
The inclusion of the Taptic Engine as Apple calls it in the watch also opens up a lot of possibilities. Users of smartwatches need to have a way to be alerted of events without an audio or visual queue. Having the motion feedback let you know that there is an incoming call reduces the distractions to both the wearer and those around them. Just consider being at a movie or theater. That small pulse can be useful without being distracting. The addition of the motion to provide directions as you are on the move is also useful as it doesn’t require that you look at the watch or phone taking your attention away from your environment.
What Apple Needs To Keep Working On
As great as the design of the Apple Watch is, the device is still just an accessory and not a stand alone one. This means that to really experience the Apple Watch, you need to have an iPhone and specifically an iPhone 5 or 6. If you happen to have an older iPhone 4S or lower you are completely out of luck unless you get a new phone. This is going to hinder adoption of the new smartwatch platform when you also consider that prices for the Apple Watch start a $349. There are no subsidies on this so the watch could end up costing you more than triple the phone, if you were to buy an iPhone 5S on contract for just $99.
Another problem is that many of the features of the Apple Watch are already built into the iPhone 6. Fitness tracking has been greatly improved with the new M8 motion coprocessor that can distinguish the type of activities along with the barometric sensor that can sense elevation changes from climbing stairs. Add to this the Health Kit integration and the iPhone has some incredible fitness tracking capabilities. Apple Pay is also built into the iPhone 6 so in both of these functions you don’t need the Apple Watch to take advantage of them.
Finally, there is not any really standout application feature that was shown off at the Apple event that really made the Apple Watch stand out from what the Android Wear platform is already doing. Sure, they may have shown more ways to display the watch face with data and all but there are plenty of options from Android Wear as well. Instead, it is more gimmicky things like the ability to send your heartbeat detected from your Apple Watch to another person you know that has an Apple Watch. That feature has some novelty but it is not a revolution in terms of how we communicate.
What We Fully Don’t Know
Pricing for the Apple Watch was left with a simple statement of “starting at $349”. Most likely this will be the base price for the standard Apple Watch. Obviously the Watch Edition will cost a lot more because it contains 18K gold construction but how much more we don’t know. In fact, what is included with the watch is not even mentioned. Like does it come with a band or just a specific type? How much will the individual bands cost? Likely it will be quite high as a simple silicon cost for the iPhone 6 is priced at $35.
Nowhere in the talk about the features of the Apple Watch during the presentation was there mention of the battery life. They did mention that it has a magnetic induction based charger that snaps onto the back of the watch but that was about it. Will the charge last an entire day? How long does it take to charge up the watch? These are things will still have to wait for the launch to answer.
Another big question is if some of the features will only work if it is paired with an iPhone 6. They mentioned that the watch will work with a iPhone 5 but with the advanced features like Apple Pay and the expanded fitness tracking still work or will these not fully function because the iPhone 5 lacks them?