It’s finally here. The shadow of an iWatch has already spawned an army of smartwatches but now Apple’s first wearable is here in the flesh. It’s beautiful, and you control it by using that little watch knob.
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Considering that Apple’s been making a lot of fashion-world hires, it’s no surprise that the iWatch looks great. No circle screen here, but we still have a beaut on our hands. It comes in the form of a rounded little rectangle doodad complete with a wide range of replaceable straps. How nice it looks is a direct function of those straps as well. Paired with a nice leather or some of the metal options it looks pretty damn nice. Paired with some of the plastic options and the tackier metal varieties, it goes a little downhill.
These straps are, according to Jony Ive, are often “supple” and run the gamut from leather to metal to more sporty options. There are six bands to start, and offer different types of sizing from tradition spoke-in-hole types, to things that are a bit more variable.
And if you’re worried about the watch being too big, you’re in luck. Not only are there smaller strap options for the Apple Watch, there’s also a smaller version for ladies (and men with lady wrists).
There’s also a Sport version (with a 60 per cent stronger alloy case and less stylish plastic bands), and the Apple Watch Edition that comes in gold.
And that screen? Yeah, it’s sapphire and (nigh) unscratchable.
Specs and Interface
But maybe the cleverest part of the Apple Watch’s design is how you control it. Instead of relying on multitouch gestures designed for bigger screens, the Apple Watch leans on the use of the “digital crown”, aka “the spinny knob” aka that thing you typically use to adjust the time. Clicking it goes to the homescreen and twisting it zooms. Think clickwheel 2.0. And the Apple Watch’s interface is designed to fit it specifically.
That’s not to say there isn’t still swiping. Swiping up from the bottom of the screen gives you something called a “Glance”, a look at some information that’s handy to have easy access to. Kinda like Google Now.
And so you never have to type on your Apple Watch (you should never ever do), the Apple Watch comes with a menu of common responses you can pick to reply to a text message, or of course you can dictate through Siri; Siri is always just a digital crown-press away.
Or of course if none of that works for you, you can also reply with Apple’s inexplicable and creepy Apple Watch-specific emoji because, uh, well I don’t know why you would do that.
The Apple Watch includes a slew of sensors including a heart rate monitor and an accelerometer. It’s also got NFC so you can use it to pay for things. There’s no word on battery life yet, but Tim Cook says you can wear the watch “all day” so here’s to hoping. He also mentioned charging it using a handy wireless induction charing magnet “every night”.
The Apple Watch screen not only takes touch input, but also pressure input, the idea that you can use light taps and presses to differentiate between different types of input. The Apple Watch also has haptic feedback so it can dish out force-feedback instead of just taking it. How that’ll come in handy largely depends on devs, but so far Apple is showcasing it via an Apple Maps feature that will let the Apple Watch vibrate to let you know where to go.
The Apple Watch also uses this pressure input to support something called “Digital Touch” where you can share these sort of taps with other Apple Watches (and the people wearing them) so instead of texting you can just send someone a tap. Take that, Yo.
The Apple Watch only works with iPhone (duh) but it’s not just for the new ones; the Apple Watch is compatible with everything iPhone 5 and up. And since the Apple Watch also has NFC, that’s a great way for you to get the full glory of Apple Pay on older phones that don’t have those chips.
Apps and Notifications
Like Android Wear, the Apple Watch does not require apps of its own (thank god). Instead, notifications from all your apps will just get shunted all the way over to your wrist automatically with no work required from any developer. Here’s what that looks like, with a Facebook notification:
But for developers who want to go further, there’s WatchKit, a tool that will help devs easily make their Apple Watch notifications more robust, so that Twitter notifications will show images and the like. Here’s a better-er notification from Pinterest, thanks to WatchKit.
Health and Fitness
And of course there’s the health angle. The Apple Watch uses an accelerometer to measure your movement, tracks your heart rate, and uses the GPS and Wi-Fi in your iPhone to track your movements on a grander scale.
The Activity app for iWatch pulls these features altogether into a single app that tries to encourage you into being more active. It measures how long you’ve been sitting, how long you’ve been standing, and how long you’ve been doing “brisk” energy, using a series of rings. Between the three of them, they give you a quick, glanceable look at what you’ve done today, and push you to beat daily calorie goals.
Price and Availability
Don’t expect an Apple Watch for Christmas; this sucker doesn’t ship until the second quarter of 2015. And when it does it will cost you a cool $US350 to start. More expensive than standard smartwatch fare, but if it can live up to its potential (and last a full day on a charge), it doesn’t seem like a bad deal. Of course, there’s no info on whether different sizes and varieties of the Apple Watch (big, small, sport, etc) are more or less, but that’s the ballpark you’re looking at. We’re sure to find out more as 2015 slowly creeps up. Australian pricing and availability is yet to be announced.