Apple has finally released its newest
product line – the Apple Watch. This, the company claims, it its most personal
device to date. Let’s take a look at what this new product has to offer.
The Apple Watch comes in three different varieties:
- Apple Watch Sport – The cheapest
offering, featuring an anodized aluminum cases in silver or space gray with a
toughened Ion-X glass display and a polymer strap.
- Apple Watch – Stainless steel cases in
traditional and space black finishes and featuring a sapphire display and a
range of bands and straps.
- Apple Watch Edition – 18-karat gold
cases in yellow or rose and featuring a sapphire display and a range of
bands and straps.
- Apple Watch Sport – The cheapest
Apple Watch Sport
Comes in two sizes:
- 38mm – $349
- 42mm – $399
Comes in two sizes:
- 38mm – $549 to $1,049 depending
on strap option
- 42mm – $599 to $1,099 depending
on strap option
- 38mm – $549 to $1,049 depending
Apple Watch Edition
Priced from $10K rising to a whopping $17,000 depending on the band, the Apple Watch Edition will be available from selected outlets.
The aluminum used to make Apple Watch Sport is 60 percent stronger than standard alloys, while the stainless steel used to make the cases is up to 80 percent harder through a specialized cold-forging process.
Apple is saying that the Apple Watch has an
18-hour battery life, which means nightly charging using the snap-on inductive
No word on how much real-world usage users
can expect from the device.
The Apple Watch will be available for
pre-order and preview from April 10 in the following territories, with the
product starting to ship April 24:
- Hong Kong
- United Kingdom
- United States
The Apple Watch is not a standalone device, and needs an iPhone to work its magic. In fact, it offloads much of the hard work onto the iPhone in order to extend battery life.
The Apple Watch will feature a highly-customizable face, allowing it to display a wide range of information.
Health and fitness
The Apple Watch puts a lot of emphasis on health and fitness, with motion trackers that monitor your movements and a heartrate monitor to keep an eye on that side of things.
Make and receive calls…
… all from your wrist! You can finally talk to your wristwatch!
Wearers will also be able to send and receive iMessages, as well as emails and communications from other apps.
Novel communication methods
The Apple watch introduces novel communications methods using sketches and even sending heartbeats.
The Apple Watch leverages Siri so you can dictate messages, create appointments and much more. This means that you don’t have to peck away at a microscopic keyboard!
Apple has integrated the convenience of Apple Pay directly into the Apple Watch, making it even easier to use.
It’s all about apps
With the Apple Watch wearers will be able to show boarding passes, hail cabs using Uber, unlock hotel doors, scroll through Instagram and much more.
One of the oddest things about reporting on technology is that I know roughly what is going to happen, I just don’t know when.
Tablets were a product waiting to happen for decades, pretty much since they appeared in Star Trek. They instinctively made sense at first sight: we just had to wait a few decades for the technology to catch up with our imagination.
It was the same with smartphones, and now finally it may be the turn of the smartwatch – after at least a decade of the industry trying to get it right (see the gallery below). Because this week the first Apple Watches will start arriving with their owners.
True, it’s a low key kind of launch, especially for Apple – no queues snaking around the Apple Store, no camping out to be first in line like with the iPhone. Nobody jogging out triumphantly, waving their purchase jubilantly over their head like they think they’ve just won a marathon or something, while the Apple Store workers look on and applaud.
But low key doesn’t make it any less important for Apple or for the wider tech industry.
An estimated 2.3 million Apple Watches have been ordered so far (roughly 85 percent of those being the Apple Watch Sport, 15 percent the Apple Watch and one percent the pricey Apple Watch Edition).
Pre-orders alone will make the Apple Watch the most successful smartwatch around. Admittedly, given the rather underwhelming competition, that’s not as big an achievement as it sounds – but still, it’s an impressive debut.
And there’s plenty that makes the launch of the Apple Watch a fascinating prospect: firstly, can Apple mange to perfect another product, following the smartphone and the tablet, that its rivals have been working at for years with little success?
Perhaps: and actually it’s likely that even Apple’s rivals will be hoping it can. The smartphone industry is running out of people to sell to, and if Apple can make smartwatches a must-have then all the smartphone makers will benefit.
And secondly, will the Apple Watch prove to us whether smartwatches are really the next generation of personal computing?
I think the answer is almost certainly yes. And I’m certainly not convinced by the people who scoff and insist they have no need for an Apple Watch or any smartwatch at all.
They’re the same people that five years ago were insisting to me that they would never buy a smartphone. These are the spiritual descendants of the people who thought the world would only ever need five computers.
Just as the smartwatch created new needs and fulfilled them, so will smartwatches. Don’t try looking for a killer app because I don’t think there will be one single one. And even if there were right now, it will change, just as it has for the smartphone. I’m expecting the smartwatch to develop into a more profound way of connecting us with our digital lives than smartphones ever managed.
That’s because a smartwatch isn’t just a smartphone shrunk down and strapped to your wrist. It’s something new and different. More personal, more intimate. For example there’s a persuasive review of the Apple Watch in The New York Times which says the Apple Watch ‘builds the digital world directly into your skin’.
Clearly much depends on Apple’s implementation, and one of the most important details is not how many pre-orders there are, but how many people are still wearing them in three months time, after the honeymoon has ended. And it may be several years yet before the wider impact of wearables becomes apparent. But I think its almost certain that the real era of wearable computing starts this week.
Agree? Disagree Tell us me what you think in the reader comments below.
Before the Apple Watch, a history of smartwatches in pictures:
2001 IBM WatchPad
Despite the recent excitement about smartwatches it’s not a new idea – the tech industry has been trying to come up with a viable watch-like computing device for decades. Here are some of the highlights.
Could you get more futuristic than an internet-enabled designer watch running an open source operating system?
Sadly 2001 got there first: IBM Research and Citizen Watch built a Linux-based watch called WatchPad, which they hoped would illustrate the viability of the then-novel operating system “across all platforms, from large enterprise servers, to medium-sized and small servers, workstations, desktop systems, laptops and the smallest intelligent devices”.
The device featured a QVGA (320 x 240 pixel) LCD screen, Bluetooth and accelerometer – and ran on Linux version 2.4. It only had a battery life of a few hours.
“Internet-enabled watches are a popular publicity gimmick,” said CNET at the time, and many would still agree today.
Still, the WatchPad wasn’t the only smartwatch around – another early device of note was the Matsucom onHand PC, with a calendar-and-scheduling program, an address book, a notepad, an expense keeper, four games – and a joystick to navigate all of that.
2002 Fossil Wrist PDA
The Fossil Wrist PDA came in Palm and Pocket PC version and with a 190KB memory that could store 1,100 contacts, 5,000 To Do items, 800 appointments, or 350 memos.
2002 device aimed to prove that a watch could deliver all the
capabilities of a PDA (remember them?) into a piece of hardware that
could be worn on the wrist. This was one of number of smartwatch models
released by Fossil during this period. Fossil recently said it is
working with Intel on a new generation of smart wearable devices.
2006 Microsoft Spot
Inevitably Microsoft had its own smartwatch project running, as part of its Smart Personal Objects Technology (Spot) Initiative.
As a Microsoft exec said at the time: “Imagine how handy it would be to have a travel alarm clock that, in addition to telling time very accurately and auto-adjusting to time-zones, could also wake you to your favorite WMA-encoded music, display information about road closures along your expected travel route, and deliver urgent messages.” Yup, very handy.
This information was delivered via FM radio signals which could be picked up in around 100 US cities (plus some in Canada), through an antenna built into the watchstrap. The watch above came with a free year of MSN Direct Smart Plan which delivered news, business, technology and sports reports to the watch. For an extra $20 users could also get access to two days’ worth of Outlook Calendar appointments and text messages via MSN Messenger.
The watches – perhaps unsuprisingly – weren’t a huge success. As well as being bulky and requiring frequent charging, the small screen meant a limited amount of information could be delivered and the ongoing cost of subscribing to services made them a less than appealing prospect. Microsoft shuttered its Spot project in 2008. There have been rumours thatalthough nothing has appeared so far.
2007 Sony Ericsson MBW-150
Still, the demise of Spot did little to dampen the tech industry’s enthusiasm for smartwatches. But, as mobile phones become more sophisticated, the idea of pairing a watch with a phone became something for tech companies to explore.
Here’s the Sony Ericsson MBW-150 – the watch could be paired with a Sony Ericcson phone via Bluetooth and had a small single line OLED display. When an incoming call is received, the watch would vibrate and show either the name of the caller or their number. The watch could also notify the wearer about new text messages, and came in three models: classic, music (above) and executive.
2009 Samsung S9110
This is one of the slightly more unusual smart devices – a watch that was also a phone. This Samsung S9110 from 2009 was at the time touted as the world’s thinnest watchphone, sporting a 1.76-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, email support and MP3 playback. Samsung is another company that has made a number of attempts to crack the smartwatch market – more of which later in this gallery.
The 12mm thick device also supported voice recognition and speakerphone and had a 40MB internal memory.
2010 iPod Nano
Of course, if you want an Apple iOS watch, it already exists in the shape of the iPod nano.
Simply adding a wristband (the above strap is from Hex) turns the mini music player into a watch, too.
2011 Wimm Watch
The WIMM watch running a modified version of Android was actually a styled as a developer kit device rather than a consumer device, with the aim of kickstarting an app ecosystem based around the device.
The Wimm was well-received but short-lived: during the summer of 2012, WIMM Labs entered into an “exclusive, confidential relationship” for its technology and ceased sales of the developer preview kit (Google later confirmed that it had snapped up the company).
2012 Sony Smartwatch
This is one of Sony’s watch-like devices from a couple of years back, the Sony Smartwatch, which effectively functions as a second screen for your Android phone, which allowed you to read email, SMS and other notifications such as Twitter.
The Pebble watch is probably the best known of the current crop of smartwatches. It began life as a Kickstarter project aiming to raise $100,000. It raised $10.3m instead.
The watch is compatible with iPhones and Android devices running OS 2.3 and up, but not Blackberry or Windows Phone 7. Alerts include incoming call, SMS, iMessage, calendar,.
2013 Martian Passport
The rather brilliantly-named Martian Watches offers the Passport watch which features voice controls so that it can function as a speakerphone your smartphone or allow you to access services such as Siri.
The arrival of Google’s Android Wear, which aims to make smartwatches operate better with Android smartphones, has reinvigorated the smartwatch market, with a number of consumer electronics manufacturers having another go.
Because smartwatches have tiny screens and batteries, Android Wear rethinks the Android user interface and stripped it back to conserve power — and stop smartwatches driving users crazy with constant updates. It builds on the notification system used by Android apps, giving devices a ‘context stream’ made up of a vertically-scrolling list of ‘cards’ carrying small pieces of information.
Above is Motorola’s Moto 360 device.
Here’s Sony’s Smartwatch 3 which, like the Moto 360 runs Android Wear.
It features built-in microphone, accelerometer, compass, gyro and GPS sensor technology which means it is useful without a smartwatch – for example the watch also has 4GB local memory which means you can sync playlists, connect a Bluetooth headset and go for a run leaving the smartphone at home.
This is the LG G Watch R. Anothe Android Wear device it’s powered by a 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 processor and features 4GB of storage, 512MB of RAM and a 410mAh battery.
It features a gyroscope, accelerometer, compass, barometer and heart rate monitor under its 1.3-inch round screen.
Samsung has been making a major push when it comes to smartwatches, with recent models including the Galaxy Gear, Gear Fit, Gear 2,Gear 2 Neo and the Gear S, seen above. The Gear S is notably in that it will allow you to make calls rather than just act as a second screen for a smartphone.
notes elsewhere on ZDNet that the Galaxy Gear S is about as powerful as the first-generation iPhone that Apple released back in June 2007, but on your wrist, reflecting how much components have shrunk in size over seven years.
Of course while all the attention is on the smartwatches, it is the fitness bands that are selling: how these two markets evolve and emerge over the next year or two will be interesting. Here’s Garmin’s Vivosmart which combines some of the elements of a smartwatch with the standard fitness band offerings. The device tracks fitness but also allows wearers to check calls, texts, emails and meetings on a ‘hidden’ OLED touchscreen which is displayed with a double tap.
The Huawei Watch
Huawei has unveiled its first smartwatch, a circular Android Wear-powered device.
Compatible with smartphones running Android 4.3 or higher, the device
features a 1.4-inch Amoled display with a resolution of 400 by 400
pixels resolution (286ppi). It also includes a heart rate monitor
sensor, a six-axis motion sensor, and a barometer.
Read on for our full story about the Huawei Watch.
Sony SmartWatch 3
While the Sony SmartWatch 3 doesn’t have a heart rate monitor, it does
have GPS, WiFi, NFC, and IP68 waterproof rating. It also offers stand-alone GPS
functionality and music playback.
Is this the device you
have been looking for?
Read on for our full review.
Microsoft’s entry into the fitness wearable market, the Microsoft Band, offers an array of sensors and a platform-agnostic nature othat make the device a game changer.
However, not all initial users are happy with it. You can read about some of the major complaints with the Band – and get our reviewer’s bottom line – here.
HTC continues to expand beyond smartphones with the upcoming HTC Grip fitness band.
The Grip looks a bit like a Nike+ Fuelband with the closed
loop band and soft touch finish, but it also includes integrated
GPS, some smartwatch functionality, and an interactive touchscreen
Read on for our first impressions of this gadget.
LG Watch Urbane
LG Electronics’ newest smartwatch, the LG Watch Urbane, has just debuted at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.
The latest offering, like the preceding LG G Watch R, has a round screen
and metal body and uses leather straps in a design that the South
Korean tech giant called “classic circular, like a real watch”.
Read on for more about this new smartwatch and how it fits into LG’s device strategy.
Pebble Time Steel
Pebble continues to offer compelling new products and a week after announcing the Pebble Time we see the Pebble Time Steel with a more professional design and longer battery life.
The Pebble Time Steel has a CNC-finished 316L stainless steel casing,
included leather and stainless steel straps, increased battery life of
10 days (Pebble Time has a 7-day rating), and three finish options.
Read on for more about this Apple Watch competitor in our full story.
ZDNet’s Monday Morning Opener is our opening salvo for the week in tech. As a global site, this editorial publishes on Monday at 8am AEST in Sydney, Australia, which is 6pm Eastern Time on Sunday in the US. It is written by a member of ZDNet’s global editorial board, which is comprised of our lead editors across Asia, Australia, Europe, and the US.
Previously on Monday Morning Opener: