The Watch has some functions of its own but its real power is through its wireless pairing with the iPhone.
Apple’s Watch is a beautiful thing and may be a joy forever – or at least until we take it for granted, as we always do, because it and what it can do have become integral parts of our lives, a personal portal to the digital world.
But, as with all things digital, the true value of the hardware is in the software that it runs and, particularly in the case of Apple devices, the security and efficacy of the environment in which it lives.
The Watch has some functions of its own, and these will increase rapidly as app developers hit their stride, but its real power and reach come through its wireless pairing with the iPhone. Out of the box it has 20 Apple-built apps, several of which monitor the wearer’s health, activity and wellbeing via sensors on its back. Alerts come by haptic taps on the wrist. Others link with familiar apps on the iPhone: Calendar, Mail, Maps, Passbook (for airline and other ticket barcodes), Weather, Siri, World Clock and more. Messages maybe dictated and turned into text using the device’s microphone, and its screen used as a remote viewfinder for the iPhone camera.
Banks were early providers of mobile services and now are embracing the wearable boom. Westpac and its two subsidiaries, Bank of Melbourne and St George, along with BankSA, were first-to-market with “mobile banking at the touch of the wrist”. Many more will follow suit. Retailers such as Woolworths are there, along with airlines, restaurants – any outfit seeking quick, convenient connection with customers.
Full-scale mobile banking will likely remain on the phone because of screen acreage limitations on the wrist, but already the Watch will show you nearby ATMs or bank branches, allow account balances to be displayed, and provide “get-cash” codes allowing autoteller withdrawals without a card.
Watch app ideas are everywhere – some useful, others entertaining – taking advantage of the Watch’s intimate relationship with its owner.
Telco statistics show that making calls on a smartphone is now secondary, in terms of usage and bandwidth consumed, to the myriad other available functions, from paying bills, playing games and reading books, to measuring one’s heart rate and checking on news and weather.
Third-party app development is still ramping up but early candidates include Evernote, the data-storage application, through which one may dictate notes through the Watch using built-in speech-to-text technology, and 1Password, the secure password locker originally built for the Macintosh.
Think of Watch not as a timepiece but as a computer that can tell the time, just as iPhone is a computer that can make phone calls. The iPhone stays in your pocket or handbag while you converse, Dick Tracy style, with the back of your wrist, or check the screen for messages and other data.
Knit into this Watch-web the fast-spreading use of a technology built into Apple’s iOS operating system, iBeacons, in all sorts of places, public and private, and the usefulness of the wrist-worn device expands considerably.
Meantime, the Watch is being subjected to some extraordinary “tests”. See http://bit.ly/1ITM9QD, in which it is submerged in a tub of water, boiled, scrubbed vigorously on a cheese grater, hit with a chef’s knife, thrown heavily to a tiled floor and crushed underfoot, all without scratches or other effect – until it is hit with a 3.5-kilogram cast iron frying pan, which finally smashes the face. One may assume the Watch is tough and durable.
Analysts estimate annual Watch sales will run between 20 million and 40 million units; 2.3 million were sold in the short pre-order period before they went on sale on April 25. Waiting lists in some countries are now out to June.
Some media comment has been aimed at pricing of the Watch’s three model lines, inferring their price is higher than that of conventional watches. At the low end, an alloy-body Sport model costs $499, rising through $799 to $949 for the mid-range stainless steel unit, and between $14,000 and $24,000 for the 18-carat gold trio at the high-fashion top-end.
A good-quality Swiss or Japanese automatic watch can cost $500 or more and an 18-carat gold automatic Rolex Submariner on an 18-carat gold bracelet retails for $34,000. And all they do is tell the time.