Since late 2013 the internet has been full of rumors and speculation on the next “Big thing” from Apple. In September 2014 we finally saw an official announcement on the watch. There were plenty of pictures and a very nice video introduction, but additional details were scarce, especially price and launch date. Now we have all that information, but does the watch live up the rumor and hype of what we were expecting? Without a doubt, the Apple Watch will sell faster than ice water in the desert but will it justify those sales figures?
Price and Availability.
From Apple’s recent event, we learned pre-orders will begin on April 10th and will begin shipping on April 24th. The cost will begin at $349 and well…. It’ll just go up from there depending on the model, screen size, and band options. Three collections are available: The Apple Watch Sport, the Apple Watch, and the Apple Watch Edition. All three collections offer both 38mm and 42mm case sizes, but the materials of the case vary along with the band options.
Apple Watch Sport (Left in above photo)
This model is the entry level Apple Watch. The case is made of anodized aluminum that comes in both space gay and silver and match most closely to the case materials of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. The display is protected by an ion-treated glass, also similar to the iPhone 6. The band is made of a rubberized plastic and comes in a variety of colors. If the plastic band doesn’t suit your tastes, you can always opt to buy an additional band of a different material. The Apple Watch Sport is $349 for the 38mm and $399 for the 42mm models.
Apple Watch (Center in above photo)
Pricing and options of this collection become a bit more varied. The case is made of polished stainless steel or space black stainless steel, and the display is protected by a sapphire crystal. There’s the choice of three different leather bands, a stainless steel link bracelet, a stainless steel Milanese loop, and a band made from high-performance fluoroelastomer. Price ranges from $549 to $1049 for the 38mm model, and $599 to $1099 for the 42mm model.
Apple Watch Edition (Right in above photo)
This is the luxury model, the “Rolex” of the Apple world. The case is made of a high strength 18-karat gold available in yellow or rose, with a number of matching band options. This will be available in limited quantities to start, and for good reason. Pricing starts at $10,000. Yes, you read that right.
For these prices, what can it do?
First thing first, the Apple Watch requires an iPhone 5, 5c, 5s, 6 or 6 plus, running iOS 8 or higher. The Apple Watch syncs to the iPhone with wireless 802.11b/g or Bluetooth. Much of the watch’s functionality comes from its connection to the iPhone and only very few features can run standalone. Based on details seen from the WatchKit, many of the watch apps are small front-end interfaces that connect to an app on the phone and pull their information from that primary app. Keep this in mind if looking to purchase an Apple Watch.
The Apple Watch combines features of many other smart watches and fitness tracking bands already available on the market and marries together fitness tracking, notifications, voice-activated controls, and swipe-to-glance features. In short, the Apple Watch keeps you connected to your phone, displays text and phone notifications along with app notifications, acts like a mini iPod, a fitness tracker, and will help to replace your wallet with Apple Pay using Near Field Communication. Apple has also shown the device can act as a digital key to open a smart lock on your home’s front door. Through additional apps, you could control home automation equipment, such as a smart thermostat, from the watch using your iPhone’s wireless connection. It can also control your Apple TV.
The Apple Watch offers native calendar, maps, and reminder integration right out of the box. This gives you glances for upcoming meetings, along with the ability to accept meeting invites directly from the watch. Notifications tell you when to head to your next appointment, and the native maps provide navigation with a full visual overview of where to head. The watch face is customizable with 11 preset displays, and the Glances can give customized information based on what’s important to you.
The display not only allows for touching, tapping, and swipe gestures, but is also pressure sensitive meaning it can tell the different between a light tap and a hard push. A “Click and hold” fold can be built into apps to provide additional functionality over gestures and voice commands. Apple’s “Taptic” feedback engine is also another way of getting information from the Watch, such as which direction to turn at an intersection when walking. In addition to the other forms of input, the Watch makes use of a Digital Crown that combines a “Home” button and a scroll wheel. The Digital Crown can be used to scroll through contacts, zoom in on maps, and other numerous functions. Below the Digital Crown is another button used to bring up favorite friends and contacts.
Using 4 sapphire lenses on the back of the Apple Watch, heart rate is measured with a combination of infrared and led technology. This promises to be more accurate than other wrist-worn optical devices. Not only does the heart-rate tracking work during workouts, but your heart rate is automatically monitored every ten minutes, and synced to a hub app on the iPhone. The iPhone is also used with the Watch for GPS and barometer-based elevation readings.
The Apple Watch comes built in with 2 fitness tracking apps. One tracks your normal daily activity through measuring three metrics: estimated caloric burn, moderate exercise, and time spent standing. The other app tracks dedicated workouts, even activities like cycling. Some research shows that getting up for even 10 minutes every hour has a huge health benefit, and the Apple Watch holds to this by displaying reminders every so often to remind you to get up and move if you’ve been sitting too long. It’s rated IPX7 for water resistance, meaning you can wear it daily and not worry if you get caught in the rain or get sweaty while working out, but it isn’t meant to be used when showering or swimming.
As with any portable electronics, battery life becomes a huge factor. Some reports state the Apple Watch will provide 4-6 hours of Battery life under heavy use, but Apple states you’ll be able to get 18 hours (or in their words “All day”) battery life with “average” use. This makes it a little difficult to get sleep pattern information for fitness tracking since most likely the watch will be charging at night, but should allow you get all your notifications during the day and track your workout. Charging is performed with a MagSafe inductive connector that magnetically attaches to the bottom of the watch.
The Apple Watch comes with 8GB of internal storage, and currently no options for additional storage space. This makes some sense considering the constant need for an iPhone that will have at least 16GB of storage on board. Of the 8GB internal storage, users will be limited to 2GB of songs stored on the Watch, and 75MB for photos. These songs and pictures can then be listened to or viewed without being paired to a phone, and can be synced to the Watch through the companion app on iPhones running iOS 8.2 or later. The remaining storage space is reserved for the Apple Watch’s operation system, along with app files and other resources. While the Watch does not have a headphone jack for listening to music it can pair to a set of Bluetooth headphones. Who would want a headphone cord going from your wrist to your ears anyway?
I like the design. While it is similar in look to other smart watches out there, it just looks more polished. In a way it reminds me of the 6th generation iPod Nano, only curved. I’m intrigued by the different input types available, along with the constant connectivity to the iPhone. Living in a larger city, I like the thought of Taptic feedback to point me in the direction I should be walking while downtown. I think it would be very useful for someone always on the go, and who is constantly checking their phone for notifications. I could be at work and leave my phone to charge on my desk, while still being able to view my calendar and other notifications away from my desk. I could leave my phone in the center console of my car and still get directions via navigation on my wrist.
However, the price point does not excite me. I always joke about having “Champagne and caviar tastes” on a “Beer and chips budget”. I don’t see the point in the luxury Apple Watch Edition, but with my tastes and preferences I would want the stainless steel Apple Watch with the steel link band. I’m sure that would put me closer to the $1K end of that collection’s price range. I just can’t justify spending that kind of money for the Apple Watch. I detest rubberized plastic bands, or I would possibly consider the Apple Watch Sport, but paying $399 (of course I want the 42mm display) for a watch with a plastic band is too much for me. Being that it’s an Apple product, I doubt we will see much in the way of a price reduction in the future, at least not until the Apple Watch 2 comes out. Maybe then I’ll reconsider.