ost of us expected the Apple Watch to appear in 2015, but it made a (semi) surprise launch alongside the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in September 2014.
While the world’s most anticipated smartwatch is now available for us all to buy, the September launch was a deliberate ploy by Apple to make sure you weren’t buying a Samsung, LG or Moto 360 in the run up to Christmas.
And the good news is, it was well worth hanging on. We’ve now seen the Apple Watch in all its glory, with all the variants available to choose from, and we can happily conclude that this is a very stylish wearable indeed.
Apple’s clearly aiming this at the fashion market as much as the person who loves to be an early adopter – given the smartwatch market is still yet to take off, it makes sense to focus further afield in terms of consumer targeting. It also packs NFC, allowing it to be used as part of the new Apple Pay system – something that’s either going to be really helpful or a big turn off to some.
The Apple Watch comes in six different versions: there’s the Apple Watch, the Apple Watch Sport and the Apple Watch Edition. And each of these comes in two sizes, for those that like a larger or smaller device for their wrist. In terms of combinations, with straps that’s a whopping 38 options. Design You can’t call it a lady or man’s watch – it’s gender neutral, which is a rarity in the watch market and a clever move by Apple. While we initially expected it to be round, the Watch looks like a small fusion between the iPhone 6 and iPod Nano. It’s certainly attractive, but remains on the chunkier side of things.
It’s rounded at the sides, which works in its favour, and the very slightly curved back makes it feel nice, if a little heavy (depending on the band) on the wrist.
The Edition, er, edition is a decidedly heavy device. It’s one that will look great but feel like you’ve spent thousands of dollars on it. Indeed some people will have: it costs up to $24,000 (though other iterations are much, much more affordable).
The design is clearly trying to say – as most watches historically have – ‘money money money MONEY’. Even the sports band, the basic rubber strap you use to stop your sweat destroying the leather, has a gold pin. Interface The interface is a curious thing, and Apple has done better than most with the way it’s approached interacting with a wrist-dwelling device.
The Digital Crown is essentially a scroll wheel that lets you zoom in and out of the interface, so for apps (with a fun new homescreen that looks nothing like the iPhone’s version, more a spherical look at all the apps available on the watch) it’s a new way of doing things.
The spherical interface may take a little time to get used to for some. The demos we saw showed a slightly tricky method of hitting the right area to open a desired app, leading to a need to use the Digital Crown more often than not.
It has a very smooth action when twisted and pressed, where we expected it to be a clicking feel ( just because that’s what you get with a watch). It will be interesting to see if this becomes embedded as a way of using the Watch, but anything that takes away from having to touch the screen will be a good thing. Tapping the crown inwards sends you back to the homescreen, but you can also use the touchscreen to interact with apps.
The button below the Digital Crown serves two functions: to take you to your contacts, and to activate the Watch as a payment vehicle. Interaction The contacts app is an interesting proposition, as it enables you to send things through to your friends that go beyond the normal messaging paradigm. It’s a circular dial that cycles through your contacts, which is far more enjoyable than just tapping their faces in rows.
That said, the Apple Watch is adept at doing the basic smartwatch things: you can make and receive calls from your wrist (with mic and speaker) and it will scan incoming messages to work out if it can generate an easy response for you to tap.
So if someone asks ‘Fish or chips for dinner?’ the Watch will ask you to tap ‘fish’ or ‘chips’ as a reply. Although if it’s really smart, it will offer both as an option. Because everyone loves fish and chips.
Beyond that though, you can send some really weird things. For instance, you can draw pictures and send them over (although let’s be honest, you’re going to be getting lots of pictures of male genitalia from your friends sent to your wrist when you’re in meetings), or a vibration code that you’ve agreed on with a pal.