The ultimate starter’s guide to Apple’s life-changing new gadget
Apple is once again set to refine, or simply ‘define’, a new market. Wearable tech might have been a buzzword for the last 18 months but we all know that it truly meant very little until Apple entered the market. When we got the teaser back in October 2014 our appetites were whetted, but it’s finally time to get the new device that will complete the modern Apple ecosystem. Unlike phones, though, we’re all pretty much new to wearables, so why is the Watch the ‘one more thing’ Apple thinks we need in our lives.
We’re so used to packing bags with a MacBook, iPhone and iPad that the thought of yet another device to remember fills some with dread. There is such a thing as overkill, especially if they all starting beeping and pinging at once. As exciting as Apple Watch’s tech is, it’s easy to see the detractors’ point of view. Yet the Apple Watch is about to complete the company’s ecosystem rather than add another layer of complexity to our increasingly hectic and techcentric lives. It’s not so much to do with the Watch itself, but rather our relationship to mobile devices and the seamless nature of our important notifications and networks. We’ve all hated hearing loud keyboard tappers, observing phone hogs that barely look up from their screens and seeing folk awkwardly jostle other people out of the way to snap a photo with their tablets. The answer to all these unfortunate
lapses in decorum? A device that is more naturally part of us, one that all we really have to do is remember to put it on in the morning.
Connecting it all together What the Apple Watch will finally offer us is a way to connect up the most disparate parts of our tech lives without adding extra effort or time (appropriate, huh?) At the Watch’s launch, Tim Cook said that new products often demand new interfaces, and over the years Apple has been streets ahead in defining and redefining what we come to expect from our interactions with computer technology. It brought the graphical user interface to the masses with the original Macintosh, the iPod scroll wheel, and of course, the Multi-Touch interface that helped define the modern mobile computing market.
When it comes to dictating how we interact with technology, no company does it better than Apple, and the Watch is the epitome of that. It’s built on a number of natural user interface ideas that pack an incredible amount of functionality into an ‘insanely small’ gadget. It is a far more elegant solution than the original iPhone and iPod touch, where the Home button always seemed rather awkward and unnecessary as a physical thing.
With the Watch, though, the Digital Crown is must. The Watch’s intended uses dictate that virtual controls are simply not enough. Take the Maps app as an example: your finger is great for moving around, but it will obscure what you need to see on a screen that is either 38mm or 42mm tall.
Apple Watch is more than the sum of its parts and unlike other mobile devices, including Apple’s, there’s no single way to control it. A remarkable achievement when you consider it has come to life out of a demand for wearable tech accessories, instantly limiting what we’re already used to doing on our smartphones. The only real limit though is a failure to embrace this change of mindset. We’re sure that within a few months of the Watch’s debut, we’ll all be asking ourselves why smartphones and tablets were so impersonal.
Since Apple Watch is always on our wrists it makes the connection to our personal contacts far more immediate, even for things as mundane as reaching out to pick up your iPhone when it pings a message at you. That already feels like wasted effort. Apple Watch is proof that less is more.
Now our messages will be physically closer, easier to get to and more personal with features such as Digital Touch, where you can draw simple messages and send them to other Watch wearers. You might think it’s a novelty at first, but actually it’s a sign of gestures finally growing up. We’ve never connected so intimately through mobile devices before. Apple Watch even enables you to send the rhythm of your heartbeat as a message.
The Apple Watch will connect us like never before, not only thanks to Apple’s intuitive user interface, but because a whole avenue for inspiring developers now opens up. An avenue for a device with so much freedom that it has more possibilities than iPad or iPhone ever did. As Thomas Edison once said: “Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless”. We’re sure we’ll soon forget that it’s a watch at all – not dissimilar to the combination of a persistent internet connection and the App Store on the iPhone.
But which Watch?
The Apple Watch has the biggest range and price differential of any Apple product. It’s a step change in what the company is offering and it takes a while to trawl through all the options open to you. For a quick look at how the combinations might look visit www.mixyourwatch.com, which is more helpful than Apple’s own Store page.
Only the aluminum Sport edition starts at £299 and that’s for the smaller 38mm version. The 42mm size is slightly more at £339. The glossier stainless steel Watch collection starts at £479 and goes up to to £949, depending on the Watch size and your choice of band. The gold Watch Edition will be in limited supply and cost a whopping £8,000 to £13,500, confirming rumours it would be incredibly expensive!
It’s not just the notorious Apple tax pushing the price tag well beyond £300, it’s the components involved. For example, the allmetal Link Bracelet has 100 components and takes an incredible nine hours to cut! Apple also recruited high-profile talent from the watch and biometrics industries who have wound up on its Apple Watch team. That comes at a price.
Then there’s a hidden cost. While a subsidised iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are cheaper up front in the US, stores make up the difference with contract kickbacks. Not so with a smartwatch. Retailers need a cut too. For comparison’s sake, initial Android Wear watches were the Samsung Gear Live at £170 and LG G Watch at £160. The more stylish Moto 360 is priced at £199. Apple is clearly aiming for luxury given what’s being offered in the Apple Watch.
The test of time
There’s also an interesting question around the upgrade cycle. People generally change phones with their contract. Not so with watches. The saturation of the iPad market also shows a lack of desire to upgrade on an annual or even biennial basis. So, the first-gen Watch will be around for a while, particularly considering how many varieties Apple has invested in, and the fact that it’s the iPhone that will be the device that gets upgraded as Watch apps run through it first.
18-HouR batt ery
ABOVE: There’s four health sensors on the back of the Watch – two for white light and two for infrared. BELOW: The Watch’s inductive charger snaps onto the back, much like a MagSafe cable, and delivers up to 18 hours of charge.