The Apple Watch Arrives
INTUITIVE, FUNCTIONAL, FUN.
After months of anticipation, the Apple Watch is finally here, engendering all the excitement that only a new product from Apple can. It became available for pre-order and in-store demos starting April 10, with sales beginning April 24. While it's still unclear whether it's useful enough to become an integral part of daily life, the Apple Watch has already undoubtedly advanced the design, software, and functionality of wearable technology.
A COMMUNICATION DEVICE
What could be cooler than receiving a phone call on your wrist, Dick Tracy style? If nothing else sells the Apple Watch, this status feature will. As long as your iPhone is within Bluetooth or Wi-Fi range, you'll be able to carry on a phone conversation by talking into your watch.
Part of what makes the experience so different from using your iPhone is the Apple Watch's intuitive controls, such as waking the device when you lift your wrist and silencing a call when you cover the watch face with your hand. It's a subtler interface, incorporating haptic feedback to create light vibra- tions on your wrist to notify you of incoming calls, messages, and app notifications.
You can also use the Apple Watch for messaging, a feature illustrated by Apple executive Kevin Lynch at Apple's March 9 media event. During a demo, Lynch received a text message from his daughter, showing off the convenience of receiving a notification and responding via your wrist. Lynch's daughter said she was locked out of the garage in her message, and he replied saying not to worry, he would take care of it. He simply spoke his reply into the watch and then chose to send it as a text message. He could also have sent it as a voice message.
He then used the Apple Watch version of the smart home security app Alarm.com to unlock the garage door. Next, a live-streaming video from the security camera in his garage appeared on the Apple Watch display, showing the garage door lifting and his daughter and her friend entering with their bikes.
In addition to calls and messaging, Apple created a new “Digital Touch” feature for communicating between Apple Watches, including sending a drawing, sending a tap, or even sending your heart beat.
“A COACH ON YOUR WRIST”
In describing the broad health and fitness functionality of the Apple Watch, CEO Tim Cook likened it to “a coach on your wrist.” The Activity app tracks every movement you make during the day, creating personalized goals and weekly reports of your activity, including time spent moving, exercising, and standing. If you've been sitting too long (which research has shown is bad for your health), you'll get an alert reminding you to stand up.
While activity monitors like Fitbit have offered these features for years, the Apple Watch improves upon past efforts with its interface. The Activity app's three-ring design makes it easy to see how far you've come and what you can still achieve for the day. However, to take full advantage of the fitness capabilities, you'll want to bring your iPhone along with the watch when you run or cycle, because the Apple Watch doesn't have built-in GPS to track mileage (a feature that's recently come to some Android smartwatches).
The Workout app gives you detailed metrics for activities like running or cycling. Famous model Christy Turlington Burns made an appearance during the March 9 event, explaining how the Apple Watch helps her prepare for and run marathons. She spoke about her recent half-marathon, saying, “During the race I relied on the Workout app. It tracked my time, measured my distance, and pushed my pace.” She also uses the solar watch face, which shows the position of the sun throughout the day, to help her figure out the coolest times to run.
The Apple Watch also contains an optical heart-rate monitor that logs data and feeds it to the Health app throughout the day. Knowing your heart rate gives you a clear picture of the intensity of your workout, which is not only important in conditioning and endurance, but also to cardiovascular health.
Aside from all its other functions, the Apple Watch is, well, a watch, keeping time to within 50 milliseconds of the Universal Time standard. Showing the date and time and setting a timer are functions the Apple Watch can do without being tethered to an iPhone. Apple has designed watch faces and hardware styles that it says give you a million possible combinations. Designs range from strikingly elegant to cute and useful, like the Mickey Mouse face that has Mickey tapping his foot with every passing second. You can customize each face to show additional information, such as appointments, the date, and daily activity levels.
A FASHION STATEMENT
Cook continues to emphasize that the watch is the most personal and intimate product Apple has created — because it's a product you wear. And so Apple sought to make it attractive as well as functional, creating aluminum and steel alloys that not only ensure strength but also style.
Apple is also attempting to tap into the high-end fashion market, offering an 18-karat gold Apple Watch Edition line. Models range in price from $10,000–$17,000. While it's somewhat common to spend thousands on a premium watch, some might balk at this price tag for a first-edition device that will inevitably become obsolete.
THOUSANDS OF APPS
Like the iPhone and iPad, the Apple Watch is a multipurpose device limited only by the imagination of developers. Developers have already created thousands of apps for the Apple Watch, many of them offering important conveniences.
With the American Airlines app, you can ditch boarding passes in favor of waving your Apple Watch in front of the scanner at the gate. Similarly, at hotels, you can completely bypass the front desk by using SPG, the free app for Starwood Hotels. It tells you your room number, lets you check in, and serves as your room key.
The Apple Watch is a focal point for many brief interactions throughout the day with stock prices, business information, sports scores, Twitter trends, and flight information. All of these come to your attention either via glances (brief static messages on the display) or interactive notifications similar to those on your iPhone or iPad. In this way, you can receive information from, or interact with, the app without opening it. Or you can also go directly to the app to use all its features.
Other popular apps available include Uber, Instagram, Shazam, Fandango, OpenTable, Twitter, WeChat, CNN, MLB.com, Evernote, eBay, NYTimes, Expedia, and ESPN.
APPLE PAY AND SIRI
The Apple Watch also supports Apple's new mobile payment platform. Where once in-store purchases were limited to the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, now Apple Watch users can make
in-store payments as well, even if they own an iPhone 5. And once set up, it's unnecessary to bring your iPhone with you when using Apple Pay with the watch.
During the March 9 event, Apple executive Lynch demoed Apple Pay by using a Whole Foods terminal on stage. He double-tapped the side button and put his watch close to the scanner, showing how easy it is to use. An audible sound indicated that the terminal sensed the presence of the Apple Watch, and haptic feedback on his wrist indicated that the transaction was complete.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was that you can get Siri's attention not only by pressing and holding the Digital Crown, but also by saying, "Hey, Siri." As with the iPhone and iPad, you can use Siri for a wide range of purposes, from asking about the weather to setting up a reminder.
BATTERY LIFE AND STORAGE
Leading up to the release, there was a lot of speculation about the battery life of the Apple Watch. While Cook says it has an "all-day battery life" of 18 hours, that number will vary depending upon frequency and type of use. Connecting the magnetic charger is simple: you hold the Apple Watch near the charger and it clicks into place.
Although Apple hasn't said much about storage on the device, the company has reportedly confirmed that it comes with 8 GB, of which 2 GB is for music (space for about 200 songs) and 75 MB is for photos. You can access the music and photos without being connected to an iPhone.
PRICING AND AVAILABILITY
The price for the aluminum Apple Watch Sport starts at $349 for the 38-mm version, and $50 more for the 42-mm display. The Apple Watch, made of steel, has prices ranging from $549 to $1,049. The 18-karat gold Apple Watch Edition starts at $10,000 and will have limited availability. Apple Watches can be purchased online and in Apple Stores.
I think the Apple Watch is a winner. This is yet one more time Apple has envisioned a great product and lavished it with its usual attention to detail. The result is an attractive and useful gadget that offers convenience and a huge range of functionality.
Jim Karpen, Ph.D, is on faculty at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, IA. He has been writing about the revolutionary consequences of computer technology since 1994. His Ph.D dissertation anticipated the Internet revolution. His site, jimkarpen.com, contains selected regular columns written for The Iowa Source. email@example.com.