Update: We tested Apple Watch here. See the official specs of the smartwatch for iPhone below, including new battery life information and anti-theft features.
Apple CEO Tim Cook had a big “one more thing”announcement up his sleeve, and it was a small sapphire-coated smartwatch dubbed the Apple Watch, not the fabled iWatch.
What is it? An iOS 8-friendly watch that plays nice with your iPhone
When is it out? Early 2015 release date
What will it cost? $349 (likely north of £217, AU$379)
What does Apple Watch do?
Apple’s first wearable gadget beams messages, Facebook updates, simplified apps and Siri to our wrists, eliminating the all-too-common need to take out our devices to constantly check notifications.
It’s going to become especially convenient to pocket the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and even bigger 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus in your jeans, or to always stow the next 9.7-inch iPad Air 2 in a bag.
Other apps seen in the Apple Watch video include iMessages, Health, Calendar, Weather, Mail, Photos, Camera’s shutter button, Passbook that now includes Apple Pay and even Apple Maps for navigation.
The smartwatch also takes cues from the Nike FuelBand SE and other fitness trackers with health sensors and apps, a must for any serious wearable gadget these days.
Sure there are fitness apps on your smartphone, but you’re not always carrying your iPhone while tracking your steps and activity. The Apple Watch is better suited for your everyday workout.
The final Apple Watch design isn’t too far from the made-up renders that we’ve seen in recent weeks. It draws inspiration from iPod Nano with a rectangular-shaped screen plus one knob and a single button.
Apple Watch is more than iPod Nano meets the iPhone, though. The smartwatch display comes in two sizes measured by height: 38mm (1.5in) and 42mm (1.65in). Both are slightly smaller than the entire Pebble Steelwatch height, which measures 46mm (1.8in).
Apple Watch’s screen is surrounded by casing made of custom alloys of stainless steel and aluminum that, according to the company, stands up physical demands of daily wear and another BendGate.
Beyond the “Apple Watch” and “Apple Watch Sport” versions, a special “Apple Watch Edition” mixes in 18-karat yellow or rose gold for a premium look. It goes well with that gold iPhone 5S for sure.
That brings the metal colors to six: stainless steel, silver aluminum, space black stainless steel, space gray aluminum, 18-karat yellow gold and 18-karat rose gold.
Apple Watch doesn’t have a unique round display like Moto 360, but the casing does feature a circular knob known as the “digital crown.”
This input is unique among smartwatches, but a true classic derived from traditional watches. Apple has of course put a modern-day twist on its twist functionality.
The Apple Watch digital crown replaces the pinch-to-zoom touchscreen mechanic used on everything from iPhones to MacBooks. It’s too impractical on such a small display, according to Apple.
Rotating it allows you to zoom into your app selection, your location on Apple Maps and a photo from a gallery. Scrolling through dates and stopwatch times is handled by this knob too.
The digital crown also acts as the Apple Watch home button. There’s no Touch ID sensor here, but Apple is smartly locks the wristwatch with an anti-theft passcode whenever it’s taken off.
The button below the digital crown allows you to start a conversation with friends. Pushing it brings up a their contact info photos and zooming into a specific person with the digital crown gets things started.
Beyond calling and messaging them, you can get their attention with a gentle tap. It vibrates the “taptic” feedback on their smartwatch.
What’s intriguing about this taptic feedback system is that it’s said to be more precise and subtle than a vibration everyone can hear. Want to ditch a party? Your friends’ secret sign may be three taps on the Apple Watch before bailing. It’s an interesting way to get someone’s attention.
Apple Watch goes all Drawesome on us with a bizarre sketch function for light messaging on the wrist. You can also share your heartbeat with someone in real time.
Apple Watch bands
The variety of Apple Watch bands played better than U2 at the press conference, giving consumers a way to personalize their smartwatch.
Standard straps include Leather Loop that conceals magnets for easy fastening, the leather Modern Buckle and the leather Classic Buckle. There’s also a gym-friendly elastomer Sport Band.
Higher-end metal straps include the Milanese Loop with flexible magnetic stainless steel mesh and the stainless steel Link Bracelet.
The ability to swap the straps without having to use tooling or visit or jeweler is one of our favorite features in the Apple Watch vs Moto 360 comparison.
Apple Watch faces
Apple is promising customizable watch faces with “millions of different appearances.” It brings everything to its timepieces, from time lapse backgrounds to classic Mickey Mouse arms as dials.
However, just to be clear, the smartwatch comes with a base of 11 watch faces, according to the official Apple Watch press release. Most allow you to change the colors, design elements and add functionality.
The Apple Watch face gallery shows off an Astronomy design with an interactive, real-time 3D model of the earth, moon and planets. Likewise, the Solar acts as a contemporary sundial.
If you want a moving background, there’s the Motion watch face, or still image, there’s the Photo face. Utility, Chronograph, Color, Modular and Simple exhibit more contemporary designs.
Apple Watch battery life
Tim Cook didn’t go into great detail about the Apple Watch battery life, but he did hint that the smartwatch is designed to be “worn all day” and is “simple to charge at night.”
An Apple spokesperson backs up our theory, more or less confirming that the smartwatch requires a daily charge. The person also reportedly said Apple is working on modifications to eek out more battery life.
Previously, when it was known as the Apple iWatch, it was rumored to have a 400mAh battery, but Cook is saving that announcement for a later date.
He did, however, call attention to the unique recharging method. The Apple Watch’s back crystal houses a magnetic inductive wireless charging solution similar to the MagSafe design. Again, it looks as if Apple bucks another trend – this time it’s the popular Qi wireless charging method – in favor of its own standard.
For a gadget that supposedly keeps the time, the Apple Watch release date speculation has been all over the place. It highlighted the fact that no one outside of Apple had the full scoop until September 9.
Just don’t expect that to be the iPhone-compatible watch’s release date this year. Tim Cook and company won’t deliver the the Apple Watch until early 2015, as we previously reported.
Apple won’t start Apple Watch production until later this month, according to reports. That’s not enough time to manufacturer the targeted 10 million smartwatches it may want for the launch window.
A later-than-expected early 2015 release date would allow the company to avoid the limited supply problems that it faced when introducing the hot, but hard-to-find gold iPhone 5S last year.
An even trickier question than “when will it come out?” has been “how much will the Apple Watch cost?” There’s really no precedent for a premium smartwatch price just yet.
The answer: More than we were hoping to pay, even though its specs may be on par with Android Wear.
That notorious Apple tax pushes the pricetag to $349 given components involved. That’s £217 in the UK and AU$379 in Australia, but expect those prices to be even higher, above the straight dollar conversion.
It’s true that Apple has recruited high-profile people throughout the watch and biometrics industries who have wound up on its Apple Watch team. That talent comes at a price.
Then there’s a hidden cost. While a subsidized iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are cheaper upfront in the US, stores make up the difference with contract kickbacks. Not so with a smartwatch. Stores need a cut too.
For the sake of comparison, Android Wear’s cheaper options are the Samsung Gear Live at $200 (£170, AU$250) and LG G Watch at $230 (£160, AU$250).
But Apple’s biggest and most stylish competition is from Motorola, and the Moto 360 price is $249 (£199, likely AU$275 given its rivals’ prices).
Apple is aiming for luxury given the sapphire glass-protected display, an imposing digital crown, two sizes and even the 18k gold colored edition. Expect prices for that version to climb even higher.