Apple Watch is a smartwatch developed by Apple Inc. It incorporates fitness tracking and health-oriented capabilities as well as integration with iOS and other Apple products and services. The device is available in three “collections”: Apple Watch Sport, Apple Watch, and Apple Watch Edition. The watch is distinguished by different combinations of cases and first or third party interchangeable bands. Apple Watch relies on a wirelessly connected iPhone to perform many of its default functions (e.g. calling and texting). It is compatible with the iPhone 5 or later models running iOS 8.2 or later, through the use of Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Announced by Tim Cook on September 9, 2014, the device was available for pre-order on April 10 and began shipping on April 24, 2015
The Apple Watch runs a version of iOS that is simpler than its smartphone counterpart. You won’t be able to make calls or use Web-based services from the watch without being connected to a compatible device (iPhone 5 and up, running the latest version of iOS 8). The Apple Watch pairs with iPhones via Bluetooth Low Energy and built-in Wi-Fi.
Powered by Apple’s new S1 chip, the Apple smart Watch features a 38mm-wide, 340 x 272-pixel rectangular touch screen (which increases to 48mm, 390 x 312p on larger models). This display is coated with sapphire to protect the device from scratches. The watch is also sweat-resistant, and will juice up via a specially created Mag Safe charger that attaches easily to the watch.
The Watch is available in three collections: Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch Edition. The Watch model comes in a polished or space-gray stainless-steel watch case and a selection of straps: sport band, classic buckle, leather loop, modern buckle, Milanese loop and link bracelet. Each of those bands is available in a variety of colors. The Apple Watch Sport comes in either a space gray or silver anodized aluminum finish with a sport band, while the Apple Watch Edition features an 18-karat rose or yellow gold casing and a range of exclusive straps.
The Apple Watch works with Apple Pay, a mobile payment system announced at the same event as the watch on September 9, 2014. It is capable of receiving phone calls as well as iMessage and SMS texts via a paired iPhone and can track fitness, run third-party apps and use an Apple feature called “Handoff” (see iOS 8). It can control Apple TV, and act as an viewfinder for an iPhone camera, give the wearer directions via native Maps app, and can store loyalty cards and tickets in Passbook. Apple Watch also includes Siri, a personal assistant. Apple Watch uses a technology called “Force Touch”, which allows it to sense the amount force being applied to the display.
When can I have it?
You can order right now, though you’re in for a bit of a wait before your watch arrives. Apple started taking preorders for the Apple Watch on April 10, and the people among the first to place their orders have already started receiving their watches, though some preorders have yet to arrive. With nearly 1 million people placing orders on the first day the device went on sale according to Apple, a backlog remains. Place an order for a 38mm Apple Watch as of this writing, and the estimated ship time is three to four weeks. The wait is even longer if you want a 42mm Apple Watch — you’ll be waiting until July. Wait times are similar for the Apple Watch Sport, while the high-end Apple Watch Edition lists a June ship time for online orders.
And online will be the only way to buy an Apple Watch for the time being. A memo from Apple senior vice president of retail Angela Ahrendts has reportedly informed Apple Store employees that in-store purchases won’t be offered until June as Apple tries to meet the initial demand for its smart watch. Apple has started giving you the option of picking up your watch at a nearby Apple Store when it ships, though.
And if you’re interested in an Apple Watch, the brick-and-mortar stores do have Apple Watches on display that you can try on, in case you need some hands-on time with the device before ponying up the $349 starting price.
How does it work?
In addition to a touch-screen interface that lets you tap and swipe your way through the system, the Apple Watch also offers several new means of interaction. A Digital Crown knob on the right edge acts like a home button. You can press this to return to the main screen, or turn it to zoom or scroll through options in the interface.
Next to the Digital Crown is a dedicated button that pulls up the Friends communication tool. This lets you contact a select list of people via your Apple Watch.
You’ll still swipe and tap on the screen to navigate, but Apple has also introduced a new method of input. Called Force Touch, the device will register how hard you are pressing on the screen and trigger an action like a right click or long tap.
For hands-free control, you can also interact with the Apple Watch via Siri. Apple’s voice-powered digital assistant can take dictation to compose messages, find the nearest coffee shop or tell you the next event on your schedule.
With the companion app for the Apple Watch, you can customize your watch face’s app icon layout and add an up-to-four-letter monogram. The companion app will also be the main way of managing the timepiece, letting you set voice dictation or audio replies as your default method of responding to texts.
You can also customize the fitness tracking functions via Companion by toggling goal notifications and “stand reminders” or setting how often you get an activity progress update. Stand reminders nudge you to get up when you’ve been sitting too long.
Security features are also determined via the companion app, it seems. You can choose to unlock the watch when you unlock your iPhone and enable a four-digit passcode for the timepiece. That can be used to authorize Apple Pay transactions. The Apple Watch can also be set to wipe itself after 10 inaccurate password attempts.
How long does its battery last?
Apple says its watch should last 18 hours on a charge, and our tests suggest that’s a fair estimate. When we reviewed the Apple Watch, we still had plenty of charge left after a full day of use. Still, you’re going to have to plug in the watch every day to recharge it. Apple also made a magnetic charging cable that easily snaps onto the base of the watch face to make juicing up the device a little more convenient.
Note that the Apple Watch has a Power Reserve mode, in which the device will show you the time and nothing else in order to conserve battery life. You’re prompted to go into Power Reserve mode when you’ve got less than 10 percent of battery life left, though you also have the option of turning it on manually by holding down the Side button to bring up the watch’s power-off screen.
TechCrunch reported that the Apple Watch battery will be replaceable, although it’s not clear how much it will cost to send your smartwatch to the company in to get a new cell. According to TechCrunch, the lifespan of the battery is about three years, so you’ll likely have to get a new one after that time.
What does it do?
In addition to telling time, showing stock quotes and weather updates, and functioning as a stopwatch and alarm, there’s a whole lot more the Apple Watch can do.
Thanks to the built-in NFC chip, the Apple Watch supports one-tap payments via Apple Pay. This brings the convenient digital-wallet feature to phones without NFC, such as the iPhone 5 and 5s. You can make purchases just by double-clicking the button next to the Digital Crown and holding your wrist up to a payment terminal. The Watch will make a sound and vibrate once your payment is confirmed.
Apple Pay is accepted at hundreds of thousands of stores in the U.S., including Whole Foods, Duane Reade, Bloomingdale’s, McDonald’s, Subway and Walgreen. A full list of supporting merchants appears at the bottom of the Apple Pay page.
With an onboard heart-rate monitor and accelerometer, the Watch can track your fitness activity, including calories burned and workout intensity. The Watch’s Activity app will even track something as simple as standing after a period of sitting, with the app encouraging you to meet daily goals for exercise and moving about. However, the Apple Watch will need to connect to your phone to get GPS data like distance traveled and pace.
Apple created a page on its website detailing the watch’s heart rate monitor. Using a process called photoplethysmography, the monitor optically records heart rate with LED lights that detect the amount of blood flowing through your wrist. While it’s not a continuous monitor, Apple claims it will constantly record your heart rate during workouts, and then take a reading every 10 minutes throughout the day and store it in the Health app. You can also manually check your heart rate at any time using the Heart Rate Glance display on the watch.
The Workout app lets more serious fitness buffs set goals and monitor real-time stats. It also provides encouraging messages during your workout and shows a summary of your vitals after each session. Your tracked data can be sent to your iPhone’s Health app so you can share the info with third-party fitness programs.
There are three main forms of content that the Apple Watch delivers: Glances, Actionable Notifications and Apps. Glances are simple alerts that deliver bite-size, read-only information and reminders. Tapping on a Glance will launch the related app. Actionable Notifications let you react to your alerts with predefined functions set by the app. For instance, if you’ve left your lights on at home, a smart home app can alert you to that and give you the option to switch the lights off, without requiring you to open the app.
Apple’s already shown off a whole bunch of third-party apps that will work on the wearable, including Instagram, Starwood (the hotel chain)’s SPG app, Shazam, Uber and WeChat. These native apps are full-fledged programs — at the Apple Watch preview event in March, Apple’s Kevin Lynch showed off how he could find a song on Shazam, check into a hotel and unlock his door with the Starwood app, book a ride with Uber, and send messages and stickers via WeChat.
Couch potatoes may never have to leave their comfy thrones again, thanks to remote-control functions built into the Watch. You can skip through music on your iPhone or iTunes music library, navigate your Apple TV menu, enable Do Not Disturb and Airplane modes or turn on/off the smart lights in your house — all from your wrist. The Watch even acts as a remote viewfinder and trigger for your iPhone’s camera. If you are separated from your phone, you can use the Watch to ping and locate it.
With Passbook integration, you can quickly pull up your plane tickets, boarding passes and loyalty cards without having to get out your phone. The app also alerts you when your discount or loyalty cards can be used.
You can send and receive messages and calls, but Apple also created cool new ways of interacting with your friends through its Digital Touch features. Share sketches by doodling on the screen, or send your heartbeat. Your recipient will get buzzed on his wrist in time with your pulse. The walkie-talkie feature lets you share sound bites with friends, and Tap sends silent, gentle vibrations to your contacts when you touch the display.
You’ll also get some onboard storage to keep your music and photos. According to 9to5Mac, all models of the watch will ship with 8GB of storage — 2GB for music, and up to 75MB for photos. That’s about 150 to 200 songs and an estimated 100 pictures, which may sound restrictive, but you can store your pictures on iCloud Photo Library and keep just your favorites on the Watch.
What apps does it run?
A truckload of Apple apps are available for the watch interface, including Activity, Calendar, Workout, Maps, Passbook, Music, Apple TV, iTunes, Remote Camera, Stopwatch, Timer, Alarm, Stocks, Weather, Photos, Siri and Settings.
A number of third-party app makers have come out with Watch-specific applications, which you can add via the Apple Watch app on your iPhone. Instagram will let you see your friends’ latest photos and like or leave an emoji comment. You’ll also get notifications of your Instagram likes and comments. The American Airlines app will remind you when it’s time to head to the airport or start boarding, and provide connecting gate information and gate change updates. Book a ride via Uber, or reserve a bike for your Equinox class all from your wrist. The Deadline app will purportedly tell you when you’re going to die. Talk about a death Watch.
Other major apps coming to the Apple Watch include Facebook, Twitter, Nike, WeChat, OpenTable, Shazam, MLB.com At Bat, Nike+ Running, Shazam and BMW.
Apple Watch vs. Competition
Several other brands are already making waves in the smartwatch arena, including Apple’s biggest rivals, Samsung and Google. While Google’s focus has been on its Android Wear operating system for wrists, Samsung has pushed through several smart bands under the Gear brand. The $149 Gear Fit is a fitness-oriented tracker, while the $350 Gear S is a 3G-enabled smart watch that can run on its own without being tethered to a phone.
Major electronics companies have jumped on the Android Wear bandwagon, including LG and Motorola, which offer the G Watch and Moto 360, respectively. These watches cost between $150 and $250, and need to be connected to an Android device to work. Samsung also has an Android Wear watch called the Gear Live ($199).
The Wear system is like Google Now on your wrist, delivering notifications and alerts on a watch face. However, as of the current OS version (4.4W.2), dismissing a notification on your screen removes it from your watch, and there’s no way to see a history of alerts on the timepiece. Navigating Android Wear is also very dependent on swipes, which gets tiresome after a while.
Android Wear does have some positive qualities, such as voice-activated searches and replies to messages, fitness features (heart rate on select devices) and a growing number of smart apps. For example, Lyft lets you call for a car using just your voice. But overall, Android Wear still needs work.
Apple’s system offers more functionality. Plus, the Digital Crown knob makes for a less swipe-happy means of navigation, so you can get to the content you want faster.
Our favorite smart watch before the Apple Watch’s arrival was the $199 Pebble Steel, which is compatible with both Android and iOS devices and can run apps such as Yelp, Run Keeper and ESPN. There are already more than 3,000 apps available for the Pebble. Apple’s wearable is only compatible with some iOS devices for now. The Steel is also much cheaper and offers long battery life, thanks to its E Ink display.
Apple may continue to face stiff competition, though. Pebble’s recently announced Pebble Time has already smashed the company’s previous record by raising $11 million on Kickstarter in just three days. The new Pebble will feature a color ePaper display, voice control and a new operating system. Not to be outdone, LG also just announced its Watch Urbane LTE — a premium smartwatch that supports LTE and will run a proprietary operating system.
Other wearable devices are also cropping up, such as Fitbit’s Surge and Microsoft’s Band ($200), that have more of a fitness focus but also pack smartwatch features. People who want more dedicated health trackers may prefer these wearables, especially since the Apple Watch’s fitness and health-tracking features feel a little underwhelming at this point.
What accessories are available?
As with the iPhone and iPad, accessory makers are coming out with a variety of add-ons for the Apple Watch, including bands that you can attach to the device as well as accessories such as charging docks and screen protectors. Not all of these accessories have hit the market just yet — manufacturers had to wait until the Apple Watch was out in order to put the finishing touches on their products.
Apple is imposing some order on the rush to come out with watch-compatible accessories by launching a Made for Apple Watch program. As it did with its other mobile devices, Apple is issuing guidelines for accessory makers to produce approved bands for the Apple Watch.