Apple's long rumored wearable
At a Glance
Apple's Watch is designed to be both fashionable and functional, available in an array of different color and materials with six different types of watch straps that are easily interchangeable. Prices for the device, which launched on April 24, start at $349 and go as high as $17,000.
- Two sizes: 38mm and 42mm
- Options: Stainless Steel, Silver Aluminum, 18-Karat Yellow Gold, Space Black Stainless Steel, Space Gray Aluminum, and 18-Karat Rose Gold
- S1 processor
- Starting at $349 for Watch Sport, $549 for Watch, and $10,000 for Watch Edition
- Launched April 24
Apple's New Watch
On September 9, 2014, Apple finally unveiled its long-rumored wearable device, the Apple Watch, aka Watch. While many expected the wearable to be called the "iWatch," Apple actually opted to use the Apple symbol () followed by "Watch" for the device's name. According to Apple's head of design Jony Ive, Apple has been working on the device for three years. Apple CEO Tim Cook has said that Apple's objective with the watch is to "change the way you live your life."
The Apple Watch is designed to be both functional and fashionable, available in two sizes of 38mm and 42mm (1.5 and 1.7 inches), with six different casing materials and six separate interchangeable band options in a variety of colors. Organized into three separate collections, from the simple "Sport" to the high-end luxury "Edition," the Apple Watch has been created to appeal to a wide range of tastes.
Prices for the device, which is available in the first nine launch countries as of April 24, 2015, start at $349 for the aluminum Watch Sport collection. The stainless steel Watch collection starts at $549, while the the gold Watch Edition collection starts at $10,000 and goes as high as $17,000.
Designed with either an ion-strengthened or flexible sapphire display (depending on model), all of the Apple Watches include an HD Retina screen, sapphire-covered sensors built into the zirconia backing, and an NFC chip to allow the devices to work with Apple's Apple Pay mobile payment service.
The Apple Watch interface, much like its exterior, has been created with end-user customization in mind. Apple has designed several unique watch faces that users can choose from, featuring traditional watch designs, whimsical characters, animated images, and more, all of which are "extensively customizable." According to Apple, one Apple Watch can have millions of different appearances. Apps on the device are organized into a unique cluster design for quick and easy access.
As with all of its products, Apple has carefully considered the way people interact with and use the Apple Watch, developing both a unique operating system (WatchOS) and unique input methods for the device. While it does allow for touch input, Apple Watch also includes a "Digital Crown" located on the right side of the body, which lets users zoom, scroll, and select elements on the Watch without covering the screen. The Digital Crown also serves as a home button.
A second physical button below the Digital Crown allows users to bring up a list of contacts and then communicate with friends by sending quick drawings, messages, animated emoji, and a heart beat, drawn directly from the watch's included sensors.
Apple Watch takes advantage of new pressure-sensing technology called "Force Touch" and is able to determine the difference between a tap and a press, enabling a range of contextually specific controls. A unique notification system allows notifications to be relayed in a subtle way through gentle vibrations using the "Taptic Engine."
There are several different sensors built into the Apple Watch, which allow it to measure metrics like steps taken, calories burned, and pulse rate. Movement information is relayed to two separate fitness-related apps, giving users an overall picture of their daily activity.
Apple's Watch is designed to be a companion device to the iPhone, and as such, it requires an iPhone to function. The Watch is not a standalone device because it relies on the iPhone for many features like relaying notifications and messages. In fact, initial Apple Watch apps are entirely powered by the iPhone to preserve battery. The Apple Watch lasts for 18 hours per charge with mixed usage and up to 72 hours in Power Reserve Mode, which limits functionality.
Though dependent on the iPhone, the Apple Watch is able to connect to known Wi-Fi networks without an iPhone, letting it perform some basic functions like sending and receiving texts, querying Siri, and sending and receiving drawings.
The Apple Watch officially launched on Friday, April 24. Many customers who pre-ordered early on April 10 received shipments on that date, and while other customers continue to wait, Apple is making an effort to get shipments out as soon as possible. Apple expects many later orders to ship out ahead of their estimated shipment dates.
How to Buy
All versions of the Apple Watch can be pre-ordered from Apple's online store as of Friday, April 10. Orders placed now for most devices ship out in four to six weeks at the earliest, and some popular models have shipping estimates that stretch into June and July. Apple has said that many of these orders are likely to ship out sooner than expected, however, and some customers that originally had long shipping estimates began receiving their devices as early as April 24.
The Apple Watch is available in all first-wave launch countries, including Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, with availability in other countries to follow later.
Due to low supplies and high demand, all Apple Watch orders must be placed online. Apple is not accepting in-store purchases and may not begin to do so until several months after launch. Customers who want to purchase an Apple Watch are strongly advised to place an order online. According to retail chief Angela Ahrendts, this is to prevent people from needlessly waiting in line and to improve the Apple Watch buying experience.
Though the Apple Watch is not available for sale just yet in Apple retail stores, Apple is selling the Apple Watch in several high-end fashion boutiques around the world. Those retail locations were the only brick and mortar stores to offer the Apple Watch for sale on launch day.
Stores carrying the Apple Watch include Dover Street Market in Tokyo and London, Colette in Paris, and The Corner in Berlin. Stock at each location is unknown following launch. Other shops expected to offer the Apple Watch include the Galeries Lafayette in Paris, Selfridges in London, and the Isetan Department Store in Tokyo, three locations where the watch was showcased ahead of its launch.
Before the Apple Watch was available for purchase, Apple offered early try-on appointments for people to see the device in person, and following the launch, Apple is offering both in-store workshops and online instructional setup appointments. Apple's also launched an Apple Watch User Guide and has several video usage tours available on its website for each Apple Watch feature.
Apple Watch Buyer's Guide
Need help deciding which Apple Watch might be right for you? Check out our Apple Watch Buyer's Guide, which walks you through all of the available options and some things you might want to consider when choosing an Apple Watch.
Pre-orders for the Apple Watch began at 12:01 a.m Pacific Time on April 10, and in just minutes, popular Apple Watch varieties began selling out. Many of the watches started with delivery estimates of 4/24 to 5/8, but some Apple Watches, like the stainless steel versions with Modern Buckle and Leather Loop, had shipping estimates of four to six weeks from the moment pre-orders were available.
Within an hour, shipping estimates for almost all models had slipped to four to six weeks or longer, and within six hours, there were no longer any models at all that had a 4/24 to 5/8 delivery estimate.
Customers who managed to place an order before shipping estimates started slipping were among the first to receive Apple Watches. Delivery estimates ranged from 4/24 to 5/8, but customers began receiving Apple Watches on April 24.
Apple has not yet announced sales numbers, but Apple CEO Tim Cook said the response to the Apple Watch has been "incredible" and that orders are "great." Analyst estimates for Apple Watch pre-orders have ranged from 1 million to 2.3 million.
Apple Watch Pricing
Because it's designed to suit a wide range of customer tastes, Apple Watch pricing varies wildly. It starts at $349 on the low end for the aluminum Sport, but goes all the way up to $17,000 for the 18-karat gold Edition.
Pricing for each Apple Watch is determined by three factors: the material the case is made from (stainless steel, aluminum, or gold), size, and band choice. Across the board, 42mm Apple Watch models are priced $50 higher than smaller 38mm models, and band prices range from $49 to $449.
For the Watch Sport collection, Apple has ten different models available, consisting of five different colors each available in 38mm and 42mm casing sizes. All 38mm models are priced a $349, while the 42mm models are priced at $399. The silver aluminum casing is available with a choice of white, blue, green, and pink fluoroelastomer sport bands, while a black band option is paired with a special Space Gray casing. Sport Watch purchases come with two bands, in both S/M and M/L sizes.
A complete list of Apple Watch Sport models is available here, with prices and links to Apple's Online Store.
The stainless steel Watch lineup is a bit more complicated, with twenty different models available, 10 each in 38mm and 42mm sizes, at prices ranging from $549 to $1,099. At the low end of this tier are stainless steel Apple Watches combined with Sport Bands in black and white, with the 38mm models priced at $549 and the 42mm models at $599. Several other watch-band combinations such as the Milanese Loop ($649-$699) and Link Bracelet ($949-$999) are available with the same $50 premium for larger casings.
Not all bands are available for both 38mm and 42mm models, however, with a Modern Buckle available only for 38mm models at $749 with black, midnight blue, soft pink, and brown color options. Unique to the 42mm models is a Leather Loop band available in black, bright blue, stone, and light brown, with those combinations prices at $699. Finally, at the high end of the Watch collection is a unique Space Black casing paired with a Space Black stainless steel Link Bracelet, priced at $1,049 for the 38 mm model and $1,099 for the 42mm model.
A complete list of standard Apple Watch models is available here, with prices and links to Apple's Online Store.
For those looking for an 18-karat gold watch, the Apple Watch Edition collection, ranging from $10,000 to $17,000, is the place to be. At the low end of this range are the black and white sport bands paired with either a rose gold or yellow gold casing. The 38mm casings are priced at $10,000 in these combinations, with the 42mm models priced at $12,000.
For $15,000, customers can opt for the 42mm Apple Watch in yellow gold and either a black or midnight blue Classic Buckle. And the lineup tops out at $17,000 with the 38mm casing available with in rose gold with a rose gray Modern Buckle or in yellow gold with a bright red Modern Buckle. All Watch Edition watches are available in limited quantities.
A complete list of Apple Watch Edition models is available here, with prices and links to Apple's Online Store.
Along with various Apple Watch sets that come with bands included, Apple is also selling most of its watch bands on a standalone basis, letting customers pick up an additional band to go with their watches. Pricing starts at $49 for a the Sport Bands, which come with three pieces to adjust the size from S/M to M/L for a good fit regardless of wrist size.
Other bands include the Milanese Loop, Leather Loop (42 mm only - in Stone, Light Brown, Black, and Bright Blue), or Classic Buckle (in black only), which are available for $149, and the Modern Buckle (38mm only - in Brown, Black, Soft Pink, and Midnight Blue), available for $249. The Link Bracelet is the most expensive Apple Watch band available, priced at $449.
While bands like the Milanese Loop and the Link Bracelet come in a single size that's designed to fit a wide range of wrist sizes, the Modern Buckle, Leather Loop, and Sport Band come in multiple sizes ranging from small to large. Apple has made a fit guide for each of the bands to help users choose the best band. [PDF]
If you end up with a band that you're unhappy with, Apple is offering band-only exchanges, so you can get a new band without having to replace your entire Apple Watch. Just bring your Apple Watch into an Apple Store within your 14-day return window to get the process started.
As of April 10, extra bands are available for purchase from Apple's online store. Not all bands are in stock, however, with the Modern Buckle being listed as "Currently Unavailable." Most bands ship in May, and a few list June shipping dates.
AppleCare+ is available for the Apple Watch, and is priced at $49 for the Sport models, $69 for the stainless steel models, and $1,500 for the gold Apple Watch Edition models. There's also a combined AppleCare+ option for the iPhone and the Apple Watch, priced at $149 for Apple Watch Sport, $169 for the stainless steel Apple Watch, and $1,600 for the gold Apple Watch Edition. Combined AppleCare+ can be purchased up to six months after an iPhone purchase.
AppleCare+ service fees for accidental damage are priced at $69 for the Apple Watch Sport, $79 for the stainless steel Apple Watch, and $1,000 for the Apple Watch Edition. Apple has outlined what types of damage considers to be eligible for a warranty replacement and what types of damage are the fault of the user, requiring an out-of-warranty fix.
Out-of-warranty service fees for the Apple Watch are priced at $229 for the aluminum Sport model, $329 for the stainless steel model, and $2,800 for the gold Edition model. An out-of-warranty battery replacement service is also available for $79.
Apple is also offering a free Express Replacement service for Apple Watch customers that purchase AppleCare+.
Apple Watch How-Tos
Apple Watch Design
According to Apple designer Jony Ive, the Apple Watch is "one of the most difficult projects" he has worked on, and a ton of time went into the design and creation of the device. Apple consulted with several watch historians and Ive himself delved into horological history, studying clocks and watches throughout time while designing the product.
An incredible amount of work went into every minute detail of the Apple Watch, and some of the thought that was put into the device has been shared in a series of interviews published by Wired. One example cited in the interviews pertains to the images displayed on some of the Apple Watch faces. One of the faces displays different flowers blooming, and to develop that face, Apple put in 285 hours and took more than 24,000 photographs.
Apple Watch features a rounded, rectangular body in two separate sizes (38mm and 42mm) that is able to snap easily into an array of interchangeable bands. There are only two "buttons" on the device, including the Digital Crown that offers several control options and the Friends button that brings up a list of contacts.
Aiming to create watches to please a wide range of tastes, Apple designed the Apple Watch with four different custom alloys of stainless steel and aluminum in two finishes, along with two formulations of 18-karat yellow and rose gold that are designed to stand up to daily wear.
In total, there are six different body options: Stainless Steel, Space Black Stainless Steel, Silver Aluminum, Space Gray Aluminum, 18-karat gold, and 18-karat rose gold.
Along with six separate body options, Apple has also designed six types of custom bands for the Apple Watch: Link Bracelet, which is stainless steel and resembles a traditional watch band; Sport Band, made of a flexible and lightweight fluoroelastomer; Leather Loop, a wraparound band constructed from handcrafted leather; Modern Buckle, made from Granada leather and sporting a magnetic buckle; Classic Buckle, made from Dutch leather with a traditional buckle closure; and the Milanese Loop, a flexible metal mesh band designed to wraparound the wrist.
Apple has organized its various watch casings and bands into three separate collections: Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport, and Apple Watch Edition, each of which group casings and bands that Apple says "work particularly well together."
Apple Watch Collection
The Apple Watch collection includes Apple's stainless steel casings in both a highly polished silver color and space black. These watches feature a durable, scratch-resistant sapphire crystal display and are combined with several of the six available bands in 20 configurations that can be purchased from Apple.
According to Apple, its stainless steel is made from a cold-forging process designed to make the 316L steel 40 percent harder and more resistant to nicks and corrosion. The black version is coated in a diamond-like carbon layer to achieve its color.
Apple Watch Sport Collection
The Apple Sport collection is the watch collection with the lowest price tag. Aimed at fitness enthusiasts, the Sport watches do not have a sapphire display, instead featuring a lightweight strengthened alumina-silicate Ion-X glass that's "especially resistant to scratches and impact."
Apple's Sport collection also features a lightweight anodized aluminum casing in either silver or space gray. According to Apple, the aluminum used in the Apple Sport Watch is a new alloy (7000 Series aluminum) that's 60 percent stronger than standard alloys. With the Ion-X glass and the aluminum casing, the Sport collection watches are 30 percent lighter than stainless steel models.
Sport watches come with a high-performance fluoroelastomer band that's durable and strong, but soft. Apple says it is more flexible than rubber traditionally used in watch bands, for a smooth drape across the wrist, with a pin-and-tuck closure for a close fit. The Sport collection also features the most vibrant colors, with bands in white, blue, green, pink, and black.
Apple Watch Edition Collection
The Edition collection is Apple's high-end luxury lineup, featuring casings crafted from 18-karat yellow or rose gold. Apple metallurgists have designed the gold in the Edition watches to be up to twice as hard as standard gold, which keeps it free from nicks and scratches.
Like the Apple Watch collection, the Edition collection features a polished sapphire crystal display that's highly durable and scratch-resistant. The Edition collection's gold casings are paired with the Modern Buckle, the Sport Band, and the Classic Buckle, creating six different options.
The Apple Watch Edition can be purchased in select Apple Stores and a limited number of luxury stores. It ships with a special jewelry box that's able to double as a charger, unlike the less expensive watches, which come with a standard box. The back of the Edition box is equipped with a Lightning connector, and the magnetic charging pad rests inside. Users can charge the watch simply by returning it to its case at night.
The Apple Watch was created to be a companion device to the iPhone, and as such, it displays notifications when a user receives a phone call, a message, or an app alert. It offers apps, time keeping abilities, social features, and a unique interface that takes advantage of a vibration-based feedback system and the iPod-style "Digital Crown" scroll wheel.
Though designed as a companion to the iPhone, the Apple Watch has a limited number of offline capabilities including the ability to make Apple Pay payments, play music over Bluetooth, track activity, and display some built-in Apple apps.
Apple Watch has a water resistance rating of IPX7, so it is splash and water resistant, but it is not waterproof. It can be worn during exercise, in the rain, and while washing your hands, but it should not be submerged. Many of the Apple Watch bands, like the Modern Buckle and the Leather Loop, should also be kept out of the water. Splash tests conducted on the Apple Watch suggest it might survive for a short amount of time underwater, but users should follow Apple's guidelines and avoid submersion.
The watch has a built-in speaker and a microphone, so it is able to place and receive phone calls. It was created to function as a health and fitness device, offering movement tracking capabilities combined with intuitive apps that encourage users to be more active.
Apple custom designed a special S1 processor chip for the Apple Watch, which integrates several different subsystems into a single module. The S1 chip is said to be similar in power to the A5 processor in the iPad 2 and the iPhone 4s. It houses a gyroscope and an accelerometer to measure activity, and a sensor that detects heart rate. The heart rate sensor consists of four sapphire lenses built into the zirconia backing of the watch that detect pulse rate (via infrared, visible-light LEDs, and photodiodes), and the device also integrates the GPS and Wi-Fi capabilities of the iPhone into several of its tracking abilities, using the phone's GPS system to determine distance traveled.
The Apple Watch has a covered diagnostic port beneath the band that's used for diagnostic purposes, but there has been some speculation that it could, in the future, enable accessories like smart bands.
According to a dedicated battery section on the Apple Watch site, the Apple Watch lasts for approximately 18 hours with mixed usage, which the company refers to as "all-day battery life." Mixed usage is defined as 90 time checks, 90 notifications, 45 minutes of app use, and a 30-minute workout with music playback, all over the course of 18 hours. A teardown of the Apple Watch revealed a rather small 205mAh battery, just a fraction of the capacity of the battery found in the iPhone 6.
The Apple Watch lasts for up to three hours when it is being used to make phone calls, up to 6.5 hours during an active workout session, and up to 6.5 hours when playing audio. When used as a watch, the device lasts for up to 48 hours, and in Power Reserve mode, the battery lasts for up to 72 hours.
Power Reserve Mode, which can be enabled at any time, shuts down most of the functions of the watch that drain power, allowing it to continue to offer its most basic function -- time telling -- even when the Apple Watch battery is low.
As Apple notes, battery life varies by use, configuration, and other factors, so real world results may vary. According to Apple, the 42mm Apple Watch "typically" experiences longer battery life than the smaller 38mm version.
Apple Watch reviewers were largely satisfied with the Apple Watch's battery life, and it lived up to Apple's all day battery life claim, lasting from the morning until the evening.
It takes 1.5 hours for the Apple Watch to be charged from 0 percent to 80 percent using the included MagSafe inductive charger, and it takes 2.5 hours for the device to get to a full 100 percent charge. The Apple Watch battery is replaceable, but users need to send the device in to Apple to get a replacement installed.
The Apple Watch comes in two separate sizes, 38mm and 42mm, both of which are equipped with a Retina display. According to Apple, the "incredibly high pixel density" of the Apple Watch display makes numbers and text easy to read at a glance, even while moving."
Apple has not provided specific details on the resolution of the Apple Watch in its marketing materials, but the resolution is listed in theWatchKit SDK. The smaller 38mm Apple Watch has a resolution of 272 x 340, while the larger 42mm Apple Watch has a resolution of 312 x 390.
Apple describes the display as "extremely energy efficient" and says that it has "remarkable sharpness and contrast." On the Apple Watch and the Apple Watch Edition, the display is laminated to a machined and polished sapphire crystal. On the Apple Watch Sport, the display is protected by Ion-X glass, which is lighter than sapphire but less scratch resistant.
In a scratch test, the sapphire display of the Apple Watch proved to be highly resistant to damage, even when scratching was attempted with a drill.
A scratch test conducted on the Ion-X glass display of the Apple Watch Sport suggested it is less resilient than the sapphire display of the more expensive Apple Watches, but it should still hold up well to daily wear and tear.
According to Apple, the Apple Watch was designed to be an "incredibly accurate timepiece" that has a margin of error within 50 milliseconds. It checks against the definitive global time standard on a regular basis, adjusting the time accordingly during daylight savings time or when a user travels from one time zone to another.
Apple's focus on time has also led it to develop a variety of watch faces, offering a range of designs from a standard analog clock to Mickey Mouse to a galaxy theme that includes moon phases and a look at the solar system. Each custom watch face includes several additional customization options, letting users change colors and the information that's displayed.
Customizable features included with each Watch Face are called "Complications," and are specialized functions that offer information like moon phases, sunrise and sunset times, alarms, and weather.
Apple Watch's accelerometer senses when a user raises his or her wrist, at which point the watch face is displayed. When not activated, the screen remains blank to conserve battery life.
Pressure-sensing technology called "Force Touch" has been built into the Apple Watch, allowing it to determine the difference between a tap and a press. This functionality allows for a new range of contextually specific controls, almost similar to the different abilities enabled by left clicking and right clicking on a mouse button.
Along with pressure-sensing technology, the Apple Watch has a unique haptic feedback vibration engine that's designed to deliver alerts in a subtle, gentle way, letting users feel and hear the design of the user interface. Tactile sensations are different for each kind of notification and combined with audio cues for a feedback system that's unlike anything available on the Mac or iPhone.
NFC and Apple Pay
Apple Watch includes support for NFC, which allows it to integrate with Apple's new mobile payment initiative, Apple Pay. When paired with an iPhone, the Apple Watch can be used to make payments at retailers that accept Apple Pay.
With its NFC capabilities, the Apple Watch allows iPhone users with an iPhone 5, 5s, or 5c to use Apple Pay for the first time. Currently, Apple Pay is limited to iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus users as those are the only iPhones with NFC.
The built-in heart rate monitor is used to ensure secure payments through skin contact. When the Apple Watch is first put on the wrist, a user enters a PIN code to authorize Apple Pay. After that point, the watch monitors skin contact and if removed from a wrist (in the event of a theft, for example) the device is no longer able to make payments until the PIN is re-entered.
The Apple Watch uses inductive charging, taking advantage of a Magsafe-style magnetic charger that snaps easily onto the back of the device. The Apple Watch charges from 0 to 80 percent in about an hour and a half, with an additional hour required to reach full charge.
Watch OS is the operating system that's installed on the Apple Watch. Though WatchOS has taken design cues from iOS 7 and iOS 8, it's been designed from the ground up for the Apple Watch with features that take advantage of all of the hardware in the device.
By default, the Apple Watch display remains black and blank when a user's arm is down to save battery. When a user raises up his or her wrist, the watch face with the time and other user-selected information is displayed.
The WatchOS home screen can be accessed by pressing on the Digital Crown. The home screen displays all available apps in a cluster format (or "app neighborhood") that can be navigated with swipes or with the Digital Crown control. Apps are accessed with a touch.
Apps that run on the Apple Watch are extensions of existing iPhone apps, powered by the iPhone and with a user interface that extends to the watch. Developers have limited access to Apple Watch features and are unable to access the gyroscope, accelerometer, NFC, built-in speaker and microphone, and the Taptic Engine of the device. Developers cannot create full apps that run on the watch itself at this point in time, but that functionality may be available in the future.
Though prevented from creating full apps, developers can still create multiple types of content for the Apple Watch, including apps powered by the iPhone, Glances, and Actionable Notifications. Glances, which are accessible via a swipe on the watch face, are designed to give users quick read-only information at a glance, like weather, news, and sports scores.
Actionable Notifications let users take an action or respond to a notification, such as turning off lights of a connected device or accessing flight information from an email. Notifications are only received when the watch is on the wrist and in contact with skin.
There are two types of notifications on the Apple Watch: a "Short Look" where a notification is only briefly visible and a "Long Look" activated when a user raises their wrist. "Long Look" notifications are equivalent to Actionable Notifications, letting users respond to an incoming notification. For example, a user might receive a Short Look notification from Instagram when a new photo is posted, which morphs into a Long Look notification where an action like a comment or a like can be taken.
Apps on the Apple Watch are similar to apps available for the iPhone, but are far more limited. A comprehensive list of Apple-made apps and third-party apps for the Apple Watch is available below, as is information on some of the Apple Watch's more advanced features.
Social interaction is a cornerstone of Watch OS, and the various sensors and technological capabilities built into the Apple Watch allow for new ways of communication between users, mainly through a set of features Apple's named "Digital Touch."
With Digital Touch, users can send taps to each other or take advantage of the touch screen to draw and send simple sketches. Apple Watch has specially designed animated emoji, plus a list of pre-determined response messages (which improve over time based on user input) that can be used as text message replies. It's also possible to use the built-in heart rate monitor to send an actual heartbeat to another user, which is relayed through vibrations and a heart on the watch display, and there's a "Walkie-Talkie" feature for sending quick sound bites to friends.
As it does with all of its products, Apple has paid special attention to accessibility with the Apple Watch, making the device suitable for use by people with a range of visual, physical, and aural disabilities.
Apple has created an outline of all the Apple Watch accessibility features on its website, highlighting functions like VoiceOver, font adjustment, Taptic notifications, and mono audio.
For the visually impaired, Apple offers VoiceOver, able to speak whatever appears on the screen (compatible with built-in apps and available in 14 languages). There are also settings to increase the size of the Apple Watch type, make text heavier, zoom in, turn on an extra large watch face, reduce transparency, reduce motion, and activate grayscale.
For people who have hearing loss, Apple Watch supports mono audio, letting users play both audio channels in both ears, adjusting the balance for greater volume in either ear. The Taptic Engine, with its gentle touch-based notifications, is also cited by Apple as an accessibility tool.
Accessibility features can be accessed through the Apple Watch directly or through the Apple Watch Settings app on a paired iPhone.
There are two separate fitness apps installed on the Watch, each designed to track different fitness elements. The Activity app gives users an overview of their daily fitness levels, with three "rings" representing calories burned, exercise completed, and how often a break is taken from sitting. Fitness has a companion iPhone app to let users track trends over time.
A second Workout app displays real-time stats like time spent exercising, distance traveled, calories burned, and pace when working out. It encourages users to set, meet, and beat fitness goals, and over time, it is able to suggest new, attainable fitness goals and act as a digital personal trainer.
Health and fitness was one of Apple's main focal points when developing the Apple Watch. The company has a secret testing facility where it has been gathering health and fitness data from Apple employees for years to develop the Apple Watch.
Employees are outfitted with a wide array of sensors and wear masks that measure statistics like changes in breathing. Volunteers were subjected to widely varying workout regimens including rowing, yoga, and running, to collect data for the Apple Watch. Apple collected more than 18,000 hours of data for the Apple Watch, both indoors in special rooms that featured different climates, and in various locations around the world.
Though heavily reliant on the iPhone, certain Apple Watch features continue to work when you're away from your device. For example, the device is able to learn a user's stride after a few exercises completed while paired with an iPhone, and then it's able to accurately track fitness-related statistics without needing to be tethered to an iPhone.
As might be expected from a device with limited space for user input, the Apple Watch includes Siri integration. Users can ask Siri to perform many of the tasks the personal assistant is able to perform on the iPhone, such as sending messages, getting directions, or looking up information.
Siri can be activated by holding down the Digital Crown or raising a wrist and using the "Hey Siri" command.
For the most part, apps that have been shown off so far have been more limited versions of some of the apps available on iOS and OS X. For example, the included Messages app lets users dictate messages or select quick responses from pre-set options.
The Phone app, meanwhile, lets users conduct quick conversations that can be transferred to the iPhone, a car's speakerphone, or a Bluetooth headset, if desired. Incoming phone alerts can be silenced by covering the Apple Watch with a hand.
Mail, another app present on Watch OS, displays incoming email messages. Users can read a message, flag it, mark it read/unread, or move it to trash, but need to transfer to an iPhone to type a response. Other built-in apps:
- Calendar: Displays what's coming up next in a user's day, sends meeting reminders and allows users to accept calendar invitations.
- Maps: Lets users view current location and get turn-by-turn directions. Maps takes advantage of Taptic Feedback, delivering different vibrations for a left or right turn.
- Passbook: Like on the iPhone, Passbook stores boarding passes, tickets, loyalty cards, and credit cards. It's an integral part of Apple Pay.
- Music: Users can control the music on their iPhones via Apple Watch and Apple Watch can also play music directly.
- Apple TV, iTunes: Apple Watch can serve as a remote control for both iTunes and the Apple TV, letting users navigate the interface with the watch.
- Camera/Photos: Apple Watch serves as a remote shutter for the iPhone's camera. It can display a live preview of what the iPhone sees, and snap the picture. Apple Watch also displays photos that are favorited on the iPhone in its Photos app.
- Clock: Similar to the iPhone's clock app, Apple Watch has stopwatch, timer, and alarm functionality built in, along with a world clock.
- Weather: Apple Watch lets users to see the weather in their immediate location or anywhere in the world. The app displays a detailed daily report and a weekly forecast.
- Settings: A Settings app serves as a hub to enable and disable various Apple Watch features, including Bluetooth, Do Not Disturb, and Mute. This app also lets users ping their iPhones to determine its location should it become lost.
Apple Watch supports third-party apps, allowing developers to create three distinct types of software for the device: "Actionable Notifications" that are essentially interactive third-party app notifications sent from the iPhone, Glances, which display quick bits of info, and full on apps that run either on the iPhone or on the Apple Watch itself.
Watch OS, like OS X Yosemite and iOS 8, supports Apple's new Continuity features that allow the operating systems to integrate with each other in innovative ways. With Handoff, for example, users are able to shift tasks from one device to another with ease, so a phone call, message, or email can be transferred from the Apple Watch to a Mac or iOS device.
iPhone Companion App
iOS 8.2 included a pre-installed iPhone app called just "Apple Watch," which serves as a companion to the upcoming device. It serves as a place for Apple Watch owners to control settings on the device and download apps.
An iPhone pairs with an Apple Watch using the companion app, though the iPhone's camera. A pairing menu available now asks users to hold their Apple Watch devices up to the camera to initiate a connection.
The Apple Watch companion app has menus for configuring the app layout on the Apple Watch (rearranging the home screen cluster), toggling on notifications and glances, choosing brightness and text size, and controlling sounds and haptic feedback (the gentle vibrations you get with notifications). One neat haptic feature is the ability to cover the watch display with a hand to mute it.
You can use the iPhone app to toggle on Airplane Mode, turn on Do Not Disturb, and set a passcode. There are controls for individual app settings, and it's possible to choose the orientation of the Apple Watch display to left wrist or right wrist. You can also toggle on "Wrist Detection," which activates the watch display whenever the wrist is raised and shows the time.
There's a friends list available to add friends to communicate with (by sending heartbeats and drawings), and there are options to control Activity alerts, manage music, and manage photos.
iPhone Activity App
Along with an Apple Watch companion app, the iPhone also has "Activity" app that's installed on the an iPhone after it is paired with an Apple Watch. The Activity app provides a comprehensive overview of your daily activity and workout history.
A main History section lets you view your activity rings on a calendar to track how much walking, standing, and exercise you have done over the course of the day, month, or year. An Achievements section shows a grid of achievements that are earned by reaching fitness goals, with more than a dozen achievements that can be earned.
Apple has a dedicated page on its website highlighting various Apple Watch apps, and on Thursday, April 23, the Apple Watch App Store went live, a day ahead of the Apple Watch's April 24 launch date. The Apple Watch App Store can be accessed via the Apple Watch app automatically installed on all iPhones devices running iOS 8.2 and iOS 8.3.
Downloading Apple Watch apps requires an iPhone, as all Apple Watch apps are baked into iPhone apps. Apple Watch apps can be located through the dedicated Apple Watch App Store using the Apple Watch app, but they're also highlighted in the regular App Store with an icon that says "Offers Apple Watch app." Downloading one of these iPhone apps makes the Apple Watch portion of the app available on the Apple Watch.
Though the Apple Watch App Store wasn't made available until just before the Apple Watch launched, iPhone apps with Apple Watch support began showing up in the App Store in March. All developers were given the green light to begin submitting Apple Watch apps in late March.
A long list of some of the first apps that implemented Apple Watch support is available here, and we've also done several roundups covering the different types of apps that are available on the Apple Watch below. Click through to the posts to explore some of the apps you can get for the device.
- Apple Watch Weather Apps Provide At-a-Glance Forecasts Throughout the Day
- Apple Watch Brings Your TV's Remote Control to Your Wrist
- Apple Watch News Apps Bring At-a-Glance Headlines to Your Wrist
- Healthcare Apps Bring Dosage Reminders, Doctor Consults to Apple Watch
- Apple Watch Brings Flight and Airline Apps to Your Wrist
- IFTTT's 'Do Button' and 'Do Note' Coming to Apple Watch
- 'Glide' Update Brings Video And Text Messaging Service to Apple Watch
- 1Password Update Brings the Password-Managing App to Apple Watch
- Yelp Releases Apple Watch App With Nearby Location Listings, Reviews
- 'Citymapper' and 'Transit App' Offer In-Depth Looks at Transit Experiences on Apple Watch
- 'Wunderlist' for Apple Watch Brings To-Do Lists, Agendas and Reminders to Your Wrist
- Shazam, OneDrive, Porsche, FIFA 15, ESPN, JetBlue and More Apps Updated for Apple Watch
Ahead of the Apple Watch's launch, Apple CEO Tim Cook has said that he was "super excited" about the third-party apps being developed for the Apple Watch. "I think everyone's going to have their favorite thing, just like when the App Store came out," he said. "Remember the saying 'there's an app for that? There's an enormous number of things it will do."
Members of the media got several early hands-on experiences with the Apple Watch, both in September and March, but ahead of the launch of Apple Watch pre-orders, Apple gave several sites Apple Watch review units, giving them a chance to spend multiple days with the watch before sharing their opinions.
In general, reviewers felt that the Apple Watch performed better than any other smart watch on the market, but as a first generation product, it has definite downsides like a steep learning curve to adjust Notifications and slow third-party app performance.
Reviewers were largely impressed with the device's battery life, and most said that it lasted all day, just as Apple said it was. Overall, the consensus seemed to be that while the Apple Watch is the best smart watch, it's still not something that everyone is going to need.
Joshua Topolsky, Bloomberg:
"The watch is not life-changing. It is, however, excellent. Apple will sell millions of these devices, and many people will love and obsess over them. It is a wonderful component of a big ecosystem that the company has carefully built over many years. It is more seamless and simple than any of its counterparts in the marketplace. It is, without question, the best smartwatch in the world."
Farhad Manjoo, The New York Times:
What's more, unlike previous breakthrough Apple products, the Watch’s software requires a learning curve that may deter some people. There’s a good chance it will not work perfectly for most consumers right out of the box, because it is best after you fiddle with various software settings to personalize use. Indeed, to a degree unusual for a new Apple device, the Watch is not suited for tech novices. It is designed for people who are inundated with notifications coming in through their phones, and for those who care to think about, and want to try to manage, the way the digital world intrudes on their lives."
Nilay Patel, The Verge:
"There’s no question that the Apple Watch is the most capable smartwatch available today. It is one of the most ambitious products I’ve ever seen; it wants to do and change so much about how we interact with technology. But that ambition robs it of focus: it can do tiny bits of everything, instead of a few things extraordinarily well. For all of its technological marvel, the Apple Watch is still a smartwatch, and it’s not clear that anyone’s yet figured out what smartwatches are actually for."
David Pogue, Yahoo Tech:
"The Apple Watch is light-years better than any of the feeble, clunky efforts that have come before it. The screen is nicer, the software is refined and bug-free, the body is real jewelry. First-time technologies await at every turn: Magnetic bands, push-to-release straps, wrist-to-wrist drawings or Morse codes, force pressing, credit-card payments from the wrist. And the symbiosis with the iPhone is graceful, out of your way, and intelligent. But the true answer to that question is this: You don’t need one. Nobody needs a smartwatch. After all, it’s something else to buy, care for, charge every night. It’s another cable to pack and track. Your phone already serves most of its purposes. With the battery-life situation as it is, technology is just barely in place to make such a device usable at all."
John Gruber, Daring Fireball:
"After more than a week of daily use, Apple Watch has more than alleviated any concerns I had about getting through a day on a single charge. I noted the remaining charge when I went to bed each night. It was usually still in the 30s or 40s. Once it was still over 50 percent charged. Once, it was down to 27. And one day — last Thursday — it was all the way down to 5 percent. But that day was an exception — I used the watch for an extraordinary amount of testing, nothing at all resembling typical usage. I’m surprised the watch had any remaining charge at all that day. I never once charged the watch other than while I slept."
Lauren Goode, Re/code:
"Apple has promised that the battery will last 18 hours per charge with normal use. It hasn’t yet died on me during the day, or even late at night. My iPhone actually conked out before the Watch did; this happened to Bonnie, too. One day this past week, I woke up at 5:15 am, exercised for an hour using the Watch, ran Maps during my commute, made phones calls and received notifications throughout the whole day, and by 11:00 pm the Watch was just hitting its Power Reserve point."
Apple kicked off its Apple Watch marketing efforts with a series of magazine advertisements during the months of February and March. The Apple Watch made its magazine cover debut in the United States in the March issue of Self magazine, gracing the wrist of model and Victoria's Secret Angel Candice Swanepoel. Along with being the first magazine in the U.S. to feature the Apple Watch, Self's Apple Watch cover and accompanying story marked Apple's first efforts to market the device to fitness enthusiasts.
Apple's wearable was also featured in the U.S. version of Vogue Magazine, shown off in a 12-page spread that highlighted some of the various casing and band options, and it was seen in U.K. magazine Style and many others.
Apple spent more than $38 million in a single month marketing the Apple Watch on TV ahead of its release, and the company's Apple Watch commercial was shown more than 300 times. The Apple Watch also made its reality TV debut on April 6, when The Voice's Pharrell Williams wore the gold Apple Watch Edition during an episode.
Apple provided several celebrities with Apple Watches before it launched, including some custom-built designs. Karl Lagerfeld, for example, received a gold Apple Watch Edition with an accompanying gold Link Bracelet. Katy Perry, Drake, and Bradley Cooper were all spotted wearing Apple Watches early in April. Apple gave former rugby player Will Carling a stainless steel Apple Watch with a custom red sport band, and other celebrities also received several custom-made bands.
After the Apple Watch was released on April 24, Apple launched three new commercials that will be shown heavily on television in the coming weeks. Entitled "Rise," "Up," and "Us," the three spots feature the ways the Apple Watch can be seamlessly incorporated into our daily lives.
According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, Apple experimented with many health sensors that didn't end up in the first iteration of the Apple Watch due to problems with consistency.
Apple planned to include sensors that measured things like the conductivity of the skin and blood pressure, but the company was unable to get consistent results with the sensors and ultimately decided to scrap the technology. Regulatory problems were also a concern -- the more the Apple Watch can do, the more the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory bodies will get involved in its production.
The health sensors that did not make it into the Apple Watch have not been abandoned. Apple may be planning to include these features in future versions of the device, and Financial Times says Apple is indeed targeting 2016 for the launch of the second-generation Apple Watch.
According to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo Apple may release up to three new casing options for the Apple Watch later in the year with the aim of boosting holiday sales of the device.
Apple has provided several celebrities with special Apple Watch bands that are not available to the public, such as Sport Bands in unique colors or Gold Link Bracelets, hinting at some of the band options that could become available in the future.
At a recent event in Milan, for example, Apple design chief Jony Ive was on hand to show off a range of Sport Bands in colors that are not for sale, ranging from yellow and dark blue to muliple flesh tones.