“We've been working hard for a long time on an entirely new product. We believe this product will redefine what people expect from its category. The next chapter in Apple's story.”
It’s been a while since we’ve had a proper “one more thing” from Apple, but the Californians didn’t disappoint tonight.
After more than 18 months of rumours, Team Cook lifted the lid on - simply - the Watch, the company’s first wearable, and it’s clear that they spent a lot of time getting this thing right. In Apple’s words, it’s “more than a shrunken down iPhone”.
Starting with the Watch design, well, there was a lot to take in, but it’ll be offered in two sizes and three styles, namely Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch Edition, with a whole range of straps and materials. Check it:
The Apple Watch display is of the flexible Retina variety, and it’s “laminated to a single crystal of sapphire, the hardest transparent material after diamond.”
The big talking point on the Apple Watch, however, is easily the Digital Crown, which looks like your typical watch dial for setting the time, but in fact serves to aid navigation. That means you can scroll around and zoom without obscuring the relatively small display.
The Apple Watch also offers haptic – or “taptic” – feedback, and recognises the difference between a gentle tap and a full-on press (Force Touch).
Powering the Apple Watch show is the all-new Apple S1, which claims to miniaturise an entire system onto a single chip.
However, the Apple Watch is not a standalone device, and requires an iPhone 5 or above (iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus) to operate.
“What can you actually do with it?” is an entirely valid question, and the answer includes handling actionable notifications (Accept or Decline calendar invites, for example), following directions from Apple Maps, and viewing photos.
There's also a feature called Glances, wherein you can swipe up from the bottom to see info on meetings, weather, stocks, world time and the music player.
Sharing stuff with friends is also a big part of the Apple Watch thang. From your contact list, you can make a call, send a message, share a doodle, give your friend a virtual tap on the wrist, or – bizarrely – share information like your heartbeat in real time.
And of course a smartwatch wouldn’t be a smartwatch without lots of health-related features. Apple reckons the Watch could genuinely improve people’s lives by allowing them to easily monitor their fitness, including heart rate, calories burned and – via Wi-Fi and GPS – distance travelled.
The Stand, Exercise, Move feature records how often you’ve stood (sitting for prolonged periods being a bad idea); measures brisk activity; and provides an overview of your overall activeness.
And you can always hop onto the big screen of the iPhone to view all your health stats in more detail, using the appropriately named Health app.
In terms of developer support, a host of big names are already jumping enthusiastically on the Apple Watch train, including Nike, Facebook, BMW, Pinterest, MLB and Honeywell, while WatchKit invites devs to make Watch-friendly apps and notifications.
The Apple Watch release date was vaguely announced as 2015, when it’ll sell from $349. Crucially, that means Apple will miss out on the Christmas period, though consumers will have their hands full with the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, and (probably) two new iPads, anyway.
In the meantime, it’ll be interesting to see how the Android Wear crew responds: Apple just raised the wearable bar.