Apple just announced its Apple Watch during its press event in San Francisco. And it looks… underwhelming. The watch face itself is square, mirroring the popular design of many existing smartwatches. It comes in stainless steel, sapphire glass and a customized experience that is more suited to the smaller form factor.
What separates the device, Apple’s Tim Cook explained, is something called a “digital crown,” which is basically a dial. You use this crown to zoom in and out of apps, giving you control over the UI. No pinching to zoom or anything like that—those gestures just wouldn’t work on such a small screen. There’s a home button on the side, with rounded edges and a number of bands to choose from.
Although it features a square face, it looks rather small; perhaps smaller than something like the Pebble Steel, which is among the smaller wearables on the market. The interface features a number of circular icons that appear on the screen, which you can use the digital crown to zoom into or just press right on them. There’s calendar, fitness, calling, messaging, and a number of other apps you can use.
When you raise your wrist up, the watch will dynamically wake the screen so you can see the time and any notifications; that’s similar to other smartwatches available, so nothing too new there. On the back of the watch there are a ton of sensors (more later) that track your health and fitness stats. It’s clear from what Apple is showing is that its Watch is much more than just a device that receives notifications.
You can dictate to the watch, of course, swipe around the touchscreen, and a “glances” gesture method for swiping through information; in addition to being a touchscreen, the display also senses force, and can tell the difference between a tap and a press; think of pressing like a “right click.”
Apple also said the Watch features a MagSafe, wireless inductive charger. So that clears up that rumor. You can super easily change straps (six in total), and there are also a range of sport bands so you can wear it on runs and other outdoor activities. In terms of customization, there are a bunch of watch faces, and hopefully an option to download more in the future.
Apple is going through a ton of the Watch’s features, and it seems really thought out and thorough. You can get directions right from your watch, get calendar notifications, and there’s also this strange thing where you can communicate with other Apple Watch users with disappearing pictures and touches; if you touch the interface three times, that person’s watch will vibrate three times. It’s like if you have a secret handshake or knock with friends, you can now communicate that with Apple Watch.
Apple said there will be a WatchKit for third parties, so developers like Facebook and others will be able to send notifications to your wrist. Apple also detailed integration with airlines, hotels and public transit, so you’ll know exactly when a train arrives and when to get off at the correct stop. It’ll also integrate with your connected home, which you can control right from your wrist.
Tim Cook said a lot of Apple Watch’s emphasis, as expected, will focus on health and fitness. Apple built two new applications: Fitness and Workout, which will track all of your stats and workouts with ease.
Both apps are incredibly comprehensive, providing much more detailed measurements so, as Apple puts it, you will “sit less, move more and get some exercise.” There are a number of features that will store information like calories burned, how intensely you worked out, and whether you hit your daily goals. Apple is really proud about the fitness aspects, and claims it’ll improve millions of lives around the globe.
This doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface, Tim Cook said. The device apparently gets to “know” someone, and will work with your gadgets deeply; it works with devices from the iPhone 5 up to the iPhone 6 Plus—Apple says that’s 200 million people can use it. Cook mentioned that you can use it as a remote shutter for your phone, control an Apple TV and much more. Third party developers will be able to create experience with it, so it’ll just get more powerful as the months wear on.
The Apple Watch, of course, is also compatible with Apple’s new mobile payment system; just swipe your wrist at supported retailer and you can pay for your goods without using your wallet. It’ll work just as well as it does on your iPhone, so it’ll be easier than ever to leave your bulky wallet at home.
Unfortunately, it won’t be available until early next year, and it starts at $349.