Overall impression – Nice, neat, not spectacular in terms of looks, but by far the best interface and potential for future uses. Typically Apple
Pros: Expect smoothness, a great intuitive interface, and great apps to come for this quality-built device
Cons: Looks like a glorified iPod Nano, battery life may be restrictive
Price: £299 / $349 – price TBC* – price given the aluminium model. It has been announced that the steel version will be $549 and the gold option as much as $17,000
This will undoubtedly be the smartwatch which brings the concept to the masses. There was a time when Apple’s drive for uncompromised innovation and style thrust their products into the public arena. The world has grown to be so accustomed to this that it now waits with anticipation for an Apple product before actually embracing a new technology.
Apple have also thought about their potential market, investing in two different sizes to cater for small and large wrists (resisting the temptation to refer to them as “mens” and “ladies” models), and in three distinct versions; the standard stainless steel ‘Watch’, the ‘Sports’ version which is lighter, partly due to its aluminium body, and the exclusive ‘Edition’ which comes in 18-carat solid gold (I know!). These are all available with a huge range of straps and bands to personalise them to your heart’s content.
Another product of the irrepressible Jony Ive design team, although not faultable in any way, doesn’t quite come up to the mark in terms of ‘wow’ factor. Looking not too dissimilar to a glorified iPod Nano, even some of the pre-announcement artists’ impressions found on the web looked a lot more stylish than this.
Display: Rectangular, 1.7″ (312 x 390) or 1.5″ (272 x 340) variants, AMOLED, Retina display (300 ppi approx)
As you would expect from the people who added the term “retina display” to the technology lexicon, the standard Apple Watch has a very bright and crisp 1.7″ (approx) AMOLED screen. It has been estimated that it will come with a resolution of around 320 x 400 and a ppi of around 300, but Apple itself is tight-lipped about this. Although the glass is edge to edge, the screen is not, with a wide black surround to it, much like the iPod Nano. The glass itself is of a very high quality, being made of sapphire, the second hardest mineral on earth after diamond. However, in the sports version, to keep the weight down, it will be of what they call Ion-X; a very tough, scratch resistant composite along the lines of Gorilla glass. Apple also say that the customisable watch face allows literally millions of combinations to suit your taste and requirements.
Performance: expected: S1 “SiP” chip, 512MB RAM, 4GB and 8GB variants,
Again, very little has been confirmed about the technical specs for the Apple Watch. It is thought that it will come with 512MB RAM and 4GB storage as standard (with the classier Edition model loaded with 8GB). This represents what is increasingly looking like the standard configuration for smartwatches, and should be sufficient to power a smooth and trouble-free user experience. There is reported to be a single chip which will efficiently handle all technical processes, although the processing architecture and speed is not yet known. However, it is highly unlikely that Apple will compromise its flagship offering with technical deficiencies, so we anticipate a very smooth and fluid interface.
Connectivity: NFC, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, Optical heart monitor, suggestions of skin-contact sensor, lacks GPS
The Apple Watch come with a good range of technologies for connectivity, including NFC which it will put to good use in its ‘Apple Pay’ platform (currently US only). Obviously it doesn’t have a GSM mobile communication ability, but it also lacks GPS, which may be a bit of a shortcoming given the current popularity of fitness apps, meaning that the phone will have to tag along on those early morning jogs. There is the obligatory optical heart rate monitor built into the back, and Wi-Fi is a useful addition in its arsenal. And it has been suggested that there will also be sensors on the back which will detect if the watch has been removed from the arm, meaning the user will have to re-authenticate themselves with the device to be able to use its security identification features.
Battery & Charging: 1 day, Magsafe charger
After much cajoling, Apple supremo, Tim Cook, finally conceded recently what most people had expected all along – the Apple watch won’t last more than a day and will require nightly charging. He said this was because we will want to use it so much. He’s probably right. For a smartwatch to be as useful as the industry wants it to be, we should expect to use them a lot. And most other manufacturers have also settled for the one-day life too. The charger, on the other hand, is quite neat and stylish. A Magsafe magnetic conductive charging device, it attaches to the back of the watch to deliver the payload.
OS and Apps: “Watch OS”, mapping , navigation, fitness, and notification apps, plus several apps to interact with your environment, including your car, home heating and lights, airport check-in etc. expected
OK, this is where we get to the ‘killer’. In addition to your usual complement of apps and interfaces, Apple is the one manufacturer with the foresight and clout to get major players on board to shape the future of the medium. Apple has already started to sign up participants to its Apple Pay system, an NFC-driven touch-payment interface which is a step ahead of and in direct competition to Paypal. It has also patented an NFC airport check-in system which, if taken to its technological conclusion, could allow users to be checked in, identified, verified and ushered through to the lounge without having to present a single document. And to counter all the obvious concerns about security issues surrounding the identification of travellers, there is also talk of them working on a unique system whereby the device will confirm the identity of the wearer as long as a connection with the skin is maintain. If this is broken, the user will be required to re-identify themselves to the device. Then there are link-ups with home heating and lighting firms, car manufacturers – the list goes on. It is not clear how much of this will actually become reality, but it shows the ground-breaking direction Apple is taking, one which could transform our lives once again. And central to this transformation will be the humble smartwatch. The potential is huge.
Back down to earth though, the watch will obviously ship with the usual complement of notification, social media and fitness (using the built-in optical heart rate monitor) apps you would expect, as well as mapping & navigation apps as well as sports and weather alerts.
Control and interface: Siri voice-recognition system, force-sensitive touchscreen, crown with rotation-function plus additional button, ‘taptic’ feedback system
Once again, Apple’s (and chief designer Jony Ive’s) vision of ergonomic perfection has produced a number of clever little features on the Apple Watch which will make the user experience that little bit most satisfying. First up we have the crown, which features on other models of smartwatch too. However, unlike those, where the crown spins inanely, the Apple watch has converted this into an integral control mechanism. So now, by turning the crown, you can zoom in and out, scroll up and down, and most imaginatively, you can actually ‘zoom into’ apps on the home screen. This ingenious method means two things. One, you can cram a lot more touch hotspots onto each screen as you won’t need to rely on your (relatively) unwield-ily large fingers to prod at the icons. And secondly, as a result of this, you won’t be covering the exquisite sapphire glass with unsightly fingermarks to detract from its beauty. And this brings us to another ingenious aspect of this device’s interface; the touch itself. It now not only responds to the duration of the touch, but also, rather incredibly, to the amount of force you apply. So a hard press will have a different effect to a lighter touch. And to round up this list of innovative additions we have what Apple are calling their “Taptic” feedback system, whereby the notification “buzz” will have its own unique signature depending on the event so that you know what it is before you’ve even raised the watch to your face. All this, together with Siri voice recognition and control, makes this, in our view, the watch with potentially the best user experience out there.
Compatibility: This is one for Apple fanboys and fangirls only, and then only those with Apple phones 5 and onwards. Sorry rest of the world….