Forget the iWatch. It's TIME for The Apple Watch –– Release Date Confirmed For April

News Richard Goodwin 12:00, 30 Jan 2015

Apple Watch release date confirmed for April. Here's EVERYTHING else you need to know about Apple's wearable

The iWatch is official but it’s not called the iWatch – it’s called Apple Watch. What's more, it's not really just one product either, as you've got two sizes, three styles, and a multitude of other options to choose from - there's a wide range of combinations you can cook up to make sure your iWatch fits around your life as well as your wrist (oh yes). Tim Cook says the Apple Watch is all about health and fitness tracking, and represents a HUGE step forward for Apple as a company.

Apple demoed the device during the launch of the iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6, detailing what it would look like, how it would function, and just how personal the device is –– all well and good, but what “problem” does it solve? Android Wear has been out and about for a while now but when was the last time you saw somebody wearing a smartwatch that isn't a tech journalist?


Does this mean people aren’t ready for smartwatches or, more likely, most people –– i.e. a good 90% –– simply don’t give a crap about them? I tested a lot of smartwatches last year and came to the conclusion awhile ago that, while nice to look at in some cases, the devices are largely superfluous and, for most people, pretty pointless. 

Does Apple have a USP? It didn’t at launch, beyond fitness tracking and message relay –– those old chestnuts. And this makes me think the Apple Watch, despite being APPLE, will be just like Android Wear devices (or the Sony and Samsung ones that came before them) and nothing more than a wrist-based accessory for only the most hardcore tech enthusiasts. 

Still, Apple does have a habit of turning public opinion on certain things, so maybe it can work its black magic inside the smartwatch space as well? 

Here’s EVERYTHING you need to know about the company’s upcoming Apple Watch. 

Apple Watch Release Date

The release date for Apple’s long awaited Apple Watch is now official. Tim Cook confirmed the wearable device will begin shipping out to consumers in the US during April. That’s a smidgen later than expected, earlier reports had pointed to February, but at least we now know for certain when the Apple Watch will be landing. 

Apple Store employees began training about the product late-on in 2014 ahead a perceived Q1/Q2 release date. The Apple Watch is the first new product category Apple has launched since 2010’s iPad. It’s also the first product that Steve Jobs apparently had no say in. Nope. The Apple Watch was all Tim Cook, apparently. No doubt with a little help from Mr. Jony Ive. 

"Apple aims to reset the wearable market and make 2014 year zero for wearables, as 2007 became the start of the true smartphone market because of the iPhone. But moving into a new category is a bold, expensive and risky effort. This Apple Watch is a first generation device, whether it is successful or not, Apple will aim to iterate and make it a must have companion for every iPhone owner," said IHS analyst Ian Fogg.

Apple Watch Price

Long-time Apple analyst John Gruber has shared with us his estimates for the Apple Watch’s prices. He’s revealed how much he reckons each version of the watch will cost: 

  • Apple Watch Sport with aluminium/glass: $349 (£213)
  • Apple Watch with stainless steel/sapphire: $999 (£613)
  • Apple Watch Edition with 18-karat gold/sapphire: $4,999 (£3062)

Gruber didn’t share the pricing in Pound Sterling, we just converted it on the current exchange rate to see how much his dollar estimates would be over here. Of course once it’s properly released we’ll probably see a bit of a price hike this side of the pond, as is Apple’s usual treatment of the UK.

The biggest thing to take from this is arguably the price of the Apple Watch Edition. It’s not cheap, but it is targeted at the luxury watch market. Bear in mind, An entry level Rolex starts at around £1,500 whilst Omega and Tag watches start at around the £2,500 mark.

Also worth noting is the Apple Watch Edition does come with 18-karat gold plating; it’s not going to be cheap to make (the aforementioned Rolex, Omega and Tag models are not gold-plated versions, however - those are much more expensive!)

These aren’t final either, it’s only estimates from one analyst and he may be completely off with his guesses. That said, he has had success in the past predicting Apple’s next steps, we’ll just have to wait and see if he is right when the Apple Watch goes on sale in 2015. 

According to 9to5Mac, Angela Ahrendts, Apple's senior vice president of retail and online stores said: "We’re going into the holidays, we’ll go into Chinese New Year, and then we’ve got a new watch launch coming in the spring." Chinese New Year falls on February 19 in 2015, meaning the Apple Watch will not be available for Valentine’s Day, as previously reported. 

Apple Watch Design, Display & Build

Apple has created what it calls a Digital Crown, a spinning dial on the side of the watch that you spin to zoom in and out of apps or rotate down through apps. This method of interaction ensures the display is never covered, meaning you can always see what’s being displayed on its screen – even when moving around the UX. The screen does still support touch input, however, and what's more it has "force sensitivity" so it can tell how hard you're pressing - this means it can perform different functions with different levels of pressure on the display.

Apple will retail three types of Apple Watch: Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch Edition. Each model is available in two sizes; 42mm and 38mm – one for women and one for men – and Apple also has six different strap options, which users can switch around at their leisure. There's also a selection of six material finishes and colour options, though some are tied to specific models.

The materials include Stainless Steel, Silver Aluminium, 18-Karat Gold, Space Black Stainless Steel, Space Grey Aluminium, and 18-Karat Rose Gold. The steel options are only for the Apple Watch Sport, and the gold is only available on the Apple Watch Edition - which also features a coloured crown.

The strap options include a traditional link bracelet, a plastic sports band, a leather loop, a classic buckle design, a modern buckle design, and a "Milanese" loop featuring a sort of mesh design. Each strap type is available in different colours and finishes too.

The watches design features a square face with rounded edges that curve around from front to back smoothly. As well as the dial, there's also a button input, but apart from this the bodywork is largely uninterrupted - there are no ports as all the charging and data transfer is handled by wireless protocols. The back panel is ceramic and features sensors for use with health apps and magnets to guide it to the correct position on the Magsafe wireless charger.

Meanwhile the display is the much-fabled Sapphire Glass, though we don't yet have details on the resolution or display tech used. All models are also water resistant, but no IP rating or similar has been revealed so far.

 

Curiously, aside from wireless charging, Apple has mentioned pretty much nothing about the battery. After the event a spokesperson for Apple, Natalie Kerris, spoke to Re/code about the battery life on the new Apple Watch. Kerris said, “There’s a lot of new technology packed into Apple Watch and we think people will love using it throughout the day. We anticipate that people will charge nightly which is why we designed an innovative charging solution that combines our MagSafe technology and inductive charging.”

You'll notice Kerris said DIDDLY SQUAT about the actual battery inside the Apple Watch which tells us one of two things: 1) the battery is teeny and Apple is terrified of the press finding out about just how small it is at launch, or 2) Apple views battery size as an arbitrary spec not worth further discussion and the Apple Watch battery is fine and will last all day, providing you use Apple's "innovative" wireless charging station. 

Moral of the story? Don't expect Apple to tell you ANYTHING about its products beyond what has been sanctioned by its internal and mysterious PR overlords. 

Apple Watch Battery 

Apple CEO Tim Cook has come out and admitted what many already assumed to be the case: the Apple Watch will need to be charged everyday. Cook was speaking at the WSJ.D conference in California when he said the Apple Watch will need to be charged daily but insisted the device is still “profound”.

He continued, “When you wear something, it has to look really cool. It can't be geeky. It has to say something about you." Although Cook didn’t share specific details or battery estimates he said, “You're going to wind up charging it daily."

He also confirmed the Apple Watch will not be the big money-spinner for the company right away. Cook said the iPhone "will continue to be a majority of the company’s revenue and profits for the foreseeable future". 

A new report from 9to5Mac claims that the battery life of the Apple Watch may be somewhat lacklustre. It seems as well as requiring a daily charge, as previously confirmed by Apple, the actual run time for the device may not be that long either.

The publication cites anonymous "people with knowledge" of the Apple Watch, who have allegedly provided Apple's target figure for battery performance. However, these sources also suggest the Apple Watch battery performance currently fails to hit these marks.

The report goes on to state having heard that Apple's choice of high-power processor chip and high-end display panels may be causing the battery problems. Below is an extract from the report: 

"Apple opted to use a relatively powerful processor and high-quality screen for the Apple Watch, both of which contribute to significant power drain. Running a stripped-down version of iOS codenamed SkiHill, the Apple S1 chip inside the Apple Watch is surprisingly close in performance to the version of Apple’s A5 processor found inside the current-generation iPod touch, while the Retina-class color display is capable of updating at a fluid 60 frames per second.

"Apple initially wanted the Apple Watch battery to provide roughly one full day of usage, mixing a comparatively small amount of active use with a larger amount of passive use," says the report. "As of 2014, Apple wanted the Watch to provide roughly 2.5 to 4 hours of active application use versus 19 hours of combined active/passive use, 3 days of pure standby time, or 4 days if left in a sleeping mode. Sources, however, say that Apple will only likely achieve approximately 2-3 days in either the standby or low-power modes…" 

Apple Watch Software

Thinking of picking up an Apple Watch when it launches? If so you might be pleased to hear there's an interactive digital demo now live, allowing you to try a virtual version of the wearable out before you part with your cash. It's a web-based version of the Pipes app and showcases a full 19 apps in action on the wrist-mounted device, including Shazam and Instagram. We also get to see push notifications and screen transitions.

Check out the demo here.

The OS running inside Apple’s Watch has been completely redesigned with watch-based use in mind; it’s still not clear what OS the wearables use, however –– although it is most likely some modified form of iOS, purpose built for this device, just like what Apple did with Apple TV. 

It comes with a bunch of watch faces that include different functions that you can customise yourself. If you want the time and the weather you can press down and change them to what you want. There’s a Mickey Mouse dancing watch face, for example, or another that shows you your place on earth.

The Apple Watch links up to your iPhone and can show notifications or use the handset's GPS for positioning information. It also works with Apple's new Apple Pay contactless payment service as it uses an NFC chip.  However, the Apple Watch will only support the iPhone 5 and above.

It also fully supports Siri voice control, as this is a much better way of interacting with your  smartwatch than trying to type on a smaller display. You can also send quick messages which you can draw with a finger on the display.

Similar to existing smartwatches, the Apple Watch also uses sensors to detect when you lift your wrist to look at it, and will power on accordingly.

Apple is distributing its WatchKit developer kit so expect bespoke applications to appear in due course, though we don't yet know how they're going to be distributed (ie: through the existing App Store, or a new side channel?)

It will be closely integrated with Apple Healthkit thanks to the suite of sensors for things like heart rate. A cool feature is that it will detect if you've been sitting still for an hour, vibrate if so, and then prompt you to move around for a few minutes - that can help stop deep vein thrombosis and the like.

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