Forget the iWatch. It's TIME for The Apple Watch

News Richard Goodwin 12:07, 12 Dec 2014

Apple has launched the Apple Watch alongside the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus... here's everything we know thus far

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.

Interestingly, the Apple Watch is the first Apple product exclusively guided from drawing board to retail by Cook himself (Jobs had no role in it, apparently). 

“[We’ve created] over a million US jobs, between people we've hired ourselves, or people that are working for suppliers doing work on our behalf, or developers who are writing applications for iPhone and iPad and the Mac, and now, of course, as of today, the iWatch.”

As of Q3 2014, the wearables market is controlled by Samsung, followed by FitBit and its legion of fitness trackers taking second place, and Jawbone bringing up the rear in third. So – how will the Apple Watch affect the already-established players in the wearables market place? In a word: BADLY.

Here’s what Canalys’ Daniel Matte said about the Apple Watch: “Apple has produced a smart watch that mass-market consumers will actually want to wear.” He added: “The sleek software, variety of designs and reasonable entry price make for a compelling new product. Apple must still prove, however, that the final product will deliver adequate battery life for consumers.” 

The Apple Watch will enter and disrupt, according to Matte, driving shipments up 129% year-on-year and causing ALL kinds of headaches for vendors like Samsung, LG and Sony who are all competing for that all-important position on your wrist in 2015. And despite the fact the Apple Watch won't be commercially available until 2015 some of the shiny gizmos are now on show in Paris, as noted by BGR

"Several Apple Watch models in both the 38mm and 42mm sizes are currently on display at a Parisian boutique called Colette, where the watches can be seen by passers-by in special displays in the front windows. Included in the one-day-only displays are models from the entry-level Apple Watch Sport Collection, the mid-range Apple Watch Collection and an 18-karat gold model from the Apple Watch Edition Collection."

Whether you like smartwatches or not, Apple believes the Apple Watch is going to be a SMASH hit with consumers. Reports from Asia –– via DigiTimes –– suggest production is about to begin ahead of a Q1 2015 release date. And it’s apparently shaping up to be quite a BIG one: “Chip orders are estimated to be around 30 - 40 million units for a debut in early 2015,” reports Mac Rumors.

Apple Watch Software

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.

Apple "Watchkit" Details Outlined

Apple's set to start rolling out its WatchKit developer tools this month, allowing developers to start creating applications and content for the wearable when it goes on sale dring 2015.

Enthusiastic developer David Smith has blogged about the software tools, and in a new post he's outlined what we can reasonably expect from what Apple has revealed so far.

According to Smith, a detailed look into what Apple has already revealed about the Watchkit tools. There will allegedly be a two-stage rollout of the developer kit and among the capabilities included will be the option to add "actionable notifications" and "glances" to apps.

Actionable notifications essentially allows what Smith describes as a "single bounce between your app and the watch" adding that you "create a notification [from the app], send it, and the get sent back the action taken (if any) from the watch."

"I expect we’ll be able to opt our apps into these and then be able to show text notifications on the Watch’s screen along with a handful of button options," notes Smith.

There's a bunch of other intersting information Smith explains in the post, head on over to it here to read the full details.

Apple Watch Release Date & Price

Apple’s iWatch –– sorry, Apple Watch –– is confirmed for a release in 2015. We just don’t know when, exactly. Nevertheless, reports are now suggesting that production of the Apple Watch will begin in earnest during January. 

Apple Daily snagged the details, which go a little something like this: “Quanta has allegedly received Apple’s heads-up and has begun making preparations (which involve increasing its worker head count to 4 million).” 

But that’s not the only interesting titbit of information to leak out about Apple’s Watch. According to the report, Apple has a deal in place with Quantra –– the OEM of the Apple Watch –– to stop it producing smartwatches for any of Apple’s rivals. 

“Apple and Quanta have entered a deal which prohibits the Taiwanese company from manufacturing/assembling smartwatches for Apple’s rival OEMs,” the report added. 

Multiple OEM companies were said to be vying for the Apple Watch contract, but it appears that Quantra has snagged the rights to manufacture Apple’s first piece of wearable technology.

“Apple is expected to begin selling the Watch starting in early 2015, with one insider saying Apple would be "lucky" to launch it in time for Valentine's Day on February 14." reports MacRumors.

The reports added: “A production ramp beginning in January would indeed make it difficult for Apple to have significant quantities available in time for Valentine's Day purchases. The smartwatch will retail at a starting price of $349 for the base model, with several collections including 18-karat gold luxury options available at higher prices.” 

"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.

There's some info in circulation suggesting the Apple Watch could launch in time for Valentine's Day - February 14 2015. According to French publication iGen, Apple is timing its arrival of the wearable with romantic calendar event likely as a way of promoting the device as a desirable fashion item, similar to traditional watches.

The source for the rumour claims the Apple Watch Edition with 18K gold will cost $5000, while the stainless steel variant will be $500. The Apple Watch Sport, it's said, will cost $349.

According to a couple of new reports citing sources in the Asian supply chain, Apple's wearable manufacturing is no longer experiencing production issues and component shortages, indicating the company is back on schedule for a lunch in Q1 of 2015. One of Apple's manufacturing partners, Quanta, has also reportedly recruited 10,000 additional workers, suggesing production is about to get underway in earnest.

Apple Watch Pricing Estimates Appear 

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 Needs To Be Charged DAILY 

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". 

Apple Stores Now Hiring Fashion Experts

Upon the Apple Watch announcement it was clear the company wants to market the new device as a piece of jewellery and not just another gadget. According to new information Apple is employing retail candidates with “a fashion or luxury background” to work in its stores.

The information comes from internal documents accessed by 9To5Mac. It suggests Apple is planning some big changes in its stores by the time for the Apple Watch debut in early 2015. 

Apple has also hired former Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts to lead Apple’s retail strategy for the Apple Watch. It may mean we’ll see parts of Apple Stores turning into something resembling jewellery shops during the first few months of 2015.

Apple Watch Specs

As great as the overlords of secrecy are, they cannot stop the press and, thanks to a couple of new reports, we’re starting to get a clearer picture of the type of specs and hardware we’ll find inside the Apple Watch once it becomes readily available inside early 2015.

In a note released on Monday to investors, Cowen and Company analyst Timothy Arcuri stated that the most basic Apple Watch would feature 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage. Higher models are likely to feature more onboard storage, however, according to the note, so we could see models with upwards of 8GB of internal storage –– although these will likely come with a higher price tag. 

Samsung, Hynix and Micron will be providing the memory chips for Apple, and the note believes all models will feature a wireless chip similar to the Broadcom BCM43342 found inside the iPhone 5s. Arcuri is unsure whether this particular chip will have GPS capabilities, however, and made no mention of battery size or type –– hopefully we’ll hear more about this in due course. 

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