A Detailed Looks At Apple's First Wearable –– The Apple Watch

News Richard Goodwin 13:48, 20 Aug 2015

Here's EVERYTHING you need to know about Apple's wearable

After what seems like an eternity of waiting, speculation, analyst predictions about prices and marketing, and all that other guff, the Apple Watch is finally here. At long last.

The Apple Watch has been on everyone's lips since Apple's initial unveiling in 2014, alongside the new Macbook lineup.

Apple Watch Specs & Hardware

  • Sizes: 38mm and 42mm: 38 mm: 21.2 x 26.5 mm, 33.5 mm (1.32 in) diagonally, 272 x 340 pixels,
  • 42 mm: 24.3 x 30.5 mm, 39 mm (1.5 in) diagonally, 312 x 390 pixels
  • Versions: Apple Watch , Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch Edition complete with a variety of strap choices for each model
  • Retina touchscreen display with Force Touch, and sapphire glass or Ion-X glass cover depending on model
  • Taptic Engine and built-in speaker for instant tactile feedback
  • Custom S1 SiP (System in Package) chip
  • 512MB RAM
  • Sensors: accelerometer, built-in heart rate sensor
  • Wi-Fi 802.11b/g
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • NFC support (for Apple Pay payments)
  • Digital Crown Home button
  • 18-hours battery life and MagSafe charging
  • Compatibility: iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus
  • Apple Pay and Siri support

Naysayers claimed the Apple Watch would flop--and after nearly two months of sales, could they have been right?

They didn't appear to be in the beginning. After all, so many pundits said that people weren’t interested in wearables and yet Apple racked up $1 BILLION in orders in just the first two weeks of pre-orders. Not a bad start for Apple’s first new product line in five years. And that $1 billion translated into a lot of unit considering most people seemed to be going for the lowest-priced model.

“About 85% of the pre-ordered Apple Watches are believed to be the Apple Watch Sport model,” reported 2paragraphs, “which is either $349 or $399. Taking the rough average of $375, and using 85% of the 2.3 million units (1.955 MM), that would mean Apple has collected $733,125,000 on just the Apple Sport so far. If 15% of the orders are for the regular Apple Watch, as suspected, at an average of $575 per unit, that another $198, 375,00. Altogether that's $931 million plus. And that doesn't even count today's orders! Or the extras like the wide range of bands for sale.”

Following up that impressive report, Apple then apparently hit 2.4 million unit sales before April 24, according to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Kuo also claimed that 85% of sales come from the Watch Sport, 15 per cent from the Watch and one per cent from the Watch Edition. This also fit with current polls on what smartwatch is the favourite, with most customers wanting the Watch Sport with the $300 cheaper price-tag.

Indeed, by the end of April, things were looking rosey for the Apple Watch. Ben Wood, chief of research, CSS Insights said: “We predict that 20 million Apple Watches will be sold by the end of 2015. This is based on assessing the addressable market of compatible iPhones and also analysing initial iPad sales. We believe the iPad had similar characteristics to Apple Watch as it is a non-subsidised device which consumers bought without a clear understanding of exactly why they needed it. Apple will be hoping consumers will ‘grow into’ the Apple Watch in the same way that iPad owners did.

And by early May it looked like that growth was steady with analyst firm Slice Intelligence, reiterating Apple Watch buyers in the US had pre-ordered more than 1 million units of the wearable since it went liveon Friday 10 April. It also stated that, interestingly, customers have been more keen on the larger 42mm size option overall. The smaller 38mm option seems to be more common in the Apple Sport category than elsewhere, however, it seems  those opting for the more expensive versions go for a bigger device.

Yet while all those numbers were impressive, the latest research report from Slice Intelligence paints a bleaker picture of Apple Watch sales, suggesting Apple Watch sales have plunged 90%. The report notes that since the April surge, Apple has been selling fewer than 20,000 Apple Watches a day in the US–and on ssome days its been selling less than 10,000 units a day, which is a far cry from the 200,000 units per day on average is was selling in April. And as for that fancy expesnive gold Apple Watch Edition? It's sold less than 2,000 units TOTAL.

Slice bases its research on people who have opted-in to let Slice access their e-receipt data sent to their emails, so Slices nubers shouldn't be taken as 100% certain. But they do suggest an interesting trend. As for the actual sales numbers, only Apple knows. And Apple isn't talking. Which is odd considering the company loves to boast about how many millions of its newest iPhones were sold over the first weekend of release. And Apple won't even acknowledge how many Apple Watches were sold during its financial call later this month. The company is grouping Watch into its "Other Products" category, combining sales of Apple Watch, Apple TV, Beats Electronics, iPods, and accessories together in its financial reports.

Apple Watch sales didn't fall off a cliff just months after launch, according to Apple CEO Tim Cook; rather, they peaked in June. But Apple is still being pretty shady about exact numbers, leading analysts to predict the company is potentially hiding something about the success of Apple’s first wearable device. 

“Cook revealed Apple Watch sales in June were higher than April or May, an impressive statistic considering overwhelming launch day demand. Stock quickly dwindled when Watch preorders went live on April 10, with all models hit by shipping delays within minutes of going live,” noted Apple Insider. “Cook did say Watch sales exceeded internal expectations and offset waning revenues from iPod, but the metric offers little insight into hard numbers. In an interview with The New York Times, however, CFO Luca Maestri said the first nine weeks of Watch sales exceeded those of the iPhone and iPad when those devices first launched. Considering those products saw massive subsequent adoption, Apple Watch's future looks bright, especially moving into the holiday shopping season.”

Analysts reckon Apple has shifted anywhere between 3-to-5 million units since Apple Watch first launched. But without any concrete data from Apple it is impossible to say for sure. Apple Watch sales are included inside Apple’s “other” category alongside iPad, Apple TV, Beats Headphones and iPod in its financial reporting, making it pretty much impossible to gage sales and revenues from a single product. 

Creative Strategies estimates Watch sales were 4.7 million in the recent quarter and will reach about 5 million in the current quarter, reports Live Mint, “before accelerating during the holiday season. FBR Capital Markets’ Dan Ives estimates the company sold 5 million in the June period, with revenue from the smartwatch increasing to as much as 8% of the company’s total in fiscal 2017.”

But if Slice is right...does it actually matter? MarketWatch sums it up the best:

"On one hand, you’d expect sales of any new product to tumble after the initial bump (and the first week’s numbers are heavily weighted toward the opening day). The watch is only a tiny part of Apple’s business. Trefis, a stock-research company, ascribes just 4% of Apple’s current value to its watch business. But this fall-off in sales, if confirmed, nonetheless looks ominous. And the Apple Watch is much more important than any immediate contribution to earnings would suggest.

The Apple Watch is the first completely new product the company has created and launched since the death of its visionary founder, Steve Jobs, in 2011. How well the watch fares may be one measure of how well Apple may be able to maintain the standards of excellence in innovation, marketing and production it achieved under Jobs. Investors are used to seeing new products, such as the iPhone and iPad, fly off the shelves as soon as they are launched. The Apple Watch is also a foray into the world of so-called “wearable tech,” which is supposed to offer yet another big surge in product sales for Apple and its rivals in the years ahead. Once everyone has a smartphone, they are supposed to go out and get a smart watch, followed by smart eyeglasses, and so on. Or, at least, so goes the theory."

If the Apple Watch is indeed not flying of the shelves it could mean that consumers just aren't interested in wearable tech. After all, Android smartwatches aren't exactly selling like hotcakes either. Everyone in tech is looking for the next smartphone-like "next big thing" but it appears consumers feel like their smartphones already do everything they need, so why invest in wearables?

Apple Watch Sport Troubles

It wouldn't be an Apple device launch (particularly not a new category device launch) without some kind of hiccup - well the Apple Watch already had the issue of delays and shortages, but apart from that, there's now another hiccup. 

According to posters on Reddit who bought the Apple Watch Sport edition, after only a couple of months of owning and wearing said device they have already noticed the Apple logo on the rear fading off and the text peeling off, leading to a few unhappy consumers to say the least.

AppleInsider reports that this issue has been passed on to Apple's Support team, it has also allegedly got in touch with some of those affected to offer a replacement and to get a look at the faulty units in the labs. So far this issue has only occured with the Space Grey colour model and Apple is also investigating the specifics of weather, climate, water damage and activities in relation to the owners of damaged units to see if there's some common denominator and a design aspect that's been overlooked.

Apple Watch Release Date

The Apple Watch became available for pre-order on April 10 ahead of its April 24 release date. However, until now the Apple Watch can only be bought online–even though you can go into Apple Retail stores to try the Watch on. Yet that could soon be changing as 9to5Mac reports Apple is prepping for in-store sales and in-store pickup:

“Apple is now preparing for the rollout of the in-store pickup option on new Apple Watch orders, which will allow users to select a retail location to pick up their wearable devices after order. This is the first time Apple has made any indication of watch stock appearing at its stores since Angela Ahrendts revealed that the company was unsure of when that might happen.”

Apple Watch is also available to preview or try on at Galeries Lafayette in Paris, Isetan in Tokyo and Selfridges in London. Apple Watch is also for sale at these select department store shop-in-shops, and at boutiques in major cities across the world including Colette in Paris, Dover Street Market in London and Tokyo, Maxfield in Los Angeles, and The Corner in Berlin.

In true Apple style, certain variants of the Apple Watch sold out in minutes, so don’t expect to be purchasing the Sport Band with a black band or space grey case, or the expensive Link bracelet in any colour until later on in 2015. Current ship times list a mid-July timeframe.

If iPhone sales are any indication, the second wave of countries that could get the Apple Watch include Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.

Apple Watch Price

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 entry level Apple Watch is the Apple Watch Sport, priced at £299 inc VAT and £339 inc VAT; Apple Watch, available from £479 inc VAT to £949 inc VAT; and Apple Watch Edition, crafted from custom rose or yellow 18-karat gold alloys, with prices starting at £8,000 inc VAT.

But which Apple Watch is right for you? Mike took a look at all the combinations and models in order to find out. 

 

All the straps come in either 38mm or 42mm sizes (listed as "Small" or "Large"), each is compatible ONLY with its corresponding body type, but apart from this all the straps of one size cateogry or the other are completely interchangeable. The basic option is the Sport Band with a pin fastening, made from rubbery plastic, it comes in more subdued black, grey, or white options, as well as bright colours, and costs £39.

Next up there's the "Classic Buckle" style with a traditional buckle design, or the "Modern Buckle" which adds a more sleek finish to the same idea, these cost £129 and £209 respectively are made from leather. The Classic only appears to be available in black for now, while the Modern has a selection of colours.

Also at £129 is the "Milanese Loop" with a woven metal finish in silver and a magentic clasp, and the Leather Loop which fastens the same way but has a ridged leather texture in a selection of colors.

Lastly, there's the Link Bracelet for £379 availble in a metal finishe and using a traditional butterfly clasp. At present there is only a silver option.

Apple Watch Design, Display & Build –– How It All Fits Together 

Hey did you ever look at a piece of tech and think "I'd like to see what that looks like inside?", well if you thought that about the Apple Watch you're in luck, because prominent artist Martin Hajek has produced one of his wonderful renders to show us its innards.

As well as the gorgeous metal chassis we can also see the battery cell, crown assembly, Taptic Feedback co-processor and S1 processor. Quite amazing imagery eh?

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.

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.

How It Works magazine has, quite literally, delved into what makes the Apple Watch tick. The magazine’s people passed along an infographic all about the Apple Watch to our inbox and, well, we just had to share it with you. 

Some of the key features highlighted in the infographic include: 

  • Customisable appearance: Available in two screen sizes, 38 or 48mm long, and six strap types, each with multiple colours; made with six body materials (including 18-karat rose gold)
  • Digital crown: Rotate to zoom, scroll and navigate precisely without obscuring the screen; push to return to the home screen
  • Friends button: Brings up a shortlist of chosen inner-circle contacts
  • TouchScreen: Retina display laminated onto super-hard polished sapphire crystal or Ion-X glass; can distinguish between a light tap and a purposeful press
  • Battery: A full charge lasts about a day with normal usage
  • Touchless payment via Apple Pay
  • Custom heart-rate sensor: Visible and infrared LEDs and photosensors work together to read the wearer’s heart rate
  • S1 chip: Entire computer system miniaturised into one chip, encased in a resin shell to protect it from the elements, impact and wear

Apple Watch Battery 

The Apple Watch uses its own, specialised MagSafe charging system and the cable you’ll be using ships with the device itself. The system is designed to be really easy to use, as noted by Apple on its Apple Watch webpage:

“We wanted to make charging your Apple Watch utterly effortless. So we arrived at a solution that combines our MagSafe technology with inductive charging. It’s a completely sealed system free of exposed contacts. And it’s very forgiving, requiring no precise alignment. You simply hold the connector near the back of the watch, where magnets cause it to snap into place automatically.

From flat, the Apple Watch can hit 80% charge inside 1.5 hours. For a full charge from flat, the Apple Watch takes just over 2.5 hours. 

Apple is very keen on ensuring the apps and content that run on Apple Watch are useful and not at all annoying. For this reason, the company has outlined some pretty strict guidelines for developers to ensure there is no negative affect on the Apple Watch’s battery from applications being open too long. Everything affects battery from the screen to vibrations for notifications. 

Apple is apparently very focused on getting EVERYTHING right:

“Apple has recommended that developers be judicious about interrupting people with constant alerts that will buzz their wrist or drain the battery. If desktop computers can be used for hours at a time, and smartphones for minutes, the watch is being measured in seconds. Apple is suggesting developers design their applications to be used for no longer than 10 seconds at a time,” said the report.

A report from The New York Times, citing unnamed sources, claims Apple has a secret tool up its sleeve to ensure better battery performance abaord its Apple Watch: “Apple’s watch team ‘developed a yet-to-be-announced feature called Power Reserve.’ As the name implies,” says BGR, “the Apple Watch in Power Reserve mode will run on low energy and will only display the time. Which is to say, all of the device’s other functions such as notifications and activity monitoring will presumably go into a sleep mode in an effort to conserve juice.”

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