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Apple Watch Preview: “The next chapter in Apple’s story” says Tim Cook

The unveiling of the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus was only half the story at Apple’s latest keynote as the company’s CEO and his colleagues unveiled their new wearable – the Apple Watch.

Apple Watch

Reminding us of the wrist-worn iPod Nanos of old, the originally-named ‘Apple Watch’ is a completely new category in the company’s product portfolio and the answer to the likes of Android Wear, the Samsung Gear line and the other smartwatches from a host of other manufacturers.

Apple Watch: Design & Screen

Despite the rumour mill’s preference toward the rounded concepts floating around the internet, the final product takes on a decidedly more squared appearance than many expected. It still curves around at the sides, with a polished glass frontage that conceals the edges of the display.

Apple Watch variations

Apple actually revealed that there’s going to be a lot of choice for prospective Apple Watch buyers, with two different casings for varying wrist sizes, three ‘builds’ of watch body for different user types and six different strap designs in varying colours. The smaller wristed amongst you will pick the 38mm casing, whilst everybody else will be able to sport the larger 42mm model.

The three variants cater to different tastes as follows:

  Apple Watch Apple Watch Sport Apple Watch Edition
Body

316L Stainless Steel

316L Space Grey Stainless Steel

7000 Series silver aluminium

7000 Series Space Grey aluminium

18-Carat Yellow Gold

18-Carat Rose Gold

Display Material Sapphire Crystal Ion-X Glass Sapphire Crystal
Back Ceramic Composite Ceramic

As the materials employed suggest, the Apple Watch is for the everyman (provided you can handle the price tag), those with an active lifestyle might prefer the more resilient Apple Watch Sport and those who want their smartwatch to double as some connected wrist jewellery will appreciate the 18-karat-gold-toting Apple Watch Edition.

The interchangeable strap design is built so you can easily trade out your existing strap for another, with metal, leather and fluoroelastomer (a sort of silicone, rubber material) options on offer. Whichever version you opt for, all designs are said to feature some level of water resistance although there was no word on whether it adhered to the popular IP-certification system.

Charging takes place via a MagSafe-style induction plate, which magnetically attaches to the back of the Apple Watch’s body, concealing the heart rate sensor.

Apple Watch: Interface

The interface Apple showed off on stage was somewhat of a departure from the straight grids of squared icons laid out across its iOS. The primary display features one of a number of customisable watch faces, but compatible apps appear as circular icons in a ‘cloud’ formation. Swiping lets you drift around the icons whilst a tap selects one.

Apple Watch_hero_crop

Certain apps, such as Photos or Maps call upon the watch’s crown, the protruding knob on the right-hand-side of the body, for interaction. What Apple actually calls the ‘digital crown’, uses infrared LEDs to turn rotary motion into digital input, letting you cycle through a list or zoom in and out on a subject. Siri integration lets you search and call upon commands with your voice, as well as write messages via dictation.

There’s also a ‘digital touch’ button underneath the crown which gives you quick access to a list of favourite contacts and ways to interact with them. Depending on the context, such as an incoming message, the system is smart enough to suggest relevant responses or if you’re feeling creative you can respond with taps on the display that the recipient will actually feel, colourful sketches you doodle with a finger, specialised posable animated emojis or even your actual heartbeat.

Apple Watch_interface

Activity tracking is also a big part of the Apple Watch experience, with native tools and support for third-party apps from companies like Nike designed to track your activity for everything from how often you get up and walk around at the office, to how far you’ve run cross-country.

Apple Watch: Hardware

Apple’s managed to pack a lot into that small metal body, with an advance heart rate monitor on the back, wireless charging and even NFC, which supports the company’s new Apple Pay service (wireless payment via NFC).

Apple Watch_milanese

The Apple Watch relies on a connection to an iPhone for information for additional sensors like the barometers found in the new 6 and 6 Plus, but for all the processing onboard, the company created the new S1 chipset, which comes complete with a processor and Taptic engine which helps add physical feedback to the user beyond sound and light. We’re also expecting a day of battery life at least, but it wasn’t discussed during the keynote. No word yet on official specs either; Apple famously prefers to keep numbers out of it where possible so we likely won’t find out real numbers until nearer launch time.

Apple Watch: Pricing and Availability

Unless you’re itching to wrap a smartwatch around your wrist before Christmas, it’ll pay to be patient, as Apple says the Apple Watch won’t touch down until ‘early 2015’. Pricing is set to start at $349 (which directly converts to £217), so expect around a £250 price tag when it hits the UK.

Apple Watch_2

What are your thoughts on Apple’s debut smartwatch? Should Google and Android Wear be worried? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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