Watch out, Apple is back with their take on the smartwatch

It started with an ominous ‘One More Thing’. The clarion call for the world to stand and watch as something big was to descend upon us. And Tim Cook really amped it up high. Introduced against the backdrop of the rising sun on a wakening globe, we bring to you the dawn of a new age. The Apple Watch.

Fresh from the Apple Launch Event in Cupertino, this weary reporter brings you the latest on Apple’s Crowning jewel.

It Starts, of course, with the Crown.

The ‘Digital Crown’

The now laughable attempts by the Android fraternity to design a user interface for the watch largely involved touch, and voice control. Do not be mistaken, the Apple Watch has those features too. But it has done what the clickwheel was for the iPod, and the touchscreen was for the phone.

It’s a feature that has been sitting squarely on our wrists for a long time, yet nobody noticed its massive potential as a zoom wheel, and a scroll wheel. It makes navigating the Apple Watch interface such a joy, and as Jonny Ive mentions, results in the experience being obstruction free.

The User Interface

The first thing you notice about the user interface is, boy, that’s a lot of apps. And that’s precisely the impression that Apple wants you to get. We are really mixed as to how this user interface will work out in the real world, and navigation will certainly be a cinch with the new Digital Crown, but it just feels a little too cluttered for our liking.
 
Apple surely has a workaround, and we did see how apps can be clustered together in ‘neighbourhoods’, and focused on very efficiently with the digital crown.
 
The trade-off for any potential clutter, however, is that it has a list of apps so extensive it leaves any Android Wear users drooling for more. And this is just pre-launch. Twitter and Facebook are already presented in the same layout and design language as the full desktop sites, with customized notifications that scroll along with the scroll-wheel.
 
Apple Maps works in full as well, bringing full turn-by-turn navigation, and true mapping technology to the wearables market.
This is as impressive as it is unprecedented, and the list just goes on and on, beyond the purview of what we can cover in this preview article.

Build

It seems that Apple was undecided as to what exactly is the best material to clothe their newest creation in. In the above picture you see the sports version, with a completely swappable rubber watch strap for all your exercise needs.
 
In fact, on the actual form factor side of things, Apple has one Apple Watch, but two sizes, three different finishes, and four to five different straps, we could not even catch all of their names. There’s a normal-sized apple watch, of which the screen dimensions are still left unspecified, and a slightly smaller-sized Apple Watch.
 
Over here you see the three different materials that are used for the bezel. The default comes in stainless steel, while the sports version comes in anodized aluminium, much like what is used on Macbooks, and the last version comes with 24K Gold. You can be certain though, that whichever model you buy, the glass will be extremely scatch-resistant Sapphire glass, so it’s really all about what you want to use the Apple Watch for.
 
Last on the list are a dizzying array of straps that are all somehow ridiculously cool.
It is safe to say that this is hands-down the most customizable, supported and I might say, beautiful smart-watch there is on the market.

Hardware

Taptic

Its run by what Apple calls an S1 processor, and has a unique Taptic engine which is something like haptic feedback for the Android, but basically vibrates ever so slightly on your wrist to tell you about a new notification or call.
 
It appears that the watch also has full Siri support. Whether it has a full-blown speaker is not apparent in the keynote, but its safe to say that it has a very decent microphone for voice commands. It was certainly working very well.
 
What is more intriguing about the hardware is the array of sensors that are packed into the Apple Watch, with a full-sized heart-rate monitor that leads as imposing as it is functional, gyrometers, and even NFC. Yes, that’s right the Apple Watch will be compatible with the new protocol of Apple Pay over NFC. But more on that in another article.
 
Apple Pay
 
 
 
Yes, this is a optical heart rate sensor, though thats too simplified a name for this space-age contraption that we are looking at here. We are told that the back plating is even made of Zirconium, a semi-conductor space age material that is supposed to facilitate the monitoring of heart-rates. It is worth noting that Apple did not even call it a heart-rate monitor, something so fancy we did not catch it.
 
apple-event-0909-23
 
These suite of sensors, along with GPS and Wi-Fi data that comes from the paired iPhone, will create a wealth of data that Apple so beautifully and naturally puts together. Yes, we just kind of told you that this is not a standalone watch. You are gonna need an iPhone. Thankfully, every iPhone from iPhone 5 to the new iPhone 6+ is supported.

Practical Considerations

It was extremely clear from the start that the Apple Watch is an extremely feature-packed device that we cannot even begin to cover in this preview article. Tim Cook hinted at the watch being used as a remote viewfinder for the phone, and of course the use of the watch as a remote control.
 
Apple themselves only had time to mention in passing the upcoming API, WatchKit, that will allow developers to develop applications specific for the Apple Watch. We are thus not surprised that the App Support that it is getting is exponentially increasing by the minute. But there’s just so many things this thing can do. One of its watch faces even displays your location on earth and then overlays the time on it. Exploring the galaxy is just a few swipes away.
 
All this will take a considerable toll on the battery, and Tim Cook side
lined the issue of it lasting less than a day by saying that the beautiful, simple, charger, compensates for it.
 
apple wireless charging
 
We’d tend to agree, except we are the ones who’d only have one Apple Watch, and not warehouses full of the stuff that we can switch to when the battery runs dry.
 
And then, there’s the price. It’s 349USD for the base model. When the Watch arrives in Singapore, we think it is in the ballpark of at least 500SGD. This is very hefty considering the 600 over dollars or so one would need to fork out on an iPhone, as well, depending on your contract.

Conclusion

Apple, however, is famous for how it puts technology together, and let the limitations of silicon and metal step out of the window. As we look at just what the watch can do, and the robust operating system that Apple is building for the watch, we can’t helped but be absolutely bowled over. Because this is the smartwatch we have been waiting for.
 
Tim Cook says himself that we haven’t ‘shrunk the iPhone onto your wrist’. That would be terrible. What the Apple Watch is, however, is something that does the duties of your phone, in a more personal, soulful, and passionate way. Just look at the way you can message someone using your watch.
 
(Apple)
Yes, you can send your heartbeat.
 
Apple has pulled out all the stops in developing a watch that looks stunning, useful, and now when you think of it, just plainly indispensable. We’ll know more in the weeks to come, and we’ll update on just what exactly powers the display (Apple was silent, but we speculate an AMOLED display considering the deep blacks). But for now, just admire the Apple Watch for what it is, a beacon to show the world what a smartwatch is supposed to be capable of doing.
 
For the first time in forever, the ball is back in Google’s court, and they really didn’t see this ace up Apple’s sleeve coming. Still, the Apple Watch is not very cheap at US$349, but we’ll definitely be seeing a lot of improvements until the final retail version launches somewhere in early 2015. For now, it’s most likely going to be in a protracted closed-beta, so don’t be too quick to pass judgement on this new piece of wearable tech.
 
One thing is for sure, though – the king has returned, in all of its crowning glory.

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