We’re here at the Apple ‘Spring Forward’ event in San Francisco to get our hands on the Apple Watch. Here’s our quick report on our impressions and the latest announcements.
Models and prices
First off, we now have more details about the Apple Watch models and pricing. There are three different versions including the Apple Watch ‘Sport’, Apple Watch and Apple Watch ‘Edition’.
Starting with the Sport, which features a specially designed black or silver anodized aluminium alloy case and polymer band in 5 colours. The sport has a hardened Ion-X glass face, and comes in 38 and 42mm sizes. The Sport starts at $499 and ranges up to $579, depending on size and band choices.
Next is the more upmarket model, the Apple Watch, which uses Apple’s own version of highly polished stainless steel, and gains a harder sapphire crystal to cover the retina display. You can choose from silver and space grey cases.
There are three different leather straps, a stainless steel link bracelet and Milanese loop, and a black or white Sport Band. There are 38 and 42mm case sizes, and prices start at $799 and go up to $1,629.
On the top end is the limited-supply Apple Watch Edition, with a case in 18 karat gold or rose gold and there’s a polished sapphire crystal to protect the 38 or 42mm face.
The 18 karat gold alloy has been specially developed to be twice as hard as standard gold, and this same gold is also used on the buckles, pins and fasteners found in the unique collection of watch straps. Prices start at $14,000, and no top end price has been announced as the ‘Edition’ may see some very unique models that go well upwards of this.
In terms of features and specifications, much of this was revealed at the same time as the iPhone 6 late last year, however, we now know that the Apple Watch’s battery life is rated at 18 hours, which should see a good day’s worth of charge in real-world use.
Apple’s Tim Cook said that the Apple Watch is the most advanced timepiece ever created, and it certainly beats out some traditional watches with its accuracy, which is within 50 milliseconds of the Universal Time Standard (UTC).
At the event we were able to witness a few apps in action, including Uber, Instagram, a W Hotel app where you could check-in and use the Apple Watch as a room key, along with Shazam for music, Alarm.com for opening a garage door remotely and Apple Pay for buying things. Other apps include Nike+ Running, Twitter and more.
We were also treated to a range of different watch faces, including the traditional clock face, extra ‘complications’, which are sort of like customisable notifications that appear on the watch face such as calendar appointments or a stop-watch. We liked the simplified face with just the ‘hands’ and, of course, the always-fun Mickey Mouse face.
‘Glances’ is a feature that allows you to check things very quickly for information that you need often by swiping up from the bottom. For example, you can control your music, check your heart rate, view calendar events or the weather forecast.
On the communication front, you can receive messages right from your wrist through a ‘haptic’ alert that ‘taps’ your wrist.
You can receive calls with a built-in speaker and microphone or read full emails and messages. Pressing the side-button to bring up a collection of your friends, and you can use the smoothly operating digital crown to make your selection.
The ‘Digital Touch’ feature will let you draw a sketch on your watch, and it will draw exactly as you drew it on your friend’s Apple Watch. You can also send your heat beat for an intimate touch.
Like many smart-watches, the Apple Watch is also a health and fitness companion. It tracks daily movement, reminds you if you’ve been sitting too long and presents your fitness information as a simple 3-ring graphic.
There are reminders for you to be more active, and a ‘fitness coach’ will even send you a report on how you did the previous week, and set new targets for the week ahead.
There’s also new workout app that provides detailed metrics about your workout such your distance, time or calories burned.
The Apple Watch is a ‘companion’ to iPhone 5s and iPhone 6 smartphones, as it needs to be connected in order to perform many of the features. To support this, iOS 8.2, which includes the Apple Watch ‘app’ is available for download today.
In real world use, one of the first things that we noticed when trying on the watch is that it’s significantly thinner than most of the smart watches available today. Much of these are quite chunky, while the Apple Watch is svelte and lightweight. Also, the screen is excellent, in terms of legibility and brightness, and you can’t see any pixels thanks to the Retina resolution.
The ‘digital crown’ interface is a great way to interact with the onboard apps, and has a very precise and smooth action. There’s also a button beneath the dial to call up your contacts. Add to this the touch-screen, and navigating the Apple Watch is intuitive and allows direct access to many functions.
When trying on the $14,000 model in 18 karat rose gold, it is certainly beautiful, with exquisite detailing in the band and buckle, and feels very special on the wrist.
However, the given that smart-watches will become obsolete when the new models arrive, this top-of-the-range version will probably only appeal to those who are very wealthy and must have the very best, and probably have a large watch collection already. Also interesting is that the watch’s value could appreciate over time if the price of gold goes up.
Where and when?
So when can you get your hands on one? Pre-orders start on the 10th of April, and you’ll also be able to go into an Apple store in Australia to try one out, and actual sales will begin on the 24th of April. Will there be a queue lined up around the block on launch day? Only time will tell.
Valens Quinn travelled to the Apple Spring Forward event in San Francisco as a guest of Apple Australia.