Apple formally launched its new Apple Watch (among other new products) at its “Spring Forward” press event this morning. And if watch fans had any doubt that the tech giant was looking to seriously compete in not only the “wearable technology” arena but the luxury timepiece industry as well, they should put those doubts to rest. What follows are some bullet points from my notes on the press conference.
We’ve already reported extensively on the Apple Watch and its impact on WatchTime.com. Click here and here for our in-depth articles on the Apple Watch’s specs, capabilities, and variations, and reactions from early testers; here for a comparison between the Apple Watch and its current competitors in the smartwatch category; and here for WatchTime editor-in-chief Joe Thompson’s take on the new product’s pros and cons.
The Apple “Spring Forward” event — a significant portion of which was devoted to Apple CTO Kevin Lynch demonstrating a number of apps for the Apple Watch, some of which were new to the audience — clarified several of the remaining questions about the Apple Watch and what it can do. Among the highlights:
• Apple CEO Tim Cook called the Apple Watch not only “the most personal device we [Apple] have ever created,” but also “the most advanced timepiece ever created.” This could be construed as a shot across the bow of the traditional watch industry. Another indication: an emphasis on the materials used in the watches, including an anodized aluminum that is 60 percent stronger than other aluminum alloys but twice as light; a stainless steel that becomes up to 80 percent harder than others due to a specialized cold-forging process; and, of course, the 18k gold used in the high-end “Edition” Apple Watches. So proud is Apple of the first two materials that films devoted to them were shown for the audience.
• The “Glances” feature brings up your most frequently checked apps and websites — weather, sports scores, stocks, your heart rate — with a swipe. Also, you can use the Siri function simply by doing your best Dick Tracy imitation and speaking into your wristwatch.
• A side button below the “digital crown” on the side of the case can be used to bring up your list of connected friends, to whom you can send messages as well as manually drawn animations from the “digital touch” feature, and even graphics of your heartbeat from one of the health-tracker apps — to let a loved one know they’re in your heart, I suppose.
• The Apple Watch can be used as a virtual coach, using its health and fitness functions to track your calories burned, distance covered, and whether you’ve been sitting too long. It can even suggest fitness goals for the following week based on a weekly summary.
• Apple Watch will apparently also join existing watch companies in the celebrity endorser game. Among the guest speakers at the event was Christy Turlington Burns, famed model and founder of the non-profit Every Mother Counts charitable organization, who ran a half-marathon in Tanzania while wearing the Apple Watch and will also wear one while training for the upcoming Virgin Money London Marathon. Of course, you can follow her progress on Apple’s website, apple.com.
• Lynch demonstrated a slew of apps developed for the Apple Watch by outside parties using the “WatchKit SDK.” Among the tasks Apple Watch users will be able to perform directly from their wrists include: making purchases at retailers like Whole Foods using Apple Pay; requesting a ride on the car-sharing service Uber without reaching for their phone; checking into hotels and unlocking their rooms using SPG; pulling their airline boarding pass from the Passbook app; and scrolling through and “liking” Instagram images right on their wrists.
• Cook confirmed that the Apple Watch will have a one-day battery life (18 hours across a range of activities, to be precise). It can be recharged from the back by a round magnetic charger that clicks into place.
• The Apple Watch app became available for download today, March 9, in iOS 8.2. You can download it to your iPhone to set up the Apple Watch.
• Cook also offered up price ranges on all three of the Apple Watch collections. The “Sport” Line has the lowest starting price point, with the 38-mm models at $349 and the 42-mm models at $399. The standard “Apple Watch” collection — which offers the most options for cases and straps — ranges from $549 to $1,049 for the 38-mm version, while the 42-mm version starts at $599. The 18k gold “Edition” collection — the one that has drawn the most speculation from watch aficionados and tech geeks alike — will indeed start at $10,000.
• When can you actually get one of them? Apple starts taking pre-orders on April 10, and the first Apple Watches will ship to retailers in nine countries on April 24. These countries will be the U.S., Canada, China, France, Germany, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, and the United Kingdom.