In keeping with their trademark cinematic presentations of new products, today Apple confirmed more information about the device that has had the tech world in a tizzy: the Apple Watch. In addition to pricing for all variants of the device (including the $10,000 to $17,000 (!) solid gold Apple Watch Edition), the company finally revealed more information about the battery life and the nature of connectivity with the iPhone.
Interestingly, of the approximately 29 million watches exported last year from Switzerland, an overwhelming 94% of those units are valued below CHF 3,000. Of that 94%, the overwhelming majority (85%) are valued below CHF 500. With the exception of the high-end, stratospherically-priced limited-edition Apple Watch Edition, the Apple Watch will remain within this price range.
Apple Watch Sport
38 mm - $349
42 mm - $399
38 mm - $549 to $1,049 (depending on watch band)
42 mm - $599 to $1,099 (depending on watch band)
Apple Watch Edition
38 mm, 42 mm - $10,000 to $17,000
Notwithstanding the seemingly confident market for high-end mechanical watches, a considerable portion of the industry depends on this market for sales. By pricing the entry-level Apple watches at $349 to $1,099, Apple appears to be making a play for the broader, lower-end market for watches (and more importantly, for consumers who currently do not own a watch).
In terms of pricing, the Apple Watch Edition is surely an outlier, priced in the realm of in-house offerings from blue-chip brands like Jaeger-LeCoultre, Omega, and IWC. The model will include specifically-designed bands with clasps and buckles made of solid gold. We're curious to see how the market responds to this pricing, which far surpasses existing digital smartwatches and wearables in the market today.
The Apple Watch will support 18 hours of battery life which, according to CEO Cook, should be sufficient for standard usage.
The entry-level Apple Watch Sport features an anondized alumninum case, available in either silver or space grey. Apple developed a new aluminum alloy – 60% stronger than conventional aluminum alloys – which maintains a high degree of lightness. According to Cook, Apple has "crafted each one of them with the care you expect from Apple and used incredible, beautiful materials."
For the "Apple Watch," Apple customized an existing stainless-steel alloy through various production processes to ensure hardness and minimize impurities. The metal is 80% harder and more resistant to scratches. As Ben outlined in his initial review, there is no question that Apple's strengths are in industrial design, proprietary manufacturing processes, and the optimization of supply chains.
Various "face styles" are available for the Apple Watch, including a cooly-Bauhaus analog style and a minimal, Movado-esque face. These specific faces recall the skeuomorphic design concept the brand has used to design earlier operating systems for the iPhone, which were intended to create greater familiarity between consumers and these new devices. The faces are modular – you can add the date, a moonphase, or information about your next meeting.
In addition to the customizable timekeeping faces, the device also includes a feature called "Glances." Glances allows you to access weather, your calendar, music, and a myriad of other features including upcoming flights, stock market performance, and even your heart rate. This can be accessed by swiping upward from the bottom of the screen. Apple claims that this integration of features adds a whole new "personal dimension" to timekeeping.
A haptic engine allows you to read and respond to messages and other notifications. Any notification received on the iphone can be relayed to the Apple Watch – including notifications from third-party applications (like Facebook or CNN.) There is also a built-in speaker and microphone that allows you to receive incoming voice-calls. It is also possible to read full emails on the relatively tiny screen.
By pressing the sidebutton you can access a map of contacts. A communication feature called "Digital Touch" allows you to connect an Apple Watch to another Apple Watch, in order to communicate rather intimately. You can tap the watch screen in order to tap your friend on the wrist, and send things like sketches and even more intimate items like an approximation of your heartbeat.
Health & Fitness
We knew that health-related features would be an important aspect of the device. Apple has developed an activity progress indicator, with categories entitled "move," "exercise," and "stand" to gauge the progress of set activity goals. The product offers a summary report at the end of each week, and develops a set of new goals for the following week. Cook describes this as like "having a coach on your wrist."
A variety of cardio-based exercises can be tracked by the device, as it measures metrics like calories-burned, distance, and the duration of the activity. Additionally, while the Apple Watch isn't fully waterproof, it is water-resistant, which will suit the needs of most users, and is –admittedly – a step-up from the lack of water-reistance in the company's other mobile devices.
To demonstrate the health and fitness capabilities of the Apple Watch, the Cupertino-based company has engaged with supermodel-turned-global health advocate, Christy Turlington Burns. This marketing concept is different from the brand's previous engagements with more fashion-oriented luminaries. The approach here may prove to be more successful, as consumers increasingly seek ways to monitor their health and fitness.
For full functionality, the Apple Watch must remain connected to an iPhone via both low-energy Bluetooth and WiFi, yet the latter allows you to be out of close proximity to the phone. (Apple did not specify whether the device will connect with non-iOS smartphones.) Ultimately, many of the features still depend on a connection to the iPhone, whether via Bluetooth or WiFi.
An updated operating system, iOS 8.2 (available today), will feature an "Apple Watch App" in which you can download apps for the Apple Watch.
Customers will be able to see the Apple watch in-store and to place pre-orders beginning April 10th, before the device officially goes on sale on April 24th. Markets set to launch the device on that date include the United States, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, and the United Kingdom.
For more information, visit Apple online.