Apple has finally come to market with a wearable device such as their competitors (Samsung, Motorola and Sony) have had for about a year. The Apple Watch was announced September 9 and will be released to the public early in 2015. Use of the Apple Watch will require an iPhone; the watch isn’t compatible with other hardware.
Style – The Apple Watch comes in two different sizes, 38mm and 42mm. Apple offers the watch in three different materials, stainless steel, aluminum and gold, in two different colors each. The stainless steel version comes in silver and space black, the aluminum comes in silver and space gray, and the gold comes in yellow or rose.
In addition to the different colors and materials available, there will also be six different styles of watchband made by Apple.
No matter what size, material, color or band a person has, the design of the Apple Watch is the same. A rectangular form with rounded corners, the watch will have a dial on the side for zooming in and out on the screen. Made to feel like a traditional watch dial that sets the time, the dial on the Apple Watch will have a range of uses, from navigating the apps on the watch to selecting content inside an app. During the release of the Apple Watch, many wondered if it even had a touchscreen, since the presenters discussed the side dial at length.
The Apple Watch does contain a touchscreen for swiping, pressing and tapping the small display. The watch can tell a tap from a press through a pressure sensor. It turns out the watch has many methods of interaction, through three buttons, the dial and the touchscreen.
The screen is a retina display, made from sapphire for a scratch resistant face. The Sport versions of the watch (the aluminum material designs) are strengthened with Ion-X glass.
Communication – The Apple Watch is meant to be a powerful communication tool. With it, a user will be able to text, call and email their friends, as well as send emoticons, drawings, sound bytes and taps. Sending a tap would alert the person via a buzz on their wrist. Siri is available on the watch, so messages can be dictated using Siri or by selecting from commonly used words.
Perhaps the oddest method of communication offered on the Apple Watch is the ability to send a friend your heart rate. A heart rate sensor on the back of the watch would calculate it and make it available to be sent.
GPS – Turn by turn directions will be available on the Apple Watch. The watch will vibrate when the turn is being approached so a wearer will not have to take his/her eyes from the road while driving.
Health – The Apple Watch will collect health data based on readings from the accelerometer, gyroscope and heart rate monitor. The watch will allow you to see how many steps you have taken per day, as well as how many minutes you have been active and how long you were standing versus sitting. The health data will sync with the Health app available with iOS 8.
Music – It is not quite clear how Apple intends to do this, but the Apple Watch will allow you to listen to music without being tethered to an iPhone. So there must be a way to store some music on the Apple Watch, although there has been no word on how much storage it has.
Payment – This is arguably the most anticipated feature Apple incorporated into their products this year. Near Field Communication, or NFC, provides the ability to make payments via a digital device. Apple has inserted an NFC chip into the watch, allowing people to pay for purchases with what Apple has dubbed Apple Pay.
Although paying through NFC is already much more secure than paying with a magnetic swipe credit card, Apple has added to the security by using a transaction number instead of card information during transactions. The merchant you’re paying never has access to any of your card data.
Although you’ll need an iPhone to be able to use the Apple Watch, you won’t have to buy the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus to use NFC. And you can pay with your watch anywhere that supports Apple Pay.
Charging – From initial comments by Apple, it seems the Apple Watch will need to be charged every day, but that will remain to be seen. The charger uses inductive charging, so there are no openings on the watch where water might get in and damage the device.
One last note: The Apple Watch is merely water resistant, not waterproof. It might last a run through the rain, a sweaty workout, but don’t take it into the shower or for a swim.
Cody Crawford holds a degree in software engineering from Middle Tennessee State University and is Director of Digital Innovation at Validity Publishing.