The Apple Watch

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 10.36.34 PM

Apple announced its highly anticipated watch today. It isn’t the first smart watch, but it is Apple’s unique take on what a watch should be. I’m not going to go over all of the details here – there is a ton of stuff on Apple’s website. Instead I’m going to toss out some initial thoughts and questions.

Vital Stats

  • Comes in two heights and sizes
  • Comes in three “collections” with different colors, materials, and straps totaling 33 different combinations
  • Uses a brand new input device – the Digital Crown – as well as a touch screen for input
  • Includes a haptic feedback motor that can tap you on the wrist
  • Includes highly customizable clock faces
  • Provides notifications, glanceable information, and third-party apps
  • Includes a heart rate monitor and other sensors to act as a fitness tracker
  • Includes a magnetic inductive charger
  • Requires an iPhone to operate
  • Ships in “early 2015” starting at $349

Initial Thoughts

  • This thing is really, really cool. Its design reminds me of the original iPhone with stainless steel. It seems to include a full set of software, apps, settings, etc to make it really useful.
  • The number of different combinations is mind blowing. I can’t recall an Apple product line with this many options at launch since Steve Jobs returned.  Hopefully Apple can keep up with demand while maintaining a high level of quality.
  • Apple’s sapphire glass partnership was not for the iPhone, it was for the watch.
  • No technical details were revealed, but I’m very curious about what is on the inside. The interface looks very fluid with sophisticated graphics. It also has some amount of storage.
  • Battery life was not mentioned – a day has been the goal thus far for smart watches so I’d expect it to be near that.
  • There are two different heights – 38mm and 42mm. During the keynote they referenced different models with “different capabilities”; I’m going to guess that the larger models will have potentially better battery life than the smaller ones. Will the screens show different amounts of information?
  • Prices start at $349. I wouldn’t be surprised if the gold Apple Edition models are well into the $800 range
  • It has storage on board (and can store music), it has an accelerometer, and other sensors, but it uses the iPhone’s GPS and networking. I wonder how deep that integration is.
  • Thickness and water resistance was not mentioned in the keynote, however I have read that it water-resistant, not waterproof.
  • Initially I thought that drawing pictures to other people and sending them your heartbeat was silly, but the ability to tap them and send little messages is actually pretty interesting.
  • The UI looks similar to iOS 8 but has small indicators of evolution – subtle drop shadows are more prominent, rounded card-style interface elements are prominent.
  • There seems to be a significant amount of functionality packed into this – phone calls, messaging, notifications, fitness, payments, music, interesting watch faces, communication, haptic feedback, maps, third-party apps. That isn’t necessarily any more functionality than any of the other smart watches on the market, but it seems like a lot for Apple to deliver. Generally Apple delivers well-scoped functionality in order to ensure that it is designed and implemented appropriately. Maybe it’s because the watch apps are light-weight? Hopefully they aren’t bug-ridden and difficult to use in practice.
  • The watch was conceived shortly after Steve Jobs passed away and is the first product that Tim Cook & team have delivered from start to finish. It took quite a long time, which is an indicator that it will truly be a great product.
  • Tim Cook made a good point that all of Apple’s products include an innovative input method. The Digital Crown, the ability to sense force on the screen, and the Taptic feedback engine set it apart from other smart watches. It’s software sets it apart. Google announced its Wear platform a few months ago and now several companies are selling devices. It’s true that some of them have different form factors – some are rectangular, some are round – and some different capabilities, but overall they are all the same. If the watch is as high quality and well-integrated as it seems, it will do well because it is so different.

Conclusion

This is the first smart watch that interests me. Big surprise. I’ve actually tried Samsung’s watch and followed Motorola’s. I even briefly considered buying one but I knew that Apple would release their own and it would be better integrated and would be a better fit for me. There are still lots of unanswered questions but I hope that the Apple Watch truly is as great as it looks. If it is, I will have an exciting “early 2015”.

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