Everyone has been wondering when Apple would unveil its smartwatch. Rumors about its entry into this niche of the wearable tech space have been swirling since the Sony SmartWatch hit the market in 2012, and they intensified after Samsung introduced the Galaxy Gear last year.
Now the wait is over. Exactly a year after CMSWire reported how disappointed many Apple aficionados were when the tech giant failed to introduce an iWatch at its big press event, Apple made the big reveal.
At the end of today's press event, after he showed off the two bigger and ostensibly better iPhone 6 models, CEO Tim Cook said he had “one more thing.”
Yes, the very simply named Apple Watch
Worth the Wait
A smartwatch is an extension and supplement to the smartphone, so it lines up well in the product lines of any handset manufacturer. But most of the excitement about Apple's entry has centered on the possible design features it could introduce.
The Apple Watch lived up to expectations. In short, it looked amazing and seems to have functionality that far surpasses any other smartwatch on the market.
Not surprisingly, the Apple Watch works in tandem with an iPhone. You can't operate it without one, although you don't need the new iPhone 6 or 6 Plus. Apple thought ahead and made its watch compatible with the 5, 5C and 5S as well.
Until now, the user interface (UI) on a smartwatch has always been a point of contention. What function should the watch have? How should the user interact with it?
Apple went ahead and gave the new Apple Watch the same attention to that has historically set its products apart in every market segment it has entered.Apple Watch comes in three collections — Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch Edition — available in two different sizes, 38 mm and 42 mm.
Easy to Operate
The UI of the new Apple Watch uses a digital version of the watch crown to assist navigation and manipulation of apps. Wearers just twist the Digital Crown to scroll and manipulate apps and push it to return to the home screen.
That makes the Apple Watch appear to be easier to use than other smartwatches, which requires multiple buttons or clunky touchscreen interactions. It's perfect for interacting with the Internet of Things (IoT) and all the new sensors in our lives.
Interacting with a device can be a two-way process. Apple hones in on that with the Apple Watch with its tactic engine to provide feedback and notification to the user. More than just vibrate like many of the current smartwatches, the tactic engine in the Apple Watch provides different sensations to the user, depending on what use the watch is trying to communicate.
One of the key features highlighted during the Apple Live event was the navigation app. Using the iPhone's GPS and 3G, the Apple Watch mapped a walking route for the user to a specified location and gave tactic feedback to indicate when to turn left or right. Since the watch provides different sensations for left and right, it gave the user a richer experience and more data with less interaction.
New Communication Tools
The Apple Watch also includes a whole new set of communication tools. These allow users to communicate through their watches to one another, using any number of methods including voice note, emoji, sketching a picture with a finger or touch.
Tapping on the screen of the watch can communicate a tap to the other user through the tactic engine. One user can also communicate his heartbeat to another user through the tactic engine. Being able to communicate with other users or possibly even devices through the watch simplifies the whole process and streamlines communications overall.
Apple has been very outspoken about its desire to enter into the health and fitness sector. Many people correctly speculated that its smartwatch would be the company's entry into the health and fitness wearable tech segment.
The Apple Watch is a full-fledged wearable tech fitness device that surpasses any other on the market today. Taking advantage of its pairing with the iPhone for GPS information, it also has sensors to track movement and intensity through the integrated heart rate monitor.
During the live event we only got to see the fitness and workout apps. But there were hints about a new Nike app, and through Apple's Watch Kit for developers, it's likely that many more health and fitness based apps will be available by the time the Apple Watch launches in early 2015.
Buying as Close as Your Wrist
For me, the biggest and most exciting aspect of the Apple Watch was its use of another new Apple technology, Apple Pay — Apple's first venture into the world of near-field communication (NFC).
For the first time, the new iPhones will come with NFC capability — actually, a fully developed, native payment platform. The Apple Watch will come with the same capabilities. It puts buying power directly on a customer's wrist, freeing his hands from having to hold his phone.
Apple is also working on developing iBeacon technology, which could offer extended functionality to apps that take advantage of Apple Pay down the line. It could lead to some very exciting innovations in the coming years.
The New Smartwatch Standard
Ultimately, there was a lot of pressure on Apple to deliver something fantastic for its first venture into the wearable tech space. From the looks of things, it far exceeded even the loftiest of expectations.
The new Apple Watch seems to be the same type of trendsetter that the iPhone was when it first came to market. It will likely become the standard by which all other smartwatches are measured, the same way competing cell phones are measured against the iPhone.
The real litmus test for the Apple Watch will be what users say once they get them on their wrists. Then we will really know if they live up to the hype and our enthusiastic first impressions.