Apple has announced that its first smartwatch, the Apple Watch, will start at $349 for the smaller model and $399 for the larger, and be available to pre-order and preview in the US and Europe on April 10, and available to buy from April 24. The price of the watch rises to more than $10,000 for the solid gold Apple Watch edition.
Chief executive Tim Cook took to the stage in at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco to demonstrate Apple’s first completely new product since the death of founder Steve Jobs.
The Watch will act as a second screen for an iPhone, showing customisable watch faces, texts, calls and other notifications, as well as running widget-style apps powered by the smartphone connected over Bluetooth.
It will be controlled by a dedicated iPhone app, that allows users to change settings, manage notifications and apps. Watch face options include a range of analogue and digital faces, as well as a licensed Micky Mouse face, where the cartoon character’s arms become the hands of the watch.
Wearers will be able to reply to messages via voice dictation or voice recording, or by using short canned responses that can be customised using the companion iPhone app. But Apple said that the watch will also enable new forms of communication between Apple Watch users, including the ability to remotely tap on a recipients wrist through the watch, and the ability to stream another user’s heart beat in vibrations on the watch.
The back of the watch contains an optical heart rate monitor, which logs a user’s heart rate throughout the day and plugs directly into the company’s Health app. An accelerometer will also monitor activity, much like a fitness band, and remind users to get up and walk around if sat for an extended period of time.
The watches fitness features were one of the three major functions of the watch cited by Apple CEO Tim Cook, who said that “in addition to being a beautiful object, the Apple watch is the most advanced timepiece ever created; it’s a revolutionary way to connect to others; and it’s a comprehensive health and fitness companion.
“We make products that enhance people’s lives, and the Apple Watch carries that to a new level. [It] tracks your daily movement, and it even reminds you if you’ve been sitting too long.
“It’s like having a coach on your wrist.”
But Cook also highlighted the ability of developers to create their own apps for the watch – albeit currently only when subordinate to an iPhone app. “That is really just the beginning, because you will also learn that you can pay with apple pay, you can view your photos, and you can control your music. You can interface with Siri just using your watch, and, one of my favourites, you can receive notifications on Apple Watch… so you can keep track of your favourite sports teams, you can connect to social media, and you can keep track of the daily news right at the moment it happens.”
The watch, the brainchild of Apple’s chief designer Sir Jony Ive, is available in three separate versions and in two sizes, one with a 38mm case and one with a larger 42mm case; the larger size is $50 more for the base model. Neither will use industry standard watch straps, but Apple has many different straps and colours available allowing users a degree of customisability.
Given the vast array of models, the full pricing for the watches is as follows:
Apple Watch Sport, 38mm: $349
Apple Watch Sport, 42mm: $399
Sapphire and steel Apple Watch 38mm: $549 – $1049, “depending on your selection of watch band”
Sapphire and steel Apple Watch 42mm: $599 – $1099
Gold Apple Watch Edition: starts at $10,000
The Apple Watch was first announced in September last year alongside two new larger iPhones, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. The watch is designed to be paired with an iPhone, including older models as old as the iPhone 5.
Similar to Google’s Android Wear smartwatches, the Apple Watch does not have phone capabilities, instead relying on the paired iPhone for an internet connection. Apple said that the watch will also rely on the iPhone for heavy processing duties for running apps reducing impact on battery life of the watch.
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Apple Watch is tethered to an iPhone via its Bluetooth connection. Photograph: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
Most competing smartwatches, including those from Samsung, will last over a day. Sony’s Android Wear Smartwatch 3, for instance, can last three days of normal use before charging, while the Samsung Gear S lasts well over a day.
Apple said that the watch will last a day per charge (specifically, “18 hours” of typical use) and so needs to be charged overnight using its magnetic charging cable.
Cook demonstrated features of the Apple Watch, including its “Digital Crown” that acts like a jog dial for zooming and scrolling and the watch’s detection of gentle or forceful taps, which can trigger different actions.
Cook also showed off a collection of apps from third parties, tapping Apple’s large developer community for killer features to convince customers that they need a smartwatch that is essentially an expensive accessory for a smartphone.