Apple has introduced its first timepiece, which CEO Tim Cook boasted will “redefine what people expect from a watch.”
The device—called the Apple Watch, not the iWatch, as widely predicted—was unveiled at a glitzy Sept. 9 keynote and will be available next year. It will come in three editions—the Apple Watch, the Apple Watch Sport, and the Apple Watch Edition, as well as two sizes (38 mm and 42 mm)—in what most analysts considered an attempt to introduce devices suitable for both men and women. The Apple Watch is the company’s first major product release since it introduced the iPad in 2010.
The entry-level watch will feature a stainless-steel case and what are generally described as rubber straps and starts at $349; the Sport comes with an aluminum case and sport band; and the high-end Edition is furnished in an 18k rose or yellow gold case with exclusive straps. Pricing has not been released for the last two models. Straps touted by Apple are made of everything from leather to stainless steel.
The watch’s face is square and has a surface made from sapphire crystal. Its face can be customized, with 11 options pre-loaded—including Astronomy, a 3-D model of the galaxy; a sundial pattern; and the classic Mickey Mouse dial. “We know that wearing something all day, every day becomes as much a part of personal expression as functionality,” Apple senior vice president of design Jony Ive said in an introductory video.
Like other smartwatches on the market, most of the watch’s features require a nearby smartphone to work—in this case, an iPhone, and more specifically, an iPhone 5 or iPhone 6 (also unveiled at the event). Some analysts professed disappointment the device won’t stand on its own.
A digital crown, which looks similar to the classic watch-winding crown, is used to scroll and navigate and also acts as a home button. The face is also responsive to touches and taps.
Among the features spotlighted at Apple’s Sept. 9 event:
– Health-related apps are included. These measure your heart rate, how many calories you have burned, whether you have reached your workout goals, and if you need to stand up and stretch after sitting too long. (Not mentioned, though likely to be available: an app measuring how long you have slept.)
– Its voice-response program Siri will answer questions and can give you directions using Apple Maps (also included).
– It lets you answer iPhone calls and respond to texts and other messages (via voice). It can also send scrawled pictures, as well as a rendering of your heartbeat.
– You can use it to control other Apple devices and programs, such as iTunes and Apple TV. You will also likely be able to play music from it.
– The new Apple Pay program will be integrated into it, meaning wearers will be able to pay for items at participating retailers.
– It can tell you sports scores and stock prices.
Other possible apps discussed at the presentation and in the press: a BMW app that helps you remember where you parked your car; an hotel chain app that acts as a room key; and an American Airlines app that includes a digital boarding pass. Also available will be popular social media sites such as Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter.
Apple didn’t discuss the thorny question of battery life, although it has said the watch will feature some form of wireless charging. But some were disconcerted by Cook’s contention that “you charge it at night,” which implies that the device would need to be charged daily.
It remains uncertain how this new device will affect the traditional watch industry. In a recent interview, Swatch Group CEO Nick Hayek seemed to dismiss the category, noting his company had a bad experience developing a watch with Microsoft years ago. However, in the aftermath of the announcement, stocks of watchmakers such as Swatch and Richemont fell, according to CNBC.