Apple’s new foray into wearables begins with the Apple Watch

9 Sep 2014

Apple CEO Tim Cook with the new Apple Watch

Describing it as the most “personal device” ever made, Apple CEO Tim Cook proudly showed off the new Apple Watch. It doesn’t disappoint and makes rival devices from Sony and Samsung appear shabby.

Utilising its gift for coming up with new user interfaces, Apple has added a level of complexity and intelligence that just hasn’t been seen on earlier generations of smartwatches to the Apple Watch.

“Apple introduced the world to several category-defining products, the Mac, iPod, iPhone and iPad,” said Cook at a press event today in Cupertino, California. “And once again Apple is poised to captivate the world with a revolutionary product that can enrich people’s lives. It’s the most personal product we’ve ever made.”

The device can be navigated by a winding device akin to the click wheel called the Digital Crown, allowing users to scroll, zoom and navigate.

The Apple Watch can also be navigated by new sensors on the face of the device that can recognise touch and feel, as well as responding to voice via Apple’s Siri technology.

The watch can communicate via the user’s wrist by sending and receiving messages, as well as answering calls from Apple’s iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus smartphones.

There are four sensors on the back of the device that can monitor heart beats and pulse rates, and as well as sending emojis to other users, users can send portrayals of their heart beat to other users.

The smartwatch comes quintessentially in two sizes – 38mm and 42mm – but is spread across three distinct collections – Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch Edition.

In terms of materials, it is available in custom alloys of polished or space black stainless steel, space gray or silver anodized aluminum and 18-karat rose or yellow gold.

Apple also created an entire range of watch straps: the high-performance elastomer Sport Band; the Milanese Loop in a flexible magnetic stainless steel mesh; the Leather Loop in soft, quilted leather that conceals magnets for quick fastening and adjustment; the leather Modern Buckle, which closes with a solid metal clasp; the leather Classic Buckle; and the stainless steel Link Bracelet.

Apple Watch comes with a charging system that combines Apple’s MagSafe technology with inductive charging for a quick connection that snaps into place.

The new Apple Watch

“With Apple Watch, we’ve developed multiple technologies and an entirely new user interface specifically for a device that’s designed to be worn. It blurs the boundary between physical object and user interface,” said Jony Ive, Apple’s senior vice-president of design.

“We’ve created an entire range of products that enable unparalleled personalisation.”

Ive said the Apple Watch features unique computer technology built onto a single chip. “Essentially we are miniaturising an entire computer system onto a single chip.”

Apple, in a demo, showed how the device has multiple watch faces, including a really cool Earth interface that allows you to zoom out to the moon and even further out to the solar system and get information on all the planets.

Each watch face can in turn be customised to increase the level of individuality.

Cook said that core to the new Apple Watch will be the kind of apps, especially health apps, that app creators will invent.

A special Watch Kit for third-party developers will be made available.

BMW has created an app that informs wearers of exactly how much battery life is in their electronic car, Nike’s app sends and receives running challenges from friends, and American Airways’ app lets travellers check in for flights via the Apple Watch.

“You will soon be able to check into hotels and unlock doors by waving the watch at the door,” Cook promised.

The new Apple Watch will be available early in the new year. Pricing is estimated to start at US$349.

The smartwatch will come preloaded with two specific Apple health and fitness apps: Fitness, which monitors the user’s activity all day and night, and Workout, which sets specific fitness goals and challenges.

Four sensors feature on the back of the Apple Watch

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years