Apple has finally confirmed the full details of its long-awaited Apple Watch, its first wearable technology product and the first serious contender to widen the concept’s appeal out for mainstream acceptance.
Lavishly presented by the company at a special event held at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Franscisco this evening, Apple calls Watch “the most personal Apple device ever”, stating that it “isn’t just with you, it’s on you”.
Apple Watch will be available in a variety of styles. The stainless steel case comes in two finishes: traditional and Space Black. Apple Watch Sport has an anodized aluminium case in silver or Space Gray. Apple Watch Edition is offered in an 18-karat gold case in either yellow or rose gold finishes.
The faces of all the watches can be customised with personal images or information apps, such as weather or calendar events. Swiping up on the face will give a summary of important information and with the Now Playing mode the wearer can control the music playing on another Apple device directly from their wristwatch.
The Taptic Engine provides physical feedback to alert the wearer to notifications. Phone calls can also be conducted directly from the Watch. Fitness tracking activity is built directly in to Watch, with a three-ring graphic detailing your movements for the day.
Close integration with a user’s iPhone extends the capabilities of Watch and Siri – Apple’s voice-activated virtual assistant – is also present for hands-free control and operation. A new Apple Watch app is added to a user’s iPhone and controls the symbiotic relationship between the devices.
Addressing the widespread concerns about battery life, Apple stated that “during a typical day, you can expect up to 18 hours of battery life”. The Watch charges via a magnetic charger that attaches to the back of the watch.
Apple Pay is also included on Apple Watch and third-party apps, such as Instagram, have features responsive to Watch, such as scrolling through and ‘Like’-ing images.
Apple Watch is the company's first entirely new product in five years. It will initially be available in nine countries, including the UK, for pre-order, starting on April 10 2015. On this date, Apple Watch will also be available for the usual hands-on experience in Apple Retail Stores. Watch will start physically shipping on April 24. More countries will follow.
Previously, Cook has referred to the problematic nature of achieving notable success within the wearable technology sphere, telling Apple Store sales staff in London that, "We've never sold anything as a company that people could try on before." Making tentative – albeit glamorous and expensive – inroads in to the world of fashion, Apple recently launched its Watch advertising campaign with a 12-page insert in the March issue of American Vogue magazine.
The caution with which Apple is approaching the wearables market is evidenced by the very limited details officially released to its established retail partners and major phone carrier companies. It is likely that Apple Stores will be the first places to sell the Watch, allowing the company to retain tight control over the presentation and education about Watch to potential customers. Cook has previously spoken of a need to “tweak” Apple Stores to suit the Watch-buying experience.
Gold MacBooks and more
Reflections on the success of Apple TV, Apple Healthkit, Apple Pay, and the iPhone 6 preceded the Watch announcement, notably with the statistic that since its launch in June 2007 over 700 million iPhones have been sold worldwide. A new software framework designed to benefit medical research, ResearchKit, was also announced at the event.
New MacBooks were also announced, in either Space Gray, Silver and – for the first time on an Apple laptop – Gold finishes. The lightest MacBooks ever, weighing in at 2lbs, they will be 24 per cent thinner than the already svelte MacBook Air. The new laptops feature a 12-inch Retina display with three million pixels and a new pressure-sensitive trackpad, the Force Touch, which detects the amount of pressure applied via four sensors, one at each corner.
It is also the first MacBook without fans of any kind, meaning it runs extremely quietly, and the Intel Core M processer runs on only five watts, so the power consumption is very low – officially, the world’s most energy-efficient notebook computer, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The new MacBooks also introduce a new type of connector, dubbed USB-C, which gives five ports in one: power, USB data transfer, DisplayPort, HDMI and VGA capability.
Cook also used the keynote speech to confirm details of the new flagship Apple Store near Hangzhou’s West Lake in China. Designed by Foster + Partners, the building is an entirely transparent glass box made up of 11 double-glazed panels. The upper floor of the Store projects 12 metres from the rear wall, with no visible means of support. Apple now has 21 retail stores in China and 453 in total worldwide.
Apple Watch infographic