Apple have finally lifted the lid on one of the most highly anticipated tech creations in recent history. Apple’s Chief Executive, Tim Cook, has been discussing the Apple Watch, their belated entry into the smartwatch market.
Months of speculation over pricing, release dates and inbuilt apps have often dominated a market already awash with established brands. And in a press event in San Francisco, Apple sent the tech world into overdrive by halting the rumour mill and unveiling their wearable to the world.
Price and Release Date
Let’s begin with price. Apple are releasing a wide range of smartwatches, differing in metals, straps and price tag. Three overarching categories make up the range. The low-end ‘Apple Watch Sport’, mid-range ‘Apple Watch’ and premium line ‘Apple Watch Edition’. The main unit is built on aluminium, stainless steel or even 18-carat solid Gold, with straps coming in anything from basic plastics to leather or Milanese mesh. Finding the right model for you is made all the more difficult when you consider size. Many of Apple’s smartwatches come in both a 1.5 inch model, or, for an extra $50 (£33), a slightly larger 1.7 inches.
Depending on which of the countless combinations you plump for, an Apple watch could set you back anywhere from £299 to (brace) £13,500. The various products available are now listed on Apple’s website, with a consumer launch penned in for the 24th of April.
So, with Apple sticking true to form and pricing themselves highly in the market, what can the Apple Watch bring to a stumbling industry? With a reputation built on reinventing and rejuvenating tech, Apple are entering a market fashionably late and looking to steal the show.
The Same Mistakes?
The biggest stumbling block for smartwatch developers to date is their reliance on its pairing with a connected smartphone. Currently, the components required to build a device with a smartphone’s communicative capabilities are too large to cram onto something that is mounted on a wrist. So, aside from one or two standalone smartwatch devices that more closely resemble spacecraft panels, wrist wearables are hampered in as much as they are purely an accessory for your smartphone.
What have Apple done to break away from these problems? Well, nothing. To enjoy some of the Apple Watch’s unique software features, it must be paired with an iPhone 5 or above (further limiting its appeal).
Despite its reliance on the smartphone, Apple have collated an impressive array of potential uses for your smartwatch. Social media giants such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have developed specialised software for the iOS 8.2 device. Car taxi service Uber, song recognition software Shazam and sports broadcasters ESPN are also among the many varying apps available at launch. The Apple Watch is able to run all these apps and more for a total of 18 hours between charges.
The Apple Watch will also come ready to embrace the ever growing world of the ‘Internet of Things’. Intriguing features include its compatibility with certain hotels, as your smartwatch doubles up as a hotel-room keycard. Opening an internet enabled garage door and paying for items via ApplePay are further avenues for enhancing your digital life via the Apple Watch.
Of course, this all comes on top of the typical smartwatch functionality. Fitness tracking is a major selling point of the wearable band, and the Apple Watch has an inbuilt heart rate monitor and accelerometer to help track your fitness goals. Paired with your iPhone’s GPS, the Apple Watch can use its specialised health and fitness apps to track your calorie intake and overall time spent on your feet.
Similarly, incoming calls and notifications and be beamed up onto your wrist, thus furthering the relationship your iPhone and Apple Watch will strike. Photos can be viewed on the smaller screen and even the voice of iOS, Siri, can be summoned to creepily answer your queries.
One Expense too far?
So, will the Apple Watch be a success? That may well depend on how you gauge success. Apple have an army of super fans who will no doubt traipse the high streets of Britain come midnight on the 24rd of April. Initially at least, expect sales to be healthy.
However, given Apple’s decision to marry the Apple Watch to your existing tech is essentially falling into the same trap as the rest of market. Android Wear, Google’s attempt to build a similar stranglehold over smartwatch market as they have smartphones, only shipped 720,000 units in 2014 (according to canalys). Apple will be relying on their brand loyalty to ship a number far greater than Android have currently managed.
Parting with at least £300 for a device that has very little use when not in contact with a similarly expensive device is not an initially compelling sell. Apple fans are rarely put off by price, but even there previous cornerstone of beautifully designed products falls down somewhat with the Apple Watch. Compare with competitors such as LG’s G watch R or Moto 360 and Apple have, for once, come off second best in terms of looks.
Apple’s voyage into the smartwatch market has been a long time coming, and clearly a number of obstacles are to be overcome. But in an industry in dire need of some tech brand firepower, the Apple Watch could just invigorate a sleeping market.