Everything you need to know about the Apple WatchWith the Apple Watch release date set firmly for April, tech-dom is a-buzz with talk of what to expect from Apple's first foray into wearable tech.
The most recent revelations see the Apple Watch getting its own dedicated Companion app on iPhone, plus reports that the wearable will squeeze a meagre 2.5 hours of battery life during active usage.
Apple unveiled its fledgling smartwatch at a launch event on September 9, padding out its product roster alongside the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
The Apple Watch features a custom-built UI that proffers a host of wrist-borne apps, as well as a pressure-sensitive touchscreen, 'taptic' haptic feedback, and the Digital Crown - Apple's wristwatch-inspired winder input.
The smartwatch will come up against tough competition when it lands, facing off with the existing raft of wearable Android fare like the Moto 360, the LG G Watch R, and the Samsung Gear S.
Latest estimates tip the smartwatch to tout sales figures somewhere in the region of 20-30 million with Apple rumoured to have anywhere up to 40 million units ordered in time for day one.
Apple Watch Release Date – When is the Apple Watch coming out?The Apple Watch release date has now been confirmed from on high - CEO Tim Cook, to be precise - with a landing date set for April.
We're still not exactly sure what specific date will herald the grand Apple Watch retail opening, but at least it's been narrowed down to a 30-day window. Sure beats early talk of 'sometime in 2015', eh?
Prempting the wearable's upcoming arrival, Apple made its WatchKit SDK live late last year. Giving early play time with the Apple Watch expereince, the wrist-based SDK is allowing eager developers to prep bespoke apps in time for the device's release.
When the Apple Watch does eventually go on sale, there will be three model options to choose from – each with two display sizes to complement varying wrist sizes.
The standard Apple Watch model comes with a stainless steel silver or space black colour scheme case with the screen protected by sapphire crystal.
If you’re looking for something to keep up with you as you train, the Apple Watch Sport features an anodised aluminium case in silver or space grey with the screen protected with strengthened ion-X glass with colourful, durable band options.
Lastly, the Apple Watch Edition features an 18-carat gold face in yellow or rose, protected by sapphire crystal. It’s the premium edition of the Apple Watch and Apple describes it as “exquisitely crafted bands and closures”. Deep pockets will be needed if you're thinking of splashing out on this model though.
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Apple Watch SpecsTo start off with, there will be two different sizes of the Apple Watch to choose from. The smaller option for dainty wrists is 38mm tall, while the larger option is 42mm. That’s something that we haven’t seen from any of the Android or Android Wear alternatives so far.
Each Apple Watch is kitted out with a Retina display. Although Apple has claimed this is an “extremely energy efficient” option, precise Apple Watch battery life figures remain shrouded in mystery.
Fortunately we do have some idea on staying power, as Tim Cook revealed the device would require charging every day. The CEO said: "We think that people are going to use it so much you will wind up charging it daily."
In terms of resolution, the developer kit revealed the smaller Apple Watch will tout a 1.5-inch 272 x 340 display, while the larger variant will boast a 1.65-inch 312 x 390 display.
The Apple Watch display can sense force via a new feature call Force Touch. This will allow the device to distinguish between a tap and a press for more contextually specific controls.
Reacting to that, there’s also the Taptic Engine. This is a linear actuator within the Apple Watch that offers haptic feedback for your wrist, tapping you with notifications or on specific sides of your wrist for Apple Maps navigation.
The Watch also features a custom built heart rate sensor that uses infrared, visible-light LEDS and photodiodes to detect your pulse and heart rate. Combining this with data from the accelerometer and the GPS and Wi-Fi found in your iPhone, the Apple Watch can track your physical movement.
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Under the hood you’ll find the Apple S1 processor, which Apple states is “an entire computer architecture on a single chip.” There’s no specific specs for the S1 yet, but it is protected from the elements, wear and impact by resin.
Rumours suggest Apple has placed a fairly sizeable order of 30-40 million S1 chip units, indicating the firm has high hopes for its wrist-hugging tech. With the Apple Watch release date tipped for Q1 2015, production is all but certian to have already started.
Like many of its Android Wear rivals, the Apple Watch will require a bespoke charger. The wearable charges via an inductive charger that utilises Apple’s MagSafe technology. There’s no exposed contacts as it’s completely sealed. The aim is that you can connect the charger in the dark. Just holding the charger near the back of the watch causes the magnets to snap together, putting the charger in place quickly.
Latest reports suggest that Samsung is now on board to build several thousand 12-inch wafers per month using a 28nm manufacturing process (read: a shedload of chips).
Inside the S1 system-in-package will be mobile DRAM, NAND flash, and, of course, the Samsung-built processor.
The actual SiP module itself will be built by Advanced Semiconductor Engineering; Samsung is only tied to the actual processors right now.
Anaylsts in this latest report also revised the aforementioned 40 million unit estimate, instead proffering a more conservative 10 million unit-strong shipment for the initial batch.
It's been suggested that the S1 chip will be roughly as powerful as Apple's A5 mobile chip - that's the same one that powers the current generation iPod Touch.
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Apple Watch Battery LifeLike most smartwatches, the main topic of contention for Apple is the Apple Watch battery life. 'How long with the Apple Watch last?' cry the legions of cash-in-hand fans.
Latest rumours suggest Apple is targeting around 2.5 hours of battery life for heavy active use - that's non-stop tinkering with processor-intensive apps.
A report by 9to5mac suggeted that Apple is currently 'shooting for roughly 19 hours of mixed usage every day.'
The problem lies therein - Apple is reportedly struggling to hit that target, and may not manage it with the first iteration of the Apple Watch.
Tim Cook has been very vocal about his aim for the Apple Watch to require nightly charging, which is at least a somewhat reasonable goal.
A mere 19-hour-long charge cycle might not be enough to assuage consumer concerns however, and could see the Apple Watch struggling to woo analogue-wielding watch fanatics.
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Apple Watch FeaturesImmediately you’ll notice that the Apple Watch has a custom version of iOS, with all your apps presented in small circles with the Watch app always at the centre. The entire UI is customisable, so you can choose how the apps are presented on the home screen and how they appear in full screen on your wrist.
Although the Apple Watch features a touch screen, you’ll be using the Digital Crown built into the Watch’s winder as the primary input method.
The Digital Crown is a unique take on the traditional watch winder and functions in a similar way. Turning the Digital Crown lets you scroll through results, zoom in and out on Apple Maps and other features too. Pushing it in takes you back to the Home Screen and gives you access to Siri, which is also built into the Apple Watch.
There are a range of watch faces to choose from and each one can be further customised with different colours of functions. These faces include options for stopwatches, weather updates, stock quotes and other glanceable information. Apple claims the opportunities for personalisation are “virtually endless”.
If you just can't wait to get your hands on the Apple Watch, you can at least have a tinker with a virtual demo, courtesy of demoapplewatch.com.
The site is built by the team behind the Pipes news app, and offers up a digital emulator for the wearbale.
You use your mouse in the same way you would a finger, and can swipe, open apps, play with settings, and peruse the UI.
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Apps has been revamped for the Apple Watch. Messages, for example, lets you quick reply to texts and iMessages with automatically created answers taken from the content of the messages themselves. If you don’t fancy one of those answers you can reply with one of the new emojis instead. These can be customised too, as you can adjust the eyes and mouth of the faces for example, to make sure you’re portrayed the exact emotion you’re currently feeling.
Digital Touch means you could also reply with a little hand-drawn message instead. Sketch is used to draw something quickly, and your friend can see you drawing from their end.
There’s a new Walkie-Talkie app that lets you use the built-in speaker and microphone to trade sound bites, while Tap lets you send Morse Code style taps that will pulsate on your friend’s Apple Watch. Pressing two fingers on the screen records and sends your heartbeat to your friend, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Pressing the button beneath the Digital Crown brings up all your Friends that you’ve recently interacted with. You can send them any of the above with a tap from there.
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In terms of fitness, there’s the accelerometer built-in, but you’ll need to use the GPS and Wi-Fi from your phone to calculate how far you’ve travelled. To help that, Apple has introduced two new fitness apps to keep you motivated and track your progress.
The Activity app has a simple graphic to display your daily activity with a different coloured ring for each of the following: Move, Exercise and Stand. Move tracks the amount of calories you’ve burnt, Exercise shows the minute count of brisk activity undertaken, while the Stand ring tracks how long you’ve spent off your feet – encouraging you to get up off your bottom every now and then.
The Workout app is more intense. When you’re undertaking a dedicated cardio workout it’ll offer real time stats on the exercise time, distance travelled, calories burnt and the pace you’re keeping – whether that’s running, walking or cycling. All these stats are stored in the Activity app too.
To keep you motivated the Workout app sets you personalised daily goals, alerts you with reminders and gives you achievements for your perseverance.
As with the new features coming in iOS 8 and OS X Mavericks, the Apple Watch will let you start reading or doing something on your wrist and then pick it up later on the iPhone.
EA has also revealed it's already looking to develop game content for the Apple Watch, although the details on this remain unsurprisingly murky for now.
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Apple Watch AppsAlthough the new WatchKit APIs have been released for third-party developers to get creating the first apps for the Apple Watch, there’s a selection of pre-confirmed apps for Apple’s first smartwatch.
The first app you'll need to get to grips with is 'Companion', outed as part of the iOS 8.2 beta build.
Reports suggest that the Companion app will let users customise the Apple Watch home screen via a virtual view on the iPhone.
The app will offer features like custom watch faces, notification delivery alerts, and even 'Stand Reminders' that will poke users when they've been parked on their backsides for too long.
You'll also be able to control more prosaic aspects of the watch, namely accessibility and passcode settings, all through the Companion app.
The Calendar app will give you glanceable information as to what events you’ve got coming up in your day-to-day life or on a weekly basis. You’ll be buzzed with event reminders and calendar invites that you can reply to straight away.
Maps is coming to Apple Watch too. You can navigate to your destination using turn-by-turn navigation that uses haptic feedback to touch your wrist with the direction you next need to take.
There’s PassBook coming as well, storing all your boarding passes, tickets and other data on your wrist for easy access. Of course, Apple Watch will work with the new Apple Pay system. Currently available in the US, Apple Pay is expected to launch in the UK this year.
Back in September it was revealed that the Apple Watch would shut down access to the user's credit card information once the device breaks contact with the body - as discerned by the raft of sensors inside.
To provide access to Apple Pay functionality once more, users will need to enter a PIN-code once the watch is back on its rightful wrist.
As with the Android Wear watches, you can control your music on your wrist or control your Apple TV or iTunes library on your Mac or PC. The Apple Watch also acts as a remote viewfinder for the iSight camera on the iPhone or iPad too.
It's also been confirmed that Nimblebit, the maker of the Tiny Tower game for iOS, is planning to launch one of the first third-party games for the Apple Watch.
The project is called 'Letterpad', and will land as a simple word game that requires players to create as many words as possible from a choice of 9 letters.
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Apple Watch PriceWe're still waiting with bated breath for official Apple Watch pricing to be announced, but we can make a pretty good guess.
Apple has already confirmed its smartwatch will start from $349, which translates to roughly £218. We probably won't see such a generous price tag however, with £299 seeming a much more likely figure.
The stainless steel edition of Apple's virginal wearable offering is tipped to price up at $500, which equates to £313 sterling.
Meanwhile, industry whispers are putting the pricier gold Apple Watch variant mark-up at a mega-bucks $5000 - that's £3061 in Blighty tender.
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Apple Watch CompatibilityThe Apple Watch is compatible with both new iPhone models, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. But, it will also work with the iPhone 5, iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C when it is released.
It’s not clear whether you’ll need to upgrade your old iPhone 5/5S/5C to iOS 8 before it will be compatible though. We have a hunch you’ll need to make the move to Apple’s latest mobile operating system first.