Yesterday, we shared a ton of big Apple news with you – the advancements in the iPhone 6, iOS 8, Apple Pay, namely – but that wasn’t all of it by any means. The other huge buzz: Apple is finally hitting the wearable device market and there’s no doubt they’re leaving all other manufacturers shaking in their boots with the release of Apple Watch.
Of course it’s a watch (the name kind of tips you off), and only Apple would ensure that it keeps time within 50 milliseconds of the global time standard and auto-adjusts to your time zone. But obviously that’s not the real point of this device. It’s sooooo much more. Not only does it serve as an extension of your iPhone (on your wrist!) and a payment mechanism with Apple Pay, but it also may just change the landscape of how we take accountability for our health.
The Apple Watch: How It Looks
From a style standpoint, this is a huge improvement from the Android watches we’ve seen which feel a little more “geek dude” than an accessory you want to wear, more than you want to tell people you are wearing it.
There are three Apple Watch styles to suit different tastes: The standard Apple Watch features a sleek stainless steel band and back face. For a more casual, pop-y Swatch sort of look, the slightly polarizing Watch Sport comes with all kinds of colored bands. And for the more fancy, you’ll probably spark to the Watch Edition featuring an 18-karat gold case supporting the super strong, synthetic sapphire face. And yes, they will fit on smaller wrists too.
It’s nice that all the straps are interchangeable, so you can go from sporty to fancy with a quick change, also making it a reasonably attractive fashion accessory. We’re all about tech as fashion and it seems Apple wants to make some headway into this market.
In other words, this is not just for geeks; Apple is seriously going for it here.
The Apple Watch: How It Works
Beyond the beautiful aesthetic, Apple Watch essentially acts as a scaled down iPhone on your wrist. You can check your email, send texts, access a ton of apps (there are now 1.3 million iOS apps – whoa; though of course not all will be Apple Watch compatible), view photos and make calls.
Like Apple everything, the Apple Watch is designed to be super intuitive and sensitive, so there are incredibly innovative things it does without too much work on your part. Like it measures your heartbeat. And it emits very subtle haptic vibrations and audio cues so that you actually feel when a text comes in or that email is sent but won’t disturb everyone in the room.
Apple knows that navigating a much smaller screen is much more difficult, so they implemented a dial called a Digital Crown. Sure, you can swipe the screen to move through apps, as you do on your iPhone, but the dial gives you more granular control over the device because most of us can barely type on our iPhones without hitting the wrong letters, without putting our clumsy thumbs to work on that teeny watch screen.
Also, for parents who always seem to have something–or someone–in their hands, it’s nice that the watch is activated when your wrist is raised, perfect for when you simply don’t have any hands free. And as parents, we’re happy to learn that the super strong watch face should be durable to handle the rigors of parenthood, and kids who will inevitably fight endlessly to have a shot at it. At last, the Maxwell Smart talk-into-your-phone era is really truly here.
Personal Connections With Your Contacts
It seems easy enough now to tap a few times on your phone to make a call or connect with someone, but there are a couple of Apple Watch features that we find amazingly intuitive, and dare we say futuristic? First, you can immediately pull up all your favorite contacts and get a visual of the people you want to reach out to.
How great to see a little photo of your mom pop up as you’re calling her, right?
And while you can connect in the more traditional way like calling or texting, what fascinates all of us (and the audience at the Apple presentation yesterday if you caught all the oohing and aahing) is a new feature called Digital Touch that lets you draw something on your watch face–kind of like a Boogie Board--and have it appear on the watch face of the person you’re trying to reach.
In the Apple presentation demo, we saw a fish drawing as a way of asking a colleague out for sushi which honestly, doesn’t seem faster to us than texting, even if it is more playful. Instead, we imagine plenty of smiley faces and hearts and xoxo’s that are more personal than emoji, because you’ve written them yourself. Of course that means look out for some uh–less savory drawings too.
No links, but trust us, they’re already making their way into hilarious Twitter pics about the Apple Watch.
Oh, and yes there are emojis. Not just emojis, but animated emojis. Like your kids won’t be all over that.
Health and Fitness Functionality in the Apple Watch
For another hugely impressive feature, take a good look at the impact the watch can have on your health and activity level which could be game-changing. On the tech side, the Watch has a built-in accelerometer and heart rate sensor. It measures things like your general activity level, how many calories you have burned, how long you have been standing or how many minutes you’ve been exercising.
Truly, Apple Watch becomes a personal trainer on your wrist, measuring the intensity of your workouts (with the built-in heart rate sensor), the duration of your activity and how it all matches up with your personal goals. These stats are stored in the new Health app in iOS 8, which syncs with the complementary Workout app, to keep a running log of your fitness achievements.
Wow, we can think of a lot of new moms who would be pretty psyched to have this when they’re out pushing the stroller around for exercise.
The Watch Sport is lighter and stronger than the other two versions, and we love that it tracks three levels of activity — moving, exercising, and standing. Think of how much time we parents spend on our feet without actually walking, like cooking dinner and folding laundry. That should count for something, and with the Apple Watch, it does.
But we’re not so sure about the Apple Watch where it comes to the Workout app. While the watch contains an accelerometer that tracks movement, it requires the GPS capability of the iPhone to track distance when you’re running or biking. It would seem that this means you’ve got to carry your iPhone during workouts. Which is fine, but it’s not new: iOS apps like RunKeeper and MapMyRun can use GPS on your phone to track your workout too.
Considering that the HealthKit platform facilitates app integration, your workout data from third party apps can likely be imported to the Health app too — along with data from activity trackers like FitBit and Jawbone UP. That’s why, along with the Apple Watch’s hefty price tag, we don’t expect it to replace other activity trackers just yet. And for more hardcore athletes, the Apple Watch won’t likely replace a more powerful (if less flashy) GPS sport watch.
But Wait! We Still Have Questions!
We covered the main features of the Apple Watch that blew us away, but there are still a few unknowns. There was a painfully obvious lack of mention of battery life, except for a brief comment about how the Apple Watch “is easy to charge every night.”
So…does that mean it has to be charged every single night? We’re thinking it’s likely.
Also, it was made clear that an iPhone is needed to make use of the Apple Watch, and most likely the new Apple 6 will be most compatible, though evidently iPhone 5S and up should work too. A lot of the compatibility concerns stem from the fact that the Apple Watch really is an iPhone accessory that syncs with your phone’s data.
And yet, there was no mention of whether the iPhone needs to be within a certain range of the watch for it to work, like the features that rely on your iPhone’s WiFi and GPS functionality. While fitness bands like the Jawbone UP store your info until you’re close to your phone again for a sync, we assume similar things will happen with the Apple Watch. Still, we’ll definitely be interested in more details about this because the portability factor of the watch could have much less impact if you have to have your iPhone within 30 feet of it at all times.
At first glance, the Apple Watch exceeded all expectations this week. Rumors have been circulating for months about the supposed iWatch, what it would look like and what it would do. Judging from what we saw today, we were mighty impressed by the sophistication that comes in such a little package.
The price is also pretty fantastic, way less than we would have guessed, in fact. However paying a $349 price tag to simply use Apple Watch as a cool way to check texts on your wrist seems awfully excessive for most of us who don’t have tons of techy gadget mad money allotted to our monthly budgets.
However, if you really take advantage of all the Apple Watch health tracking functionality and use it to make changes for a healthier lifestyle–especially for super busy parents who have little time for that to begin with–then the price may be totally worth it.
Besides, we sense there’s going to be a ton of outstanding functionality for parents that we haven’t even begun to explore, from connecting with far-away family to calendar management and day-to-day organization and productivity improvement. Let’s just say we’re ready and waiting to try it out for you and let you know what we really think after testing it ourselves. We’re already saving up for one.
-Jeana, with contributions from Julie and Liz
The Apple Watch is slated to be available in early 2015. Check out the Apple Watch website for more information about all the awesome features.