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Sunday, September 24, 2023

The Apple Watch

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Speculation has surrounded Apple Watch for years – far back into the technological dark ages when it was referred to as ‘iWatch’ – but, despite being exceedingly more enlightened at present, we still don’t know everything about Apple’s long-awaited wearable.

That will change on Monday when Apple’s ‘Spring Forward’ event goes live, at which time more information about Apple Watch is expected to release, including prices and additional features. After the event, those attending will likely be able to go hands-on with an array of fully functioning Apple Watches in the white structure going up beside the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

We will be covering the keynote as it happens, per usual. Until then, however, tech and fashion enthusiasts must occupy themselves with the facts given us by Apple and leaks from other sources. As a result, we’ve compiled everything we know and think we know about Apple Watch.

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  • It will ship in three versions, including aluminum Sport, stainless steel, and 18K yellow or rose gold Edition, each subsequently increasing in price.
  • There are two different sizes of Apple Watch: 38mm and 42mm, each with their bands sized according. It’s currently unclear if there will be any price difference between two sizes of the same style of Watch.
  • Bands are interchangeable, at least to a degree, and come in a wide range of materials, styles, and methods of keeping them securely on your wrist.
  • The Digital Crown is used for scrolling, as pinch-to-zoom isn’t enabled on Apple Watch. It also acts as a Home button, and a long press invokes Siri.
  • Force Touch is a technology new to Apple that recognizes the strength of a tap and can bring up options and UI elements different than those normally invoked with a regular tap.
  • All the computer components of the device are all included on a single chip, the S1, which is compact and perhaps also easily replaceable.
  • Apple Watch features a heart rate sensor on the bottom of the device, which, in conjunction with the accelerometer, is used to track one’s physical activity throughout the day.
  • Bluetooth is including in the device for communication with the paired iPhone and for streaming audio to wireless headphones.
  • Apple Pay is made possible with the device through the use of built-in NFC, which will work when paired with an iPhone 5 or greater.
  • The on-board Taptic Engine uses haptic feedback to simulate the feel of someone gently tapping on your wrist, which is used for inaudible communication and notifications.
  • The battery should last all day with mixed use, or up to five hours of heavy use, but will need to be charged nightly. Apple Watch uses a MagSafe-like wireless charger that magnetically snaps into place to charge inductively.
  • The Retina display is covered by Ion-X glass on Apple Watch Sport, while Apple Watch and Apple Watch Edition are protected by a single sapphire crystal.
  • Water resistance seems to be a feature, as Tim Cook mentioned that he never takes the watch off during the day, even when showering. Regardless of his intentions behind that statement, the Apple Watch appears to be splash proof at least.
  • It’s a timepiece with nine different watch faces, most of which are highly customizable.
  • Watch OS, the operating system on Apple Watch, introduces new methods of communication, including sketches, taps, and heartbeats that the recipient will see or feel on their wrist.
  • Notifications from iPhone can be received and accepted on Apple Watch, and small tasks can be dealt with from one’s wrist.
  • The Watch doesn’t have a keyboard, but instead intelligent replies are generated by the device, and if that isn’t sufficient, voice dictation can send an iMessage reply on its way while iPhone remains in your pocket.
  • Phone calls can be received and carried out through the built-in speaker or via wireless headphones, and calls can be seamlessly transfers to your iPhone for longer conversations.
  • Email can be received, flagged, and marked as read from Apple Watch, although replies must be composed in Mail for iOS, which uses Continuity to open directly to the message on your iPhone.
  • Health and fitness tracking is a fundamental goal for Apple as of late, and the Apple Watch enhances this by tracking movement and heart rate, reminding wearers to move regularly and rewarding them for meeting exercise goals.
  • Third-party WatchKit apps will be available for the Watch, but they will require an iPhone to run for the time being. This is set to change in the future, however.
  • Models in testing are said to have 8GB of on-board storage for media, and music can be played from the Apple Watch with the use of wireless headphones.
  • Watch OS features a power reserve mode that will sleep much of the device’s functionality while still displaying the time. This apparently can be activated at will, not just when the battery is short on juice, but its primary goal seems to be to at least display the time for a couple more hours when the power is low.
  • It’s a fashion accessory just as much as, if not more than, it’s a smartwatch. Expect Apple to price it accordingly, as the target competition isn’t Android Wear as much as it is Rolex.
  • Apple Watch will begin shipping in April, but it’s possible that preorders will begin sooner.

Now that we know a lot of what Apple Watch can do, it seems clear that Apple has been planning this device for a very long time. iOS 8, for example, brought Continuity and Handoff, two key components in Apple Watch’s interaction with iPhone. iOS’s Health currently integrates with third-party health and fitness apps to display data, but its long term purpose is evidently to sync with Apple Watch. iOS 8’s Predictive keyboard is simply a foreshadowing of suggested replies for Messages on Apple Watch, and the list goes on.

It’s difficult – even ludicrous – to imagine that any of these components were developed only for iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite integration and added to Apple Watch as an afterthought. Instead, Apple has been easing users into these features over time, as well as testing them out in other scenarios, in order for Apple Watch’s functionality to smoothly integrate into what people already love about iOS 8.

Further still, iOS 7’s design was thrown together rather quickly – the iOS 6 look was dropped not long after Jonathan Ive was made design chief – but Apple Watch has been Jony’s pet project for years, and its UI seems to be a much better representation of what Sir Ive considers excellence in software design.

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Because of the obvious care that has gone into this device, Apple has a lot riding on Monday’s event and the success of the company’s first wearable. We’re sure to see new features that were saved for the final announcement, and I’m confident that Apple has more to tell us than they showcased in September.

Excitement always piques among technology fans before a presentation, but tomorrow’s event will be different. Not because it’s Apple’s keynote or because we might see product refreshes, but because Apple is entering an entirely new market. Sure, we saw a rather large glimpse last year, but there are still a lot of lingering questions that have yet to be answered, many of which will be a turning point for potential customers. People often list each new iPhone keynote as a critical moment for the company’s future, but tomorrow – when Apple tries to sell its brand new product to the world – is far more pivotal than any event we’ve seen for years.

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