Apple revealed its first smartwatch back in September, but the Apple Watch models shown to the world back then were nowhere near final products. Six months later, Tim Cook’s company is finally revealing more concrete details on its wearables. Here’s what an Android fan should know about today’s Apple Watch announcement.
A little background
Google had a six months head start in the smartwatch race, having announced Android Wear in the spring of 2014. The first Android Wear devices were basic “reference” models from Samsung and LG, that haven’t really made a lasting impression through their hardware or features. Motorola’s Moto 360 sparked more excitement thanks to its sleek design, while more recent models from LG, Asus, Sony, and Huawei have added refinement, style, and new features to the basic Android Wear recipe.
While the Android Wear ecosystem is developing steadily, there’s still something missing. Just over 700,000 Android Wear smartwatches shipped last year, according to market research, and it’s increasingly clear that people aren’t yet convinced they want a smartwatch, let alone need one.
Will Apple, with its unparalleled marketing acumen, be able to kick-start the smartwatch category in a way Google and its partners haven’t?
Here comes the Apple Watch
The Apple Watch will be available in three variants, and a variety of band configurations. Furthermore, all three models will be available in two sizes, 38mm and 42mm, in an apparent effort to appeal to women (and/or just those with smaller wrists) and to offer more customization options. That’s something we wish we would see from Android Wear manufacturers as well, as their current smartwatches are largely geared towards men.
At the bottom of the price range is the Watch Sport, made of aluminum and covered with ion-strengthened glass, which is identical to the iPhone cover glass. This model will be available from $349 for the 38mm version or $399 for 42mm, meaning it will compete directly with current Android Wear and smartwatches running other OS, like the Pebble Time and LG’s experimental webOS-powered Urbane LTE.
The Apple Watch Regular Edition is next up, swapping aluminum for stainless steel, and glass for sapphire. As you can imagine, pricing only gets higher from here, with the 38mm variant ranging from $549 to $1,049 and the 42mm variant from $599 to $1,099 — depending on your choice of bands.
With Watch Edition, Apple is really shooting for the luxury segment, offering 18K gold models. True to Apple’s premium demanding nature, the Watch Edition will be priced from $10,000. Yes, that’s the starting price. This particular model will only be available in limited quantities and from select retailers. We have to imagine “select retailers” could mean less of your Best Buy type stores and more of the type of establishments you’d buy high-end watches and jewelry from.
As far as functionality is concerned? The Apple Watch doesn’t feature just the interaction model based on swipes and taps that we all know from mobile operating systems and Android Wear. The mechanical crown on the side of the phone can be rotated to navigate through the installed apps, while the watch is able to differentiate between a simple tap and a hard press. There’s also some voice command integration, obviously thanks to Siri, which can be accessed by simply pressing on the crown.
In many ways, the Apple Watch experience remains largely the same as Android Wear, in that the device is meant to augment the smartphone experience, not replace it. You get all the messages you’d get on an iPhone with the Apple Watch and you get voice assistance, just like with Android Wear. However, one of the big differences in functionality is that you can receive calls on the Apple Watch, thanks to the built-in mic and speaker. For those keeping score, yes, that’s very similar to what we’ve seen with devices like Samsung’s Gear series and really nothing new.
During their initial announcement of the Apple Watch last year, battery life was an area where Apple remained rather quiet, leading folks to believe that this wasn’t going to be a strength for the Watch. As it turns out, Apple’s Watch is pretty average, coming in at about 18 hours based on “typical use”. That’s certainly nowhere as good as the Pebble or Pebble 2, and even many Android Wear watches can easily get up to two days on a single charge. Still, Apple’s Watch doesn’t appear to be much worse in this area than most of the competition.
Since it has been on market for a while, Android Wear is at an advantage when it comes to app support, but that doesn’t mean Apple doesn’t have a number of useful apps packed in and supported from day one. As you’d expect, several Apple staples will be coming to the watch including Siri, which can be accessed by pressing the crown, and even Apple Pay and Passbook. There’s also the ability to draw an animation on your screen and send it to other Apple Watch users, and plenty of other fun software tricks.
For those that need a nudge every now and then, the Apple Watch will also tell you when you’ve been sitting around too long
For exercise buffs, or those hoping to get a bit more active, the Apple Watch monitors your activity, measuring your pulse as you exercise. We imagine there are also a number of health-related apps and services on their way. For those that need a nudge every now and then, the Apple Watch will also tell you when you’ve been sitting around too long, and will remind you to get up and start moving. (My wife already nags me about that, so I don’t see this as a feature).
As for 3rd party apps, on stage Apple announced several including Twitter, MLB at Bat, American Airlines, Salesforce Wave, WeChat, Instragram, Uber and Alarm.com. Bottom-line, pretty much all the biggest hitters should be here pretty close to launch day.
The Apple Watch will begin pre-orders on April 10th, with the watch set to arrive in 9 countries on April 24th, the United States included. While Apple doesn’t say specifically, this availability should apply to all three models. Of course, you’ll need an iPhone in order to use the watch, as Android compatibility isn’t offered.
As you can see, the Apple Watch doesn’t exactly break the mold, but it does offer a few changes like a digital crown, Apple services integration and plenty of premium options for those that want a smartwatch but still want to brag about how they paid nearly the price of an economy car for it. Is there anything for Android fans to really be jealous of here? The only thing I personally see is the addition of two watch sizes, for those hoping for a larger watch. Otherwise, same basic concept, higher price tag.
What do you think, impressed by the Apple Watch? Do you think it will take off?
Bodgan Petrovan contributed to the creation of this post.