Following years of anticipation, the time of the Apple Watch is finally here.
The smartwatch, which had been popularly known as the “iWatch,” is the first completely new product from Apple since it revealed the original iPad.
The Apple Watch comes in two sizes in three different varieties, including Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport, and the Apple Edition watch. All versions of the Apple Watch use flexible displays that are coated with durable sapphire crystal to ensure that they don’t break under the stress of everyday life.
The standard Apple Watch is made from polished stainless steel and comes in at $349. The Apple Watch Sport features an iodized aluminum case that’s light and durable, while the Apple Edition watch’s case is made from 18-karat gold, which Apple claims is twice as hard as standard gold. Apple did not reveal individual prices for these different watches.
The Apple Watch uses a touchscreen display that recognizes force, so you can tap to make a selection or press harder to open a different setting in your apps. The Apple Watch also uses what Apple calls a digital crown (the knob on the side of the watch) to let you perform a variety of actions including zooming and scrolling.
Turning the knob to the right, for example, lets you zoom in, while twisting it to the left zooms out. Pressing the crown brings you back to the Apple Watch home screen.
Speaking of which, the watch’s home screen is made up of a cluster of your favorite apps, with the main watch app sitting at its center. It’s a slick-looking interface, and one we can’t wait to try out.
The Apple Watch sports a built-in heart rate monitor and pedometer that tie into iOS 8’s HealthKit app, allowing you to measure your heart’s beats per minute, as well as your overall heart health.
Like the iPhone and iPad, the Apple Watch runs many of your favorite third-party apps, including Twitter and Facebook, not to mention MLB and others. Apple says that W Hotels is working on an app that will let you open your hotel room door with the watch. You’ll even be able to control your thermostat from it. That’s intense.
What’s more, Apple says users will be able to reply to texts and a variety of other messaging apps via voice dictation or quick replies.
A built-in near-field communication (NFC) chip allows Apple Watch to work with Apple’s new Apple Pay wireless payment system. That means you can tie your debit or credit cards to the watch and use it to pay for items at the checkout counters of participating stores.
Charging the Apple Watch involves connecting its MagSafe inductive charger to its underside. That’s it.
Apple is offering a host of custom optional watch straps, including a sport band, which is in a range of colors, a leather loop, a leather modern buckle, and a host of others.
So here’s the downside to the Apple Watch. The first thing is that it won’t be available until early 2015. The second: It will work only with Apple’s iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, and iPhone 5. So if you’ve got an older iPhone, you’re going to need to upgrade to use the Apple Watch.
The Apple Watch is considered by many to be the unofficial start of Apple’s Tim Cook era, as it is the first completely new product to come out of Cupertino since Cook took over in the wake of Steve Jobs’ passing in 2011.
Similarly, the Apple Watch is seen by analysts as a litmus test of Apple’s ability to produce new and innovative devices without Jobs’ guiding hand.
In recent months, analysts and investors have questioned the company’s capacity to compete in the ever-changing mobile market. Apple enters a market saturated by competing smartwatches made by LG, Motorola, and Samsung — none of which has really taken off yet.
Beyond its impact on Apple’s overall market standing, the Apple Watch could also prove to ignite the still-nascent wearables market just as the iPhone did for the smartphone market. In other words, the Apple Watch may be the first smartwatch that the everyday consumer actually wants to buy.