The Apple Watch goes on sale in a few weeks: 24 April. It’s the latest release from the company that created gadgets that we didn’t know we had to have, like the iPod and iPad.
Right now, many people know what it looks like and how much it costs – though the 18-carat gold deluxe models have caused eyebrows to be raised at their £8,000 plus ticket price. But not everyone knows what the Apple Watch is for, or even know if they want one.
Since Apple’s effort is far from the first smartwatch to go on sale, this confusion is a clear indicator that rival models have yet to make a big enough impact. This will change in a month’s time. Meantime, here are some answers to pertinent questions…
In a nutshell, what’s the point?
The Apple Watch is a convenient, deeply personal way to access notifications such as text messages, emails or social networking updates. It also offers access to a wealth of apps from mapping to health monitors.
Hold on, doesn't my smartphone do all that?
Pretty much, and you’ll need an iPhone nearby to make the most of the Watch, since it piggy-backs off the phone’s internet access and so on.
So, honestly, why would I need another gadget that does what my phone does?
It’s a fair question that’s being widely asked. For a start, it’s an extension of how you use your phone. There are lots of other answers but many start with convenience. If you don't wear a watch you may be familiar with a complicated process to find out what time it is. This involves dragging your phone out of your pocket or bag, opening a protective case perhaps, and waking the screen. Wouldn’t it be easier to just glance at your wrist?
You mean, like I did before I had a phone?
Now you’re getting it. But this watch does more than tell the time (which it does with some accuracy, by the way, down to 50 thousandths of a second). So now you can keep your phone safely stowed while you check your messages, send a text or even answer the phone.
Okay, I like the Dick Tracy phone call style. But there must be more than that?
Sure. It’ll count your steps with a built-in motion sensor and even monitor your heart rate thanks to pulse-measuring sensors on the back. It can poach the iPhone’s GPS to show walking directions on the watch screen. It can even buzz in two different ways to tell you to turn left or right at junctions so you don’t even need to look at the watch, let alone your phone: never look like a tourist again!
Texts, you say. How tiny is the virtual keyboard on the watch screen?
No, no, the Apple Watch relies on Siri, Apple’s voice-activated personal assistant program, which has considerable voice-to-text smarts. So you can dictate messages. Apple also applies sophisticated text analysis algorithms for the incoming message and offers customised responses. So if a friend enquires if you’re meeting them “tonight or tomorrow” the Watch spots the “or” and offers reply box choices appropriately. If your friend is another Watch user, you can draw a doodle onscreen with your finger. It’ll appear on the other Watch near-instantly. For an even more intimate message, your Watch can read your pulse and send it as a thumping heartbeat to another Watch. Mind how you use this.
In pictures: Apple Watch
In pictures: Apple Watch
1/19 Apple Watch
Media and guests take a close look of the new Apple Watch
2/19 Apple Watch
Tim Cook introduces the new Apple Watch
3/19 Apple Watch
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch
4/19 Apple Watch
Tim Cook with a side view of new Apple Watch
5/19 Apple Watch
Tim Cook explains the use of the screen on the new Apple Watch
6/19 Apple Watch
7/19 Apple Watch
8/19 Apple Watch
9/19 Apple Watch
The many faces of the Apple Watch
10/19 Apple Watch
Share the beating of your heart with the Apple Watch
11/19 Apple Watch
Send a finger-drawn image
12/19 Apple Watch
The crowd use their devices to capture the Apple Watch
13/19 Apple Watch
14/19 Apple Watch
15/19 Apple Watch
The Digital Crown to magnify content on a small display
16/19 Apple Watch
Sensors to detect pulse rate
17/19 Apple Watch
Options for custom materials include gold
18/19 Apple Watch
The Digital Crown brings you to your apps
19/19 Apple Watch
The Activity app tracks three aspects of movement
I presume there’s a camera so I can take surreptitious photos?
You presume wrong. There’s no camera on board, though you can use the watch as a viewfinder and remote trigger for the iPhone’s camera – handy if you’re a birdwatcher, say.
What else will it do?
Plenty. With more to come. It’s all down to the apps. Already there are third-party apps from companies such as Starwood so you can check in to a W Hotel, even unlock your hotel room door all from the app. Airlines such as British Airways and American have announced apps so you can use the Watch as a boarding pass. And as more apps arrive, the Watch’s capabilities will grow exponentially. Just as nobody uses all of the million plus apps on smartphone app stores so every person’s usage will be different.
Okay, so if I were interested, and I’m not saying I am, I need to see it before I decide, right?
Right. You can go to selected Apple retail stores from 10 April to see the Watch, try it on, see which size – there are two screen sizes – and strap you like best. There are lots of versions to choose from and though you can save time by looking at the various models on the Apple website first, trying it on is crucial But, be warned, once you’ve seen it and handled it, you might find you’re converted.