This afternoon, Apple‘s chief executive Tim Cook launched their latest smart accessory: the Apple Watch. In a long-anticipated move, Apple steps into the wearable technology pool alongside other manufacturers like Samsung and Microsoft. Will the Apple Watch blow its competitors out of the water?
Before its launch, many features of the new Apple Watch (not called the iWatch, as many had predicted) were a mystery. Apple hadn’t released a lot of details about what the what would be able to do, but it turns out that the device is capable of doing just about everything you’d expect. The Apple Watch can do more or less everything your iPhone can do, without the need to reach for your phone. Cook failed to explain at any point in the launch event why, exactly, consumers might want a device that does exactly what another device already does, so the whole event was a little strange.
The Apple Watch, though, is kind of neat. It can connect with your iPhone, and will also have a range of its own apps and sensors, many of which are for health and fitness. It’s essentially the most personal of “personal electronics devices” that Apple has ever created. The new-fangled smart watch will also include mapping software that offers navigational assistance by administering gentle “taps” on the wearer’s wrist. That’s right. Your watch can not only tell you which way to go, but it can nudge you in the right direction. You can read more about what we knew before the launch in our coverage of the initial product announcement last fall.
We learned today that, like other Apple smart products, the Watch is highly customizable to each user’s preferences, including the appearance of the face, and addition or removal of different apps like weather, calendar events, and even news updates. The Apple Watch can even act as a caller ID, showing you who is calling your phone without having to reach for it. It’ll also track your activity and nag you if you’re being too lazy, which is a feature that some consumers might hate. To give their new product a boost, Apple is partnering with model/mother Christy Turlington Burns, who will wear the Apple Watch as she trains for her next marathon.
Interestingly, in launching the new smart watch, Apple’s intent is not to release a product that is the biggest and best in its category. Instead, the smart watch is meant to jumpstart the market. Strategy Analytics research firm’s executive director Neil Mawston admits in a statement, “Apple’s first-generation Watch is not yet perfect. Apple will need to upgrade tangibly its second-generation watch to stay ahead of competitors later this year.”
Like most Apple product launches, this one was about more than just the smart watch. First, Cook took the opportunity to boast about Apple’s worldwide success, pointing in particular to their expanded lineup of stores in China, including this amazing one designed by Fosters + Partners. Cook also made two additional announcements about new Apple products and services. Apple TV will add a service called HBO NOW, which gets you streaming HBO content for $14.99 a month starting in April and without the need for cable or other subscription services.
The announcement also included the unveiling of a new MacBook edition, available in gold and grey, which is 24% thinner than its predecessor and the lightest Mac laptop ever, weighing just 2lbs.
Ultimately, Apple’s launch event for the Apple Watch was less about this smart device and a lot more about reminding the world of all the various and sundry cool products that Apple is involved in, like the much-criticized ApplePay, and the wide variety of medical apps now being used by research and healthcare professionals. Of most importance was the announcement that the first five apps made with its software platform ResearchKit are now available as open-source resources to anyone who needs them.
As for the Apple Watch, how well it performs for consumers will have a lot to do with what this product means for Apple. Competing smart watches have longer battery lives and lower price points, so the Apple Watch is already at a disadvantage with its starting retail price in the U.S. of $349. Apple will offer its Watch in three collections, including the “Apple Watch Edition,” featuring 18-karat gold cases in yellow or rose, sapphire crystal and finely crafted bands and closures.
Daniel Burrus, writing for CNNMoney.com, believes the release of the Apple Watch will launch a revolution in wearable technology. That’s probably true, but like most new Apple products, we expect the Apple Watch will create its own wave of excitement in the retail market. Unsurprisingly, Cook is the Apple Watch’s biggest fan, admitting that he “can’t live without it.” In this day of electronic-addicted kids and adults everywhere you turn, that might be a warning as much as it is a sales pitch.
Images via Apple