Cut through the hype about the highest-profile tech launch in years with this guide
After years of feverish anticipation, Apple has finally made the first move into wearable tech with yesterday's big reveal of Apple Watch. Apple CEO Tim Cook described it as "the most personal device we’ve ever created", one that a 17-person design team has been working on in secret for the past three years. It's also the biggest new Apple product – and certainly its riskiest – since founder and digi-visionary Steve Jobs passed away in 2011.
Cook claims that "everything you need is built right into Apple Watch". So will the Watch be the first truly covetable wearable or just another high-spec gadget that gets you assaulted on the street? Cut through the hype with this guide to Apple Watch, which is set to hit stores in 2015.
BASICALLY, YOU CAN RUN YOUR ENTIRE LIFE OFF THIS THING
Want to turn off your TV? Track your heartbeat? Dictate to Siri? Find some directions? The Apple Watch does it all. But most people are hyped about how it will use Apple Pay to let you pay for goods and services like a contactless credit card. More directionally-challenged users will appreciate how the watch can search for local establishments, map out a route and buzz you when you need to turn left or right.
The Apple Watch is also exciting fitness nuts with its health-monitoring capabilities – thanks to inbuilt sensors, it can build up a picture of your daily activity. Like a Fitbit or Nike Fuelband, but one that isn't actually collecting dust at the bottom of your wardrobe. Depending on just how much you love knowing how little you exercise, this could either be a great motivator or a new and innovative way for technology to make you feel bad about yourself.
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE CROWN
No pinching to zoom here. The Apple Watch is controlled by a little dial called the "digital crown". It functions as the home button, and turns like an old-school watch dial for functions like setting the time. Think of it as a computer mouse for your wrist. It's a neat little homage to watchmaking heritage; as Tim Cook puts it: "With all the brilliant minds that worked on watches over the centuries, why wouldn't you want to keep some of that knowledge and expertise?" (Don't worry, iPhone-toting millenials who've never worn an actual timepiece in their lives – the curved-glass watch face also functions as a good old-fashioned touchscreen.)
PERSONALISATION IS EVERYTHING
Apple has been poaching big-name fashion executives like Burberry's Angela Ahrendts and Patrick Pruniaux of luxury watchmaker Tag Heur, and it's clearly paid off. The Apple Watch has already picked up major plaudits from fashion critics like Suzy Menkes for its infinite possibilities for personalisation. You can tweak the watch display as you wish – there are eleven faces with the basic package, ranging from your standard Roman numerals clockface to interactive real-time 3D models of the sun, earth, moon and planets.
You can also pick between a 38mm or 42mm watch face, six different straps (from leather to metal mesh), and three different styles. The cheapest is the stainless steel Apple Watch ($349). The more premium aluminium Watch Sport and the 18 carat gold Apple Watch Edition have yet to be priced. Both the gold and aluminium versions swap out the shatter-prone iPhone glass with Sapphire glass, which is (reportedly) the toughest material going. You know, other than diamond. Unfortunately, the entry-level Apple Watch does not come in sapphire glass – so be prepared to pay over the odds at the Apple Store when you need to replace that cracked touchscreen.
ALL YOUR OLD APPS WILL BE ON IT
It's not just about Apple Pay. Lots of iPhone apps like Maps, Messages and Siri will be on the Watch. It'll also pull in deets from your Calendar and your email. But you're also be hooked up to third-party apps like Twitter and Facebook. You can even use the Watch to control the music playing through your iPhone or iPad speakers.
YOU CAN "POKE" PEOPLE
What says "I'm thinking of you" better than creepily sending your own heartbeat to the object of your affections? The Apple Watch also includes a new tool called "digital touch", which lets users communicate wordlessly via taps, small drawings and even your heartbeat. If you're bored of using your phone to text, you can tap out a message to your friends and their devices will buzz accordingly. Say hi to the new Facebook poke.
So, what's the verdict? Will you be lining up to get the Apple Watch when it lands next year?