After years of speculation and rumors, Apple finally unveiled the brand’s first wearable device, formally named the Apple Watch. Can this smartwatch live up to the Apple hype or is it too little, too late?
For the past couple of decades, Apple was known as an innovator, the company that led the way with bold new computers and mobile devices while rivals followed. But since the death of Steve Jobs three years ago, Apple has found itself lagging behind competitors like Samsung, which snatched away a nice chunk of the iPhone audience by producing the big-screen Galaxy smartphones. Samsung has also jumped ahead of Apple in the production of wearable devices with the Galaxy Gear line.
Today, Tim Cook finally had the chance to introduce a brand new line of Apple products. At a press event this morning, the Apple CEO unveiled a pair of new and much larger iPhones plus the Apple Watch. According to Cook, “We’ve been working incredibly hard on an entirely new product, and we believe this product will redefine what people expect from this category. It is the next chapter in Apple’s story.”
The major focus of the Apple Watch is on health, with an app called Fitness that can track movements of the user’s workouts and a heart rate sensor to gauge their intensity. The device can track calories burned, activity, heart rate and distance covered. There are a variety of available apps including calendar, music player and maps. The iWatch works with the iPhone 5 and 6 models only.
One feature for non-fitness buffs is the new Apple wireless payment system that allows users to pay for goods or services with a wave of the wrist using NFC technology. The iWatch also includes access to Siri, Apple’s digital personal assistant.
The Apple Watch has a rectangular face with a touch screen that can also detect pressure and features the durable, scratch-resistant sapphire glass used on iPhone camera lenses. The device is available in two sizes and three finishes that include Apple watch steel, Apple Watch Sport Aluminum and Apple Watch Edition 18 kt. Gold. Prices will start at $349.
One major surprise from the press event is that the Apple Watch will go on sale in early 2015, missing the lucrative holiday shopping season. Since this seems like the perfect gift for the Apple fan that has everything, this is rather dubious timing.
Also, Apple seems to be coming rather late to the fitness device game, since Samsung’s smartwatches have incorporated health monitoring features for the last couple of generations and work with the slightly less-expensive Gear wearable devices.
So will the Apple faithful be lining up outside malls, vying for a chance to get their hands on the “iWatch”? Maybe, but it’s not likely to make the same splash as previous Apple devices like the iPod, iPhone and iPad. Basically, the Apple Watch is just an addition to the iPhone, something you may want but don’t actually need. At this point, the smartwatch is still more of a toy than a necessity, and not many buyers are going to spend $350+ on a toy.