At this point, it is clear that virtually all of the major mobile device manufacturers are laser focused on the wearables market. While one could argue that the war for the wrist began a couple of years ago, most of the smartwatches that have shipped thus far have served only a small niche. Early adopters have peeked at the Moto 360, Samsung Gear, and Sony SmartWatch, but none have sold at a clip that would make the mainstream really take notice. To date, the smartwatch has been seen as a nifty luxury, but hardly a necessity in the way that a smartphone is viewed. Now that Apple’s involved, however, the question looms larger: is the wearable market poised to explode, or will it exist only to cater to a smaller minority of technology fans?
Apple’s first entrant into the smartwatch world has arrived, and with more fanfare than any of the rivals that have shipped before it. Part of that is simply because it’s an Apple product and offers things like Apple Pay. To some degree, tap-to-pay was a foreign concept in the United States until Apple Pay brought it to the attention of the mainstream. From a technology standpoint, Apple didn’t reinvent the wheel, but it certainly has a way with marketing and its legion of fans cannot be ignored.The Apple Watch isn’t the smartwatch that no one else could build, but it is the first to operate seamlessly with the iPhone — a fairly big deal in a market saturated with them.
Moreover, this is the first new product segment that was completely engineered post-Steve Jobs. In a sense, this is the first bonafide look at the kind of thinking that we should expect to see from an Apple led by Tim Cook. It’s also Apple’s first fashion-ralted product. Yes, it’s a small computer, but that’s nearly secondary in the grand scheme of things. Apple even makes an “Edition” version of the Watch that’s doused in gold and costs upwards of $10,000. Not since the days of underpowered and overpriced PowerMac G4 towers have we seen an Apple product ring up for such a stratospheric amount.
To date, the only notable smartwatches that would work well with iOS was a Pebble and the Microsoft Band. But with Pebble, it was more or less siphoning iOS notifications, simply acting as a portal for notifications to show up in addition to your phone’s display. Android Wear isn’t compatible with iPhone, and while rumors are stirring that Google may produce an iOS app that changes that, the Apple Watch is presently your go-to choice if you need a smartwatch that plays nicely with an iPhone. Apple has been quite coy about what’s inside the Apple Watch, only letting slip that there’s a custom-assembled “S1″ SiP (System in Package) along with a “Taptic Engine” to provide vibration feedback for alerts. A recent iFixit teardown also revealed 8GB of onboard storage, NFC, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and an array of sensors — accelerometer, gyroscope, heart rate monitor, microphone, and speaker. The 38mm unit has a 272 x 340 resolution (290ppi) pressure-sensitive touchscreen AMOLED Retina Display, while the larger 42mm model has a 312 x 390 (302ppi) panel.
We get the impression that the world is watching this launch. Mainstream outlets are curious to see if Apple’s clout will translate to big sales for a product segment that has yet to define itself. Apple is watching to see if it’s first all new product in a Tim Cook era will be viewed positively. Apple’s rivals are watching to see how it’ll fare in the world of wearables. And you… well, you’re probably here to see if the Apple Watch is worth the investment.
Reviewing the Apple Watch felt, in many ways, a lot like reviewing the original iPad. It was new, yet familiar, and it became clear early on that its true potential will only be revealed once developers have had adequate time to craft new apps that take advantage of a new form factor. With that, let’s dive in.