Apple Watch Hits the Stage With Plenty of Surprises

Apple Watch Hits the Stage With Plenty of Surprises
Look for a Rectangular Screen Design
An iPhone Is Required for Use
For Once, Accuracy Matters
Apple Touts 'Breakthrough' User Interface With 'Digital Crown'
A Similar but Different Software Experience
Design Plays a Central Role in the Sales Pitch
All of the Software Applications One Might Expect
A Retina Display With Sapphire
One Size Does Not Fit All
So What Does It Cost? And When Is It Shipping?
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Apple Watch Hits the Stage With Plenty of Surprises

By Don Reisinger

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Look for a Rectangular Screen Design

There was some speculation before the Apple Watch was unveiled that the device would come with a round display matching the Moto 360. Instead, Apple has decided on a squared-off, rectangular screen that supports both touch and a Digital Crown. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it does lump it with other products on store shelves already that have a rectangular screen.

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An iPhone Is Required for Use

Those who don't have an iPhone will not be able to use Apple Watch. Apple made it clear during its presentation that users must have an iPhone connected to the Apple Watch to access all of its features. The device works with iPhone 5 and newer iPhones, meaning up to 200 million people could technically use the Apple Watch. That's similar to Android-based smartwatches that require Android devices to be fully functional.

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For Once, Accuracy Matters

One of the interesting things about other smartwatch makers is that they've never really discussed the actual timekeeping on their smartwatches. The technologies have been more about notifications and calling than anything else. Apple has turned that on its head by saying that it worked with watchmakers around the world to ensure the device remains as accurate as possible. According to the company, Apple Watch's accuracy is within 50 milliseconds.

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Apple Touts 'Breakthrough' User Interface With 'Digital Crown'

Apple CEO Tim Cook said that Apple Watch required a "breakthrough" for the software to work the way it should. Rather than force users to employ multi-touch, Apple has instead built in a "Digital Crown" that uses infrared LEDs and photo diodes that translate rotary movement to digital data. In other words, the rotary movement on the Digital Crown will let users scroll through lists, select items and essentially become the main component in the interaction with the device's software.

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A Similar but Different Software Experience

Apple also designed a new screen layout for its smartwatch. Rather than using a gridlike layout, Apple's smartwatch has a clustered icon design that lets users see a wide range of apps on the small display. Swiping around the display lets users see other apps that are accessible but don't automatically appear or fit on the opening screen. The software supports the standard touch controls, like swipe and tap.

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Design Plays a Central Role in the Sales Pitch

Apple showed an extended video, narrated by its vice president of design, Jony Ive, discussing how important design was in the development of the device. The company touted that its device is designed to fit wrists of all sizes and comes with enough customization options to suit most users' needs. That focus on design extends to software, which, as mentioned, includes a new interface that relies on the Digital Crown and touch to work.

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All of the Software Applications One Might Expect

No surprise here, but Apple has built in all of the applications one would expect in Apple Watch. The device includes support for iMessage, Maps, Phone, Mail and Weather, among many other apps. The device also comes with Apple's Health app and will work with third-party apps created by developers in the App Store. However, once again, the iPhone is required for those apps to work properly.

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A Retina Display With Sapphire

The Retina display is everywhere in Apple's product line. The Apple Watch, according to Apple, comes with a Retina display that is protected by Sapphire, the second-strongest see-through material in the world. That's an important feature, since Apple's smartwatch will be used in a wide range of ways in which the screen might be damaged. By using sapphire to protect it, the chances of that happening are marginalized. That's good news for those who might use Apple Watch for fitness-related activities.

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One Size Does Not Fit All

Apple Watch comes in three styles: standard Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch Edition. Apple Watch has a polished case with custom alloy and stainless steel. Apple Watch Sport has a stronger, raw aluminum case for lightness and hardness. Apple Watch Edition comes in 18K gold for those who want to make a fashion statement.

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So What Does It Cost? And When Is It Shipping?

Apple Watch will be available in early 2015 and will start at $349. Apple CEO Tim Cook provided few other details on the device's pricing and availability, deciding instead to keep the information close to the vest until it gets closer to launch. Look for more details on Apple Watch in the coming months.

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