The existence of the device was a poorly kept secret, and with rival Samsung (SSNLF) having released its third generation of smartwatches in this year alone and investor pressure to break into a new market, Apple was expected to make the big reveal.
What was a surprise was the name. Instead of the expected iWatch, we got the Apple Watch.
Naming aside, it was pretty much what has been rumored: a smartwatch that connects to the new iPhone 6 Plus (and other new and recent iPhones), sapphire glass cover, the ability to run apps, plenty of medical/activity sensors and Siri integration.
However, Apple is taking a very different approach to a user interface than Google’s (GOOG) Android Wear, and the Apple Watch is square — unlike stylish round faces used by buzzworthy offerings like the Moto 360 and LG’s G Watch R.
Here’s everything you need to know about the new Apple Watch, including specs, pricing and availability.
Apple Watch: Not Your Android Smartwatch
The Apple Watch is Apple’s answer to the smartwatch offerings from the likes of Samsung, Motorola, Sony (SNE) and Pebble.
Like most smartwatch models released to date, the Apple Watch has its own CPU, sensors and storage, but relies on a Bluetooth connection to an Apple iPhone (like the new iPhone 6) for much of its functionality.
Round cases have been generating excitement in the Android camp –the resemblance to traditional wristwatches makes it less obvious the wearer has a mini computer strapped to their wrist– but the Apple Watch sticks with a square design.
And where Google has focused on making Android Wear a touch-driven interface, Apple took a different direction. The Apple watch uses a side-mounted Digital Crown (similar to the knob you’d use to manually wind a wristwatch) to navigate, and Siri voice interaction.
There is touch (and now it can detect the amount of force in a touch), but fingerprints on the glass are kept to a minimum.
Apple also says the Apple Watch will also support its new Apple Pay mobile payment.
Apple Watch: Flexible Retina Display, Sapphire Glass Cover
While the Apple Watch may not be round like the Moto 360, or curved to fit a wrist like the Samsung Gear S, its display is no slouch.
Apple says it’s a flexible Retina panel, covered by a thin layer of Sapphire Glass for protection (in all models except the Sport version, which uses IonX glass instead). The edges are gently rounded, softening the square appearance.
Display sizes and actual resolution have not yet been published.
Apple Watch: Inductive Charging
If there’s a weak point to the current crop of smartwatches, it’s the battery. With the need to power a mobile CPU, Bluetooth radio and a display conflicting with consumer demand for a sleek design, something has to give and it’s usually battery life.
It appears that the Apple Watch doesn’t escape that challenge and nightly charging was mentioned during the event, so one-day battery life seems to be what’s expected. But no official numbers were announced.
On the plus side, the Apple Watch uses a magnetic conductive charging system so at least recharging is a simple matter with no need to fumble with a USB cable. Just let the magnet do its thing.
Apple Watch: Activity Sensors
The Apple Watch is fully equipped to replace a standalone activity tracker, sporting a range of sensors including visible light and infrared LEDs and photo diodes for measuring heart rate.
The Apple Watch also includes an accelerometer and taps into the paired iPhone’s GPS.
Together, the sensors can even let the Apple Watch tell if you are standing, sitting or exercising.
Combined with a slew of new apps, the Apple Watch will be able to monitor your activity, let you set goals, prompt you to move and tell you how many calories you’ve burned.
Apple Watch: Apps
While the Apple Watch tells time and can do the usual sorts of notifications we expect from a smartwatch, it also runs apps.
Among the Apple offerings are an Apple TV controller, Passbook for using Apple Pay, an iPhone camera remote, a Photo app and of course those activity apps.
The company is expecting to see a healthy selection of third-party apps using its WatchKit platform.
Apple Watch: Customization
The Apple Watch is being offered in two sizes, multiple finishes (including 18-Karat Yellow or Rose Gold), different collections (including Sport) with a range of interchangeable bands and a variety of user configurable watch faces.
Together, Apple says they combine for over two million different variations.
So if you choose the Apple Watch, you can still stand out in a crowd — even if Apple sells millions of these things.
Apple Watch: Pricing and Availability
The only thing we know for sure here is the starting price: $349 for the least expensive Apple Watch. You can bet those 18-Karat Gold case versions are going to go for a significant premium.
In terms of the release date, Apple is being rather vague, saying only that you’ll be able to buy the Apple Watch in “early 2015.”
So don’t be expecting to receive one as a holiday gift, at least not this year. On the plus side, you have at least four months to save up that $349+ if you plan to be an early adopter.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.