Apple has just released further details of its anticipated Watch device, including availability and pricing, with Tim Cook, the company’s CEO, stating that it is “the most personal device we have ever created – it’s not just with you, it’s on you”.
Apple Watch will be available from 24 April in nine markets – Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, UK and US. From 10 April previews will be available via Apple’s retail stores, and preorders can be made via its online store.
The line has been split into three collections: Apple Watch Sport, Apple Watch, and Apple Watch Edition.
The first is the cheapest, with prices from $349 for the 38mm body or $399 for the 42mm casing. It has an anodised aluminium body, and is available in silver or space grey with “matching high-performance fluoroelastomer sport band” in five colours.
Moving up the line, Apple Watch supports the widest variety of bands including leather, with a stainless steel body in traditional or space black finishes. Prices range from $549 to $1049 for the 38mm version depending on strap selection, with the 42mm device priced at $50 more.
But it is the Apple Watch Edition that raises the most eyebrows, with pricing from $10,000. Describing it as “unbelievably unique, and something very special”, the 18-carat gold device with custom-designed bands will be available in limited quantities – as, presumably, will buyers.
During its presentation, Apple highlighted a number of features of the device, such as ‘Glances’, which offer quick summaries of the most-used information. For example, Glances can be used to control music playback or check weather and calendar information.
Cook highlighted a feature called Digital Touch, which supports Apple Watch-to-Apple Watch communications. For example, users can trace a shape on a watch and send it to another user, or send a representation of their heartbeat.
The executive also talked-up the device’s built-in speaker and microphone, which enables it to be used to make and receive calls, and its ‘taptic engine’, which alerts users to messages with a ‘gentle tap’.
And as with many competing products, health and wellness was highlighted as a feature. In addition to tracking movements, exercise and heart rates, it provides weekly summaries of activity, and sets goals based on previous weeks’ activity.
Cook addressed one of the key issues of smartwatches – battery life. Apple Watch is said to offer an “all day battery” with up to 18 hours of typical use.
Noting that more than 900 apps have been created using Apple’s HealthKit technology, the company also used the event to unveil ResearchKit, a software framework designed to benefit medical research.
With initial apps targeting conditions such as Parkinson’s, diabetes, cardiovascular disesease, asthma and breast cancer, patients and researchers can use the iPhone as a tool to share information and participate in studies. And the company made much of privacy, noting that customers can see and decide what information is shared, and that nothing will be recorded by Apple.
ResearchKit will be released as an open source framework next month (a new model for Apple), providing researchers with the ability to contribute to specific activity modules in the framework and share them with the global research community.
The company announced a new addition to its MacBook line, with Cook stating that “we challenged ourselves to reinvent the notebook, and we did it.” The device is both the lightest and the thinnest MacBook ever made, being 24 per cent slimmer than the company’s 11-inch MacBook Air – its previous title holder.
It features a redesigned keyboard with new mechanism that is designed to be more stable while also enabling it to be thinner. The edge-to-edge format of the keyboard defined the size of the device and its screen – a new 12-inch retina (2304×1440 pixel) display.
In line with the thin-form, it features a “new, custom-shaped battery” designed to maximise the available space. It offers all day battery life, the company said, including up to 9 hours of web browsing or ten hours of iTunes movie playback.
With Apple citing the mantra of wireless connectivity, the new MacBook lacks the ports traditionally found on laptop computers. It instead uses a USB-C port to offer five connectivity options via one connector – power, USB, DisplayPort, HDMI and VGA.
And the new MacBook also does without a fan.
Pricing starts at $1299 in base configuration, with sales beginning next month. It joins the existing MacBook Air and MacBook Pro lines, which have also seen a general spec update.
Apple TV, Apple Pay, CarPlay
Meanwhile Apple cut the price of its Apple TV box to $69 from $99, in a move intended to make it “more accessible to more people” – it said that 25 million units of the device have been sold to date.
Also unveiled was HBO’s Now streaming service, with Apple the exclusive partner “at launch”. It costs $14.99 per month with availability from April 2015 – although it was not stated if this is US-only, or global.
Cook touched on the ongoing growth of the Apple Pay service, although there was no indication about if or when it intends extending it beyond the US market. Stating that the service has “forever changed the way we pay for things”, he said that the number of locations it can be used at has tripled in three months to almost 700,000, with The Coca-Cola Company planning to support it in 100,000 vending machines by the end of this year (up from 40,000 today).
And Cook also provided an update on its CarPlay technology, intended to deliver the “smarter, safer” use of iPhones in vehicles, integrating devices with in-car systems. The CEO said that “every major car brand” has committed to supporting the technology, with “more than 40” new models of car supporting it by the end of the year.