So it finally happened, Apple’s product line now includes a wearable, more specifically “a watch”. I have been waiting on this to happen for almost two years now, going to the extent of avoiding buying a watch, simply because I feared that Apple’s watch would make it obsolete when it launched.
I still remember the enormity of Apple’s 2007 Macworld keynote, during which Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone. Part of the reason why it is often looked back upon as the most significant moment in Apple’s history is because it was a game-changer. People present at the keynote and those watching from home were blown away because the iPhone was unlike anything we’d ever seen before. It was by leaps and bounds the most advanced phone in the market.
The “Digital Crown” and Why it Sets Apple Apart
In some ways Tuesday’s keynote was a lot like the iPhone introduction keynote back in 2007. Just like the touch-screen on the iPhone was a unique yet intuitive way to operate the phone, the “digital crown” on the Apple Watch serves the same function. As Cook pointed out during the keynote, the digital crown smartly uses infra-red LEDs and photodiodes that translate rotary movement into digital data. Reminiscent of its functionality on mechanical watches, the “digital crown” on the Apple Watch lets users navigate through content in a simple and intuitive manner. It can be used to scroll through lists, to zoom in and out of content. Pressing the digital button also takes you to the home-screen and thus acting like a “home button” for your watch.
I can’t say much about it without having used it and I don’t know if it really is as intuitive as it looks, but at the very least it sets Apple apart from the other players in the market. Every smart watch in the market uses the touch interface as its primary interface to control and operate the watch. Apple in that sense has taken a completely different approach. The incorporation of the “digital crown” makes a lot of sense, since using it as a navigation tool does not block the 38/42mm screen of the Apple Watch. It also adds a certain element of emotion to the watch if you ask me, and this reminiscence to time-pieces throughout history also makes it seem very respectful to the horology industry.
The design of the Apple Watch is another area where I think it is unmatched (as you’d expect from Apple). I was desperately hoping that the Apple Watch would be circular but after seeing the Apple Watch and giving it a little thought, it is clear to me that a rectangular design for the Apple Watch makes more sense. For starters, a rectangular screen offers more real estate than a circular one. This additional screen real estate is crucial when you consider the already small form-factor of the Apple Watch. Based on conversations I have had with a couple of designers, it is also way easier to design for a rectangular interface than it is for a circular interface.
I think that the key to its beautiful design are the rich materials that Apple is using to manufacture the watches. The watches themselves are created with custom alloys of stainless steel, aluminium, and 18k gold. The display on the Apple Watch is made out of Sapphire, which is second hardest transparent material after diamond.
The leather straps are sourced from some of the best tannery’s in the world. The Classic Buckle uses leather made in the ECCO tannery in the Netherlands. The leather used in the Modern Buckle is sourced from a small French tannery established in 1803 that produces the supple Granada leather. The Leather Loop is made out of Venezia leather that is handcrafted in Naples with artisan heritage spanning five generations.
The Apple Watch is available in both 38 mm and 42 mm. I tried them both on, and they both worked perfectly on my wrist. They didn’t exaggerate the options and make one decidedly male oriented at 44 mm and a girly equivalent at 35 mm or the like. Any man, woman, or child could pull off either size with ease. This may not seem like much, but remember this is Apple’s first watch, and it would be a very easy mistake to make it too big or too small. – Benjamin Clymer (Hodinkee)
I’ve gone through about a dozen photos of men & women wearing the Apple Watch, and I must say that in every one of those shots, the Apple Watch looks stunning.
Even before Apple unveiled the Apple Watch, I was hoping that it would be customizable. Unlike the iPhone, the Apple Watch is not just a tech gadget, it is also a fashion accessory. Generally, very few people want to be seen wearing the exact same product as hundreds or millions of others. When it comes to fashion, individuality reigns.
The Apple Watch will come in two sizes, 3 styles, that are spread across 6 different strap styles, which are then further segmented into various colors and finishes. That is just the hardware though, and when these options are combined with the possibilities of the software, there are literally a million different ways users can wear this watch.
The Little Things
As always, Apple manages to stand out when it comes to attention to detail and the tiny details. I love how the Apple Watch senses that you’re raising your wrist and only then activates the display. Personally I think that this is one of the coolest features of the Apple Watch. If ten years back, you would have told me that I’d be wearing a watch that activates automatically when you raise your wrist, I would have been blown away (I kinda still am).
Apple also designed a brand new typeface specifically for the Apple Watch. This makes sense considering the fact that a typeface used in a device like the Apple Watch needs to be designed differently than a typeface that was meant to be used on larger devices such as a smartphone, tablet, or a laptop. A font designed for the Apple Watch needs to take into account the significantly smaller size of the device and the fact that users will mostly be just glancing at the device. I think Apple’s proprietary typeface has taken these constraints into consideration and although I won’t be able to comment on how legible the font is until I actually use the Apple Watch, it definitely looks like it was well implemented.
I am also a big fan of some of the apps that Apple has made for the Apple Watch such as the Digital Touch, the Walkie-talkie, Tap, and Heartbeat.
Lack of Simplicity & Battery Life
These are the only two things about the Apple Watch that have been really bothering me. Battery life is easily the bigger concern out of the two for me. Apple didn’t really talk about it much during the keynote, but the general consensous is that the Apple Watch will need to be charged every day.
“I don’t think we skipped over it. I addressed it in the presentation myself. We think that based on our experience of wearing these that the usage of them will be really significant throughout the day. So we think you’ll want to charge them every night, similar to what a lot of people do with their phone.” – Tim Cook
Considering that I already charge my iPhone, iPad, and my Macbook Pro, I am not extremely enthusiastic about adding another device to that list. I am not sure if there is any getting around this problem, but I am hoping that the final number is at-least 2 days.
Simplicity is another area where I think Apple messed up. Instead of trying to do a handful things really well, the Apple Watch aims at doing everything. When I go through some of the functionality that Apple demoed during the keynote, it just doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t really want to browse through photos on my watch, and I really don’t think I am the only one who feels that Apple could have practiced some restraint when it comes to the software capabilities of the Apple Watch.
Not as Unique as the iPhone
In terms of the tiny details, the Apple Watch is unlike anything that is currently in the market. That being said, when you look at the Apple Watch from a macro perspective, it seems a lot like the other products in the market. Competitors have for quite some time been selling rectangular touch-screen watches. In terms of functionality, they all act as an extension to the smartphone, providing notifications, collecting and displaying data (health related and otherwise), and they all come with interesting custom apps built specially for the watch.
Many people won’t see the Apple Watch as a category defying, unique product. The way they saw the iPhone and the iPad.
Will 2014 prove to be as pivotal to Apple as 1984 or even 2007? The answer to that question as far as I am concerned is a resonating yes. I feel exactly the same way about the Apple Watch as I did about the iPhone. I think that the Apple Watch redefines what we can do with our watches, and I simply cannot wait to get my hands on one.