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Everything you need to know about Apple Watch

Everything you need to know about Apple Watch
Apple

Apple fans are one step closer to the long-anticipated Apple Watch. Customers may pre-order Apple's new wearable on Friday, with deliveries promised starting April 24.

If Apple Watch is on your mind, then this tip is for you! I'll step through the wild range of prices and explain the differences among the choices you must make. Plus, I'll explain some of the uses and apps that most buyers will probably find practical or interesting. So before you pull out your wallet to plunk down a few hundred or a few thousand dollars on Apple Watch, keep reading for the information you need to make the best choice.

Where and when?

Long lines of loyal Apple fans stretched down the block and around the corner have been a staple of Apple product launches for years. However, unlike the iPhone crowds we've seen, the Watch launch might be a bit different. Besides accepting pre-orders in Apple's retail stores, the company will also take orders online. The starting gun fires at 12:01 a.m. Pacific Time, Friday, April 10. Customers have two delivery options. Online shoppers may have the Watch shipped to them. Brick-and-mortar shoppers are asked to make a reservation to buy Apple Watch in a retail store.

But here's my first question: Without huge lines of eager buyers, what does Apple have up its sleeve to lock in morning news coverage? I can't wait to see!

Vote in my poll: Will you be among the first to buy an Apple Watch or will you wait? Let me know in the poll at the end of this article.

Huge price range

Apple Watch prices range from $349 for the least expensive aluminum Sport all the way up to $17,000 for the 18-karat gold Edition. By my calculations, that's about a 4,800% difference between the cheapest and most expensive versions. But here's the secret: the only differences among all those price points are the cases and bands. Unlike phones, tablets or computers, you don't have to pick out different processor speeds or memory limits. The internal electronics are all the same.

But in addition to the case and the band, there is one other choice you must decide upon: size. Apple Watch comes in just two sizes, measured in millimeters at 38mm and 42mm. For non-metric system readers, 38mm is a hair under 1.5 inches, and 42mm is 1.65 inches. Some folks characterize the sizes as "men's" and "women's" versions, but that is entirely arbitrary. I recommend you try on both and choose the one the feels best on your wrist. However, read further down about battery differences between the two sizes before you make your final choice.

The models

Here's the first issue to understand: Apple has three different names for Watch. The least expensive models are called Watch Sport, with 10 versions ranging from $349 to $399. The mid-range models are simply called Watch, starting at $549 and continuing up to $1,099. The top dollar version is called Watch Edition. Watch Edition starts at a cool $10,000 and tops out at $17,000.

The differences

Watch Sport offers an aluminum case in 2 sizes and 5 different colored bands. The smaller 38mm case is $349 and the slightly larger 42mm version sells for $399. Band colors include white, black, blue, green and pink. The aluminum case is available in iPhone-like silver and space gray. Apple calls the screen material Ion X-strengthened glass and the back of the watch is a plastic-like composite material.

Apple Watch Sport

The mid-range Apple Watch is offered in 20 versions, a stainless steel case in 2 colors, 5 bands in a handful of colors and materials in both the 38mm and 42mm sizes. The screen is sapphire crystal and the back is formed in ceramic.

Apple Watch

The high-roller Watch Edition is offered in 8 versions. The 18-karat gold case comes in 2 colors, rose and yellow. 6 bands are offered along with the same 2 case sizes. The screen is also sapphire crystal and the back is formed in ceramic as is the mid-range Watch.

Apple Watch Edition

What does it do?

Obviously, as the name implies, it indicates the time of day! But for up to $17,000, it better do a lot more, right?

watch1

Besides simply telling time, you may also think of it in two other ways. It is an extension of your Apple iPhone, allowing you to accomplish many tasks and responses quicker and perhaps less obviously without having to pull out your phone. If you are a fan of the phablet-size iPhone 6 Plus, you already that it is nearly impossible to interact with it without everyone at your table noticing. In addition to duplicating some of your phone's functions, Apple Watch takes advantage of actually touching the user's skin. This opens up some interesting applications in the areas of fitness and health.

And there are a couple of other functions Watch can do right out of the box before you start loading it up with applications. It will play your iTunes music library through wireless Bluetooth ear buds or speakers and it will speed you though the checkout register at stores that accept ApplePay. Going forward, it will probably integrate with Apple TV and some home automation functions.

Apple Watch has Bluetooth, NFC (for ApplePay) and Wi-Fi capabilities, plus it will piggy-back off your phone for other functions like GPS.

You can buy lunch at places like Whole Foods using Apple Pay on Apple Watch.

Fitness applications

As I mentioned above, by constantly touching your body, Watch offers some unique opportunities for folks who care about health and fitness. But Apple is far from first to the party with a wearable fitness gadget. Early fitness gadget maker, Fitbit, has been around since 2007 and claims to have cornered 77% of the fitness market. Does Watch offer enough competitive advantage to attract new fitness customers, much less steal Fitbit customers?

As other fitness gadgets already on the market, Apple Watch can monitor heart rate, track movement and estimate calories burned. Apple already has two-fitness related apps for Watch. One basically records and totals everyday activity with a cool little graphic display that fills up as you get closer to your goals. I think it could be a great reminder to take the stairs a few more times during the work day, for example. The other app targets and measures dedicated workout activity like running or biking. It tracks time spent and heart rate during those activities. Both apps connect back to a "mother-app" on iPhone and Apple Health.

Apple Watch encourages you to sit less. Move more. And get some exercise.

Watch will also integrate with other fitness apps like Nike Plus, and I expect others can't be far behind.

Other third-party apps

When Apple rolled out iPhone, it was nearly a year before apps from other developers became available. Fast forward to now. With literally millions of apps up and running for iPhones and Androids, it would be hard to believe that Apple will strand early buyers with no other available apps. That's why Apple has been working with app developers for a while already, to ensure a wide selection of Watch-specific apps are available on day one.

Last week, Apple updated the App Store with our first look at Watch Apps. Among the hundreds already listed are from airlines United, American, Delta and British Airways. They promise to provide instant flight information, deliver notifications when a flight has a status change, offer access to boarding passes, and more. Other travel- and commuter-related apps like Transit and Citymapper have appeared as well.

Apple Watch will pull your boarding pass from Passbook when you’re near the airport.

Other Watch app categories are pretty much the same types you regularly see topping the App Store download rankings, including media sites (New York Times, CNN), social media (Twitter), sports (MLB at Bat) plus shopping, banking, list organization and, of course, games.

 

Battery life

Some readers may remember when watches had to be wound every day. One of the selling points was how long a full wind would last. Then came along battery-powered watches that lasted a year or more and we pretty much forgot about ever having a watch "run down." But here's the thing. When an old-fashioned watch ran down, you could wind it back up anywhere. All it took was two fingers and a couple of minutes. These days, when we are lucky to get through an entire day without our smartphones running out of juice, there are questions about the battery life of smart watches.

Apple claims Watch's battery will last 18 hours of "normal use." At the least, that means nightly charging will become part of Watch users' routines. But I also question how Apple defines "normal use." Some reports say using the heart rate monitor shortens battery life to just 6 hours. Streaming music through the Bluetooth connection could also slash battery life to just a few hours. One other note indicates that the 42mm size has a slightly larger battery, so that might be a consideration when picking out your final choice.

Apple's website says Watch will recharge to 80% in about 90 minutes. A full charge requires about 2.5 hours. The supplied MagSafe inductive charger connects to the back of the watch magnetically.

Bottom line

  • To use Apple Watch you need an iPhone
  • You need to charge it every night
  • You need a special charging cord
  • It is water-resistant (but not waterproof)
  • On-board memory is limited
  • It can be as expensive as $17,000 or as cheap as $349 with identical internal electronics and capabilities

Are you considering getting an Apple Watch? Please let me know with the poll below. If you have any additional questions, just leave them in the comments below and I'll research the answers for a future article.

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