Hands-On With the Apple Watch

Apple debuted its first wearable device, the Apple Watch. Here's everything you need to know, with sights and sounds from the event.

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Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

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The first time Tim Cook took the stage for a product launch after Steve Jobs’ death was for the debut of the iPhone 4S on October 4, 2011. Since then, we’ve seen the unveiling of the iPhone 5, iPhone 5C, iPhone 5S, Mac Pro, iPad Air and iOS 5 to 8—each one with a previous version that Jobs had debuted himself. Cook got his chance today to launch the first entirely new Apple device in the post-Steve Jobs era; and he chose the Flint Center for the Performing Arts in Cupertino—where Steve Jobs debuted the first Macintosh in 1984—to showcase that device. But not before dropping the famous line Jobs' used during his presentations, "One more thing..."

That product is the Apple Watch.

The company faces a slew of competition in the smartwatch department thanks to Samsung and other companies like Pebble. Here's our initial impressions about what Apple brought to the table to compete.

There Are Many Models to Choose From

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Just like the iPhone 6, there isn't just one iWatch Apple Watch that will be on store shelves: the smartwatch comes in two sizes, 1.5 inches and 1.65 inches, and will have six different kinds of straps available. One of the leather straps has a magnet that loops around your wrist, and another has a classic metal clasp. Users can also choose from a selection of watchfaces with different styles—so you can have a classic watchface in the morning, and one with Mickey Mouse by brunch.

There's three different types of the device: The first is the standard Apple Watch, which comes with stainless steel or space black stainless steel cases and sapphire crystal display. The second is the fitness-styled version, the Apple Watch Sport. It's designed to be slightly more durable for more activity. It has anodized aluminum cases in silver or space gray and strengthened ion-x glass. Instead of stylish luxury bands like the standard Watch, the Sport features colorful durable bands. The third version is the Apple Watch Edition, and features 18-karat gold cases in yellow or rose and a sapphire crystal display. This version will likely be popular with your grandpa. 


It Has a Dial Called the "Digital Crown"

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What is a dial doing on a smartwatch? If you ask Apple, it's a necessity. The dial on the Apple Watch, which they're calling the "Digital Crown" in typical poetic Apple fashion. It actually controls quite a bit of the device while doing something important: keeping your finger off of the screen, so you can see more. It sort of reminds us of the old iPod clickwheel. With the dial, users can zoom in and out of maps, select different apps, and return to the home screen.

The "crown" is a good thing considering the organized chaos of the home screen. Because users can fit so many apps on screen at once, the dial is a good alternative to accidentally jamming your finger down onto two app icons at once.

It's More Than a Timepiece, It's a Health Tracker

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The Apple Watch is fitted with sensors that will track pulse, the number of steps you take, and will give you notifications if you need get up and move, or get more exercise. The Activity app uses three rings to show you your progress, while the Workout app focuses on your cardio. Apple Watch will learn your daily movements, and suggest personalized fitness goals for you to achieve. 

The sensors, located underneath the watch, include photosensors and infrared and visible-light LEDS. Together, the sensors will read your heart rate and tell you how many calories you've burned. Also, you'll be able to send your heart rate to a friend—but more on that in the next section.

Taps and Scribbles Will Rise as New Forms of Electronic Communication

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Emojis Are Animated

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You Can Make Calls and Use GPS

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Since the device needs to be connected to your iPhone, phone call notifications can be sent to the Apple Watch. But, you don't have to take out your iPhone in order to answer that call. 

The device comes with a built-in speaker and microphone, so you can answer the call. If it seems like it will be a long conversation, you can transfer the call to your iPhone and carry on without hanging up. Not only that, calls can be transferred from the watch to your car's Bluetooth speakerphone or your Bluetooth headset. If you want to ignore the call, just cover the watch with your hand.

And with GPS, users can check their location and get directions just by looking at their wrist. 

Apple Pay Technology Is Built-In

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It'll Launch...

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Our Initial Impressions

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The Apple Watch presentation did not disappoint. First off: it's not called "iWatch," which is a bit of a surprise. "Apple Watch" doesn't roll off the tongue as simply as "iWatch," or even "Galaxy Gear." Still, the device is stylish, and Apple touched on everything that they needed to— they're appealing to the fashion savvy crowd with the standard version and its plethora of bands and color options (I prefer the brown leather band); to athletes with the Sport version and its durable features for wear and tear; and to the luxury crowd with the Edition version. The one thing that I was hoping for that didn't come into fruition was a round body. It makes sense to have it square, but just look at how sharp the Moto 360 looks. 

When it came to actually demoing the product, well, that's a different story. The watch feels great, it's light, snaps on nice and snug, but that's all I can really say about toying with it. What you see above is a Vine of me wearing the watch while it's on auto-pilot, scrolling through its various features. It looks awesome, and when I asked the Apple rep if I could try it out once the demo ended, he said no. I asked if I could at least give the Digital Crown a spin, and he rejected me again, saying it would be "manhandled" if he let everyone touch it. Since the Watch isn't coming out until next year, these versions were probably far from a finished product. Understandable. 

There's another thing I'm concerned about: Apple said nothing about the device's battery life. Low battery life was a huge criticism of Samsung's Galaxy Gear smartwatch when it was released, and if the Apple Watch can't last more than a day without a charge, well, I expect that'll be a problem with consumers. This is something Apple will have to address before its launch.

Features-wise, the Watch does everything you could want. The scribble and tap communication features seem fun, and I can see myself getting distracted with a significant other doing that throughout the day if she had one. Apple's health tracking technology took center stage, and the Apple Watch really seems like a device that could either motivate you into getting healthy, or annoy you into getting healthy. Depending on how you use it. That's if you even want to use it. Since the Apple Watch needs the iPhone to work, that means you'll easily be carrying at least $600 worth of electronics on you at a given time. We'll have to get more playing time with it to see if it's worth taking that jump.

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