After much — so much — anticipation, Apple's smartwatch has finally arrived. Although we'd all been calling it the iWatch for shorthand, it's actually named the "Apple Watch." And it looks really, really good.
Like the iPhone before it, the watch has a face just slightly more rectangular than square, with pleasingly rounded corners. And like an analog watch, it has a little dial on the side, technically known as a crown (you know, that thing you twist to set the time). The cool part is, while the crown gives the watch a distinctly traditional look, it actually serves as the screen's primary navigation tool. The face is a touch screen, too, but because it's so small it's more about taps than it is about pinching and zooming — the dial takes care of that for you.
So what can the Apple Watch do? A lot. As Apple CEO Tim Cook said toward the end of his presentation, "Everything you need is built right into Apple Watch." And Apple is really trying to deliver on that promise.
Like most smartwatches, it will display calls, texts and calendar notifications. (Apple didn't say too much about composing texts, but you can select from a number of pre-programmed responses.) But on top of that, you can take photos and do things like search local establishments and get directions to them. To help you navigate, the watch will both show your route and also buzz to indicate when and in what direction you need to turn.
All of your usual phone apps are available on the watch, in addition to a whole host of fitness functions made possible through its gyroscope and accelerometer. When you get a notification, the buzz is quiet enough that the person next to you shouldn't be able to hear it.
More interesting is the fact that the watch works with Apple Pay, a new service the company announced today that allows you to make in-store payments with your phone out rather than swiping a credit card. (Sephora has already sent out a press blast letting us know that they will have integrated with Apple Pay by holiday.) So when Cook says everything is included in this watch, he means everything, including your wallet.
With the Apple Watch, you can even send a friend your heartbeat, and they'll feel your pulse on their wrist. That's more of a vanity feature than something that's actually useful, but come on. It's cool.
So how about the style quotient? As Apple Insider's Neil Hughes said on a phone call in advance of the presentation, one of the big concerns here was how Apple would handle the high level of personalization that a fashion product requires to make it as a mass product. It's clear that the tech giant knew that, too.
The Apple Watch comes in three flavors: Apple Watch (a polished stainless steel face), Apple Sport (a strong, durable alloy) and Apple Watch Edition, made from an 18-carat gold and rose gold that the company says it has developed to be twice as hard as regular ol' gold.
Then there are the wristband options: On the traditional side, there's a soft, quilted leather that seamlessly fastens with concealed magnets, a "supple handcrafted leather" (good luxury marketing terminology) with a modern-looking metal clasp and a simpler leather band. There's also a stainless steel link band and a fluid, flexible stainless steel mesh bracelet. Lots of colors, lots of options. And you can swap the bands out as you like.
We may have just been imagining things, but the combination of the display's smooth gradients, the leather band and the high-shine metallics gives the watch a distinctly Burberry feel. Not that Apple changed its design philosophy based on hiring Angela Ahrendts, but the vibe is there. In any case, all those luxury hires seem to have paid off.
Oh! And speaking of payment, here's the most important part: The Apple Watch will become available early next year and starts at $349, which unfortunately means the gold versions will probably go for way more than that. It's compatible with the iPhone 5, 5s, 5c, 6 and 6 Plus — those last two being the ones Apple also announced today.
In case it wasn't clear, this is one of the best wearable tech offerings we've seen yet. But we want to hear what you think: Is the Apple Watch in your future?