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Apple launches Watch without ‘i’

Cupertino winds up in wearable market with range of wristwear

Apple launches Watch without ‘i’
The Apple Watch: pressure on Samsung.

Many Apple fanbois may be pouting this morning because it's not called the iWatch, but Apple has nonetheless officially entered the wearables market with, in its own words, "[our] most personal device ever".

GALLERY: iPhone 6 handsets

GALLERY: Apple Watch

ANALYSIS: Just another iLaunch, or a new line in the sand?

With the Apple Watch, the Cupertino-based firm has stuck firmly to its trademark aesthetic approach. It features a specially crafted Digital Crown GUI, which Apple is particularly proud of, referring to the design as "the most revolutionary navigation tool since the iPod Click Wheel and iPhone Multi-Touch".

The Watch is a companion device, like Samsung's first two generations of Gear wristwatches. It pairs with an iPhone through Wi-Fi 802.11b/g and Bluetooth 4.0. It allows the user to send and receive messages and answer calls to their iPhone. Apple Watch also introduces a range of health and fitness apps.

"Apple introduced the world to several category-defining products: the Mac, iPod, iPhone and iPad," said Apple CEO, Tim Cook. "And once again Apple is poised to captivate the world with a revolutionary product that can enrich people's lives. It's the most personal product we've ever made."

"With Apple Watch, we've developed multiple technologies and an entirely new user interface specifically for a device that's designed to be worn. It blurs the boundary between physical object and user interface," said Jonathan Ive, Apple's senior vice president of Design. "We've created an entire range of products that enable unparalleled personalisation."

GALLERY: iPhone 6 handsets

GALLERY: Apple Watch

ANALYSIS: Just another iLaunch, or a new line in the sand?

With Digital Crown, Apple has attempted to marry interface design with a smaller-sized device, allowing users to scroll, zoom and navigate without obstructing the display. The Digital Crown also serves as the Home button and a way to access voice-control app Siri.

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The Retina display on Apple Watch features Force Touch, a technology designed to sense the difference between a tap and a press. It is aimed at providing a different way to access controls within apps.

GALLERY: iPhone 6 handsets

GALLERY: Apple Watch

ANALYSIS: Just another iLaunch, or a new line in the sand?

Apple Watch also introduces the Taptic Engine and a built-in speaker that together deliver "an entirely new vocabulary of alerts and notifications you can both hear and feel", according to Apple. Apple custom-designed its own S1 SiP (System in Package) to miniaturise a computer architecture on a single chip.

The wrist device comes in three distinct collections: Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch Edition. It is also available in two different sizes: 38 mm and 42 mm. The body is designed to be durable, crafted from custom alloys of polished or space black stainless steel, space gray or silver anodized aluminium and 18-karat rose or yellow gold. Apple has also come up with a range of straps: the elastomer Sport Band; the Milanese Loop in a flexible magnetic stainless steel mesh; the Leather Loop in soft, quilted leather that conceals magnets for quick fastening and adjustment; the leather Modern Buckle, which closes with a solid metal clasp; the leather Classic Buckle; and the stainless steel Link Bracelet.

Apple Watch comes with a charging system that combines Apple's MagSafe technology with inductive charging.

The Apple Watch comes with 11 different faces. While users can opt for traditional analogue faces, they also have access to a Timelapse face; the Astronomy face with an interactive, real-time 3D model of the Earth, sun, moon and planets; and the Solar face, which is a contemporary sundial.

GALLERY: iPhone 6 handsets

GALLERY: Apple Watch

ANALYSIS: Just another iLaunch, or a new line in the sand?

Apple Watch can be personalised in appearance and capability with additional information such as upcoming events, moon phases or a user's activity level.

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Apple Watch relies heavily on its wrist-mounted nature for functions such as Smart Replies and dictation, both of which are geared towards quick responses to messages. With Handoff, users can start a message on the Watch and continue on their iPhone.

GALLERY: iPhone 6 handsets

GALLERY: Apple Watch

ANALYSIS: Just another iLaunch, or a new line in the sand?

By swiping up from the watch face users get access to Glances that quickly show information such as current location, stocks or appointments. Pressing the side button brings up Friends, a view of a user's favourite contacts. Digital Touch allows the sending of a sketch, a gentle tap, an audio message through Walkie Talkie or even the user's own heartbeat.

Apple was keen to highlight the lifestyle applications of the Watch, suggesting scenarios such as paying for coffee using Apple Pay (although Apple Pay will only be available in the US), boarding a plane with a Passbook boarding pass, controlling an Apple TV or getting directions.

GALLERY: iPhone 6 handsets

GALLERY: Apple Watch

ANALYSIS: Just another iLaunch, or a new line in the sand?

Apple Watch includes an Activity app designed to help "motivate" the user, and a Workout app designed to provide metrics during training sessions. Apple Watch uses the accelerometer, a built-in heart rate sensor, GPS and Wi-Fi from the parent iPhone to provide "a comprehensive picture of your daily activity".

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The Activity app measures three separate aspects of movement: calories burned, brisk activity and how often a user stands up during the day. The Workout app provides goal-setting and pacing during workouts such as running and cycling. The companion Fitness app on iPhone collects activity data so users can see their activity history in greater detail. Apple Watch uses this history to suggest personal, realistic goals, reward fitness milestones and keep the user motivated.

GALLERY: iPhone 6 handsets

GALLERY: Apple Watch

ANALYSIS: Just another iLaunch, or a new line in the sand?

Apple Watch will be available in three collections. Apple Watch, with a polished or space black stainless steel case and a choice of straps; Apple Watch Sport, with a space grey or silver anodised aluminium case and Sport Band; and Apple Watch Edition, with an 18-karat rose or yellow gold case and a choice of straps exclusive to this collection.

Apple Watch straps include the Sport Band in black, blue, green, pink and white; the Classic Buckle in black and midnight blue; the Leather Loop in bright blue, light brown and stone; the Modern Buckle in midnight blue, brown, soft pink, rose grey and bright red; the Milanese Loop in stainless steel; and the Link Bracelet in brushed stainless steel and polished space black.

GALLERY: iPhone 6 handsets

GALLERY: Apple Watch

ANALYSIS: Just another iLaunch, or a new line in the sand?

Apple Watch will be available in early 2015 starting at $349. It is compatible with iPhone 5, iPhone 5C, iPhone 5S, iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus running the latest version of iOS 8. No specific pricing or launch information about the Middle East is available at this time.

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