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Apple Watch: Is it all hype?

Posted: 10 Mar 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Apple Watch  iTV  MacBook  smartwatch  iPhone 

At the Spring Forward event, Apple unveiled its much awaited Watch and MacBook. Although both devices showcased impressive software and hardware engineering, they seemed to deliver less-than-stellar performance, at least when it came to the consumers' expectations.

I gave my 20-something son a $100 Pebble for a gift to see what he thought of the smart watch. He never wore it. When I asked why he said it didn't have enough interesting apps.

I won't be making the same experiment with the Apple Watch that comes out April 24 given its $349 minimum price tag. (Sorry, Michael.) Apple clearly poured its famous software engineering into the product, but it's not yet clear that will be enough to create the first mainstream consumer wearable device.

Separately, the new MacBook makes a handful of noteworthy advances, but they fall short of Apple's claims of redefining a notebook.

Apple did not reveal hardware specs for its new watch, although it did wax lyrical about the benefits of its three cases—a custom aluminium alloy for the entry level sport models, stainless steel for a $549 to $1,000 midrange and 18-karat gold for models that start at $10,000.

With 20 different models, Apple enters new supply chain territory for a company used to selling just one or two models of a new iPhone of iPad. But the high price tags suggest Apple is giving itself plenty of room to recoup its customary profit margins.

Apple demoed dozens of uses for its watch. Most of them were things we've seen before such as email and text notifications and an integrated speaker and microphone to take calls just like Dick Tracy.

A few were more novel such as using a haptic actuator in the watch to tap a remote friend's wrist. Other digital connections such as sharing a quick sketch, a custom emoticon or a heartbeat were cute but not compelling.

Apple Watch

The 38mm and 42mm watches range in price from $349 to $10,000+.

Of course, most of the real processing is done remotely on an iPhone with iOS 8.2 (released Monday) sending notifications via an Apple Watch app. That suggests use of the watch will run down iPhone batteries faster than usual. The watch itself must be recharged daily given its disappointing 18-hour life.

While the watch has an expected array of consumer health and fitness uses, rumours that Apple killed plans for medical-grade sensors appear to be true. Without such sensors, consumers can play with reminders to get more exercise but doctors can't really use the device as a source of meaningful data.

Clearly, Apple wants to make the biggest impact it can. So it created for the iPhone an SDK for medical researchers it will release as open source soon. It demoed five apps using it, but said nothing about the bigger opportunity of someday using the Apple Watch as a platform for personalised medicine.

Time will tell if the Apple Watch can help establish the smart watch as a consumer category. I'm content to let others snap up the first generation and wait for more compelling uses to emerge.

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