The Apple Watch - and some other new surprises from Apple

Ever since Apple announced last year they were working on a watch, the tech world has been collectively scratching its head wondering if there was actually a need or use for such a device. 

The commentary has been similar to that which preceded the iPhone and iPad releases... namely: Do we need or want this?; Will it be too expensive?;  What can it do that my existing devices can't?

At the original announcement Apple had told the world that the Watch would start at $349 US. But speculation as to what the ceiling would be for the most expensive version ranged from crack smoking analysts at Citigroup guessing $950 (how does one get a job as an analyst anyway?) to followers of Apple and expensive watch aficionados suggesting $10,000 to $20,000 for the 18-Carat gold version. 

Finally last night, Watch was unveiled and everyone's questions were answered. 

In brief, here's a rundown (in Australian dollars.)

There's 3 versions. 

Watch Sport 
Watch Edition

They all come in two sizes, a 38mm and a 42mm. 

Watch Sport 38mm: $499 

Watch Sport 42mm: $579

Click here for more info.

Watch 38mm: ranges from $799 to $1549 depending on the band chosen

Watch 42mm: ranges from $879 to $1629 depending on the band chosen

Click here for more info. 

Watch Edition starts at $14,000 and goes up to $24,000

It's available in 18-Carat Rose Gold and Yellow Gold, with several models and bands to choose from. It will only be available in limited numbers and in select retailers. 

Click here for more info. 

Ok, so why on earth would I need one?

You don't.

Just like you don't really need that iPhone or iPad or any other luxury or technology item you own. But sometimes these items make life a little easier or nicer, and we happily part with some of our disposable income for these things. 

And jewellery has never served much of a functional purpose, but gold watches, rings and other ornaments have been a massive industry long before Steve Jobs ever walked the planet. A large number of Watch sales will be form rather than function. Apple knows this, and they're not pretending to simply be building a functional wrist computer. They want it to be a personal expression of your style, which is why so many models and price points are on offer. 

But if you do choose to get one and use it, here's some of the things it purports to do:

  • Customisable watch displays
  • Easy messaging to other Watch owners (you can send vibrations, doodles and even your heart beat) 
  • Lot's of fitness features (easy to track how much movement you've been doing)
  • Notifications on your wrist 
  • Make and receive phone calls and texts on your wrist
  • Use Siri
  • Check your calendar

Third party developers have the ability to write apps for the Watch, so there'll be a plethora of apps you can install on your iPhone and use with the Watch. 

Still skeptical...

I'm not personally advocating anyone purchase or use an Watch yet. I haven't worn one. I can imagine it being a very useful journalism tool, and a useful way for Everything Geraldton users to receive notifications without having to unlock their phone, I am reserving judgement until I have played with one for a decent length of time. 

Every other smart watch that has entered the market has had overall negative reviews, and left people disillusioned with the concept of a wrist computer. 

But so did smartphones before 2007. And so did tablets before 2010. The iPhone and iPad changed what people realised those devices could be. Maybe they'll do it again. Maybe it will be a flop. 

I was extremely skeptical about the benefits of a smartphone strapped to my wrist until I read this earlier in the week from TechCrunch (link):

People that have worn the Watch say that they take their phones out of their pockets far, far less than they used to. A simple tap to reply or glance on the wrist or dictation is a massively different interaction model than pulling out an iPhone, unlocking it and being pulled into its merciless vortex of attention suck.
One user told me that they nearly “stopped” using their phone during the day; they used to have it out and now they don’t, period. That’s insane when you think about how much the blue glow of smartphone screens has dominated our social interactions over the past decade.

I need to keep an eye on my emails and messages. If an Apple Watch means I don't have to pull out my phone, unlock it and get pulled into the "merciless vortex of attention suck" then I'll gladly hand over my cash. Maybe not 24 grand though. 

When can I get one?

Australia is among the first group of countries the device will be available in. You'll be able to pre-order on April 10, and they'll start shipping on April 24 2015. 

So what else did Apple announce?

Given how big the watch announcement was for the company, it didn't seem appropriate to announce any other major products. 

But two things were announced, and while they will be drowned out by the Watch news, they will be very important to the future of Apple. 

One was called ResearchKit. It's a collection of apps that allow you to submit data to help with medical research and also for your personal doctors to track your health or progress. And it's also a framework that allows other developers in the medical space to create apps that collect important data for medical research. 

Apple never sees your data, and you decide what you will send. The big break through is that you have your phone with you all the time; so more data, and more accurate data, can be collected by more people to help researchers better understand health outcomes. 

You can try some of the apps out today:

The other product Apple announced was a new MacBook. 

If you thought the current MacBook Airs were thin, have a look at this thing.

It's thinner than even the class leading 11" MacBook Air before, has no fan, features only 1 port, a USB-C, and has 9 hours of use battery life along with brilliant "Green" credentials. It comes with the much desired retina screen (basically means very high resolution.)

It starts at $1299, weighs less than a kilo, and if you're in the market for a new high end notebook, it looks like it's going to be the new benchmark.

(oh, and it comes in three colours including Gold.)

We haven't got an availability date yet. 

Click here for more info.