Apple's series of smartwatches may take the market by storm. Or not

  • Rajiv Makhni, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Mar 29, 2015 11:06 IST

Let’s start with the money shot. After a long wait and lots of anticipation, the appropriately (if not creatively) named Apple Watch is finally a reality. And yet, it didn’t make as many headlines as the USB C port of the new Macbook did.

When a piece of plug-in hardware can beat a $10,000 watch, you know the quirky world of tech is alive and kicking. This is our entry point to the main stage of more gadget melodrama than we’ve had in the last few months.

The Apple Watch

It’s Apple’s first new product category in almost six years and thus a very critical one. It’s also critical for the wearable tech industry, the smartwatch industry and the traditional watch business.

Many have called it as important as the time when Apple entered the mobile business with the iPhone. And Apple isn’t taking too many chances – it has thrown everything but the kitchen sink into the market.

Time out! Apple Watch and Apple Watch Edition offer cool features like built-in heart rate sensors.

Two sizes (38mm and 42mm), three categories (Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch Edition), multiple colours (space black stainless steel, space grey, silver anodised aluminum and 18-carat rose or yellow gold), different price points and an army of straps – there’s something for everyone.

Or maybe not! Round smartwatches are the flavour of the season, but this one is pretty much square. Also, it may seem heavy even on a man’s wrist.

You can customise the device with some really cool stuff right from the beginning: eleven watch faces, Uber, Shazam, WeChat, Twitter, Apple Pay and other apps.

There’s something called Glances (bite-sized pieces of pertinent information), plus Smart Replies and dictation. There’s Handoff, in which you can complete a message on your iPhone and a special side button to bring up Friends. Digital Touch can send a drawing, an audio clip or even your own heartbeat through Walkie Talkie.

Apple Watch has a number of sensors like an accelerometer and a built-in heart rate sensor. The Activity app reports on calories burned, fitness activity, how much time you stand up during the day, and it also sets realistic goals through the workout and fitness apps. There’s a built-in speaker and microphone.

Of course, the Achilles heel of all smartwatches has also made its way into the Apple Watch feature set, with battery life clocking at about 18 hours. So you will have to remember to charge your phone AND plug in the wrist watch every night. Will people actually do that on a long-term basis? Only ‘time’ will tell.

Should you buy the Apple Watch?
The cop out answer is to say that you shouldn’t buy the first generation of any new gadget and wait for the upgrade. That advice usually means nothing. Here’s how I would look at it.

Unlike the blind buying that usually follows the launch of a much hyped new product, you’ve got to understand what you’re getting into. This isn’t going to be as intuitive as a normal Apple product.

You’ll have to learn your way through a whole new interaction system with this one, and it could get confusing. You’ll have to learn when to tap, scroll, swipe or push.

Then there’s a new interface-control called the digital crown that is smart, but needs you to understand how to use its smartness well. There’s also the new Force Touch technology, for which you’ll have to master the watch touchscreen in which a tap, a press and a hard press all do different things.

It was important for Apple to reinvent the interface as you are interacting with a very small screen, but it may not be typically Apple-user-friendly to begin with.

Apple watch sport: Made with anodised aluminum, this model is the least expensive of the Apple watch collection.

Once you’re aware of all of this, let’s get into the second part. The Apple Watch has many cool things on it but the biggest one is

Apple Pay

, and that’s not something that will come to India right away.

The third part is price. Kicking off at about $349 (and rumoured to have a

starting price of about Rs 24,999

in India when it makes it here), this is an expensive start into the smartwatch domain.

But you’ll also need an iPhone 5, 5c, 5s, 6 or 6 Plus. If you don’t have one of these, then your investment amount to get started with the Apple Watch is much larger.

You should only consider diving deep into the Apple Watch domain if you already own one of the above iPhone models and a smartwatch is right on top of your list for 2015. For all others, a trip down to an Apple store and about 30 minutes of exploring the Apple Watch is a must.

Should you buy the $10,000 Apple Watch Edition?
Hee hee hee. Oh, you’re serious? I thought you were joking. Well, to put it bluntly – absolutely not. This may be Apple’s foray into the luxury business, but you don’t have to be the one funding this misadventure.

The luxury category is all about classic timeless products that will last a lifetime and are heirlooms that can be bequeathed to family members. Your Apple Watch Edition will be redundant when the Apple Watch 2 is out around the same time next year. And that’s never a good thing for a super-luxury Rs 7 lakh watch.

In my next column, I explore how Apple’s new Macbook made more news than the Apple Watch, why you should think of buying this Macbook over an iPad and how its single USB C port may make Apple more money than the Apple Watch.

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3

From HT Brunch, March 29
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