Apple Watch isn't just ahead of the times… it's the future
THE Apple Watch, revealed six months ago by Apple's CEO Tim Cook as Apple's most personal gadget, could also be its most eye-wateringly expensive. At least, that's if you go for the 18-carat gold version, which starts - starts - at £8,000.
You don't need to spend that much. The entry-level Sport version is made from specially alloyed aluminium and is a snip, relatively, for £299 and up.
The differences in prices are down to the metal and glass of the hardware - the processor and other internal capabilities are the same. Which are what, exactly?
Cook, speaking tonight at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, and broadcast to European press in Apple's Berlin store, said it was "the most advanced watch ever".
It won't just tell the time, you see, though there are 10 different watch faces, all highly customisable down to different coloured second hands or Mickey Mouse swinging his hips to count the seconds.
But this is a watch that will encourage you to get fit, with reminders when you've been sitting too long and calorie counters to show you how much energy you've expended today, Cook enthused.
The Apple Watch depends on a nearby iPhone for most of its innovative capabilities - to measure your outdoor runs perfectly it needs the iPhone's GPS chip. It monitors your heart rate, too. You can also tell your watch you need walking directions. It will vibrate to tell you when to turn left or right, so you needn't look at your watch, let alone your phone.
Also tonight there was a stream of announcements of some apps from developers other than Apple. Instagram, Twitter and American Airlines all have apps which can show you pictures, tweets or what time your flight's leaving and display your boarding pass complete with security-friendly barcode. Going to a W Hotel? You can check in on the watch, and even unlock your hotel room door by waving your watch in front of it.
Apple Pay is Apple's new contactless payment system, hugely successful in the US already, Cook said. With the arrival of the watch you won't need to float your phone near a payment terminal, just your watch-bearing wrist. Apple Pay is expected to launch in the UK later this year.
Much of the success of the Apple Watch relies on the battery life. The watch screen is very high-resolution, so needs power to control the pixels. Cook was bullish about this, saying it would last 18 hours between charges. So you'll have to take it off to charge it overnight but, wouldn't you know it, even the charging is cool - cables auto-attach magnetically to the back of the watch, so it's ready to go again in the morning.
On the wrist, the Apple Watch feels great: light and smooth enough to be comfy, heavy enough, especially in the larger size and premium metal finishes, to feel solid and important. The touchscreen is instantly responsive, making it feel even more personal.
It goes on sale in the UK on 24 April. Do you need one? You can probably live without it, but try it on and it is tempting not to take it off again.
Lowdown on the Apple Watch
The Digital Crown is used not to wind the watch but to zoom in and out of maps or scroll lists and messages.
You can use the watch to make and receive calls, but it may make you feel you're an undercover cop.
Press two fingers firmly on the screen and it will pulses in the exact pace of your heart, right now. You can send this beat to a friend with another Apple Watch as a surprisingly personal message.
Every notification, from emails to texts to incoming calls, can buzz onto your watch - you choose what appears.
There was also the announcement of ResearchKit - a software platform that can turn your iPhone into a medical diagnostic tool, studying Parkinson's and diabetes in phone users, for instance. It may not be a sexy gadget but ResearchKit could be the most important announcement Apple made yesterday.
The glitziest new announcement, though, was a new MacBook which was unbelievably thin - 13.1mm, with a gorgeous screen and a full day's battery life. Oh, and it comes in a gold finish, too. It's out on 10 April for £1,049.