The New Apple Watch — Will It Make the Smartwatch Go Mainstream?


The recent announcement of the Apple Watch garnered much buzz in the tech industry. Is the era of the smartwatch or wearable finally upon us? The iPhone wasn’t necessarily the first mobile phone, but there is no denying Apple ushered the smartphone into the mainstream with its release; many pundits wonder if Cupertino’s magic touch still applies with the smartwatch.

Let’s take a closer look at the new Apple Watch, and see if its features and functionality make it a must have piece of technology in today’s mobile world. Remember the smartwatch isn’t slated to hit the market until early next year, so there’s still time to figure out whether it belongs on the wrist of the discerning user.

Apple’s new smartwatch comes in essentially three editions. There is a basic version, a Sport model with a lightweight design suitable for jogging and other physical activity, as well as the Edition line which features an 18-karat gold casing for a more fashionable appearance.

Early Rumors Hint at Apple Watch Specifications

Some tech pundits have made guesses at the initial specs for Apple’s new smartwatch. Many figure the device will come with 512 MB of RAM which is the same amount from competing smartwatches from Samsung and Motorola. As a point of reference, the new iPhone 6 is the first Apple smartphone with 1 GB of RAM, and the iPad 3 and all subsequent tablet models also feature 1 GB on-board memory.

The new Apple Watch is expected to contain 4 GB of solid state storage in its basic model, but some analysts feel an 8 GB model might also be in the cards. Given Apple’s push to get users to pay a monthly fee for iCloud, don’t expect much storage on their smartwatch. The fact that it also must tether to an iPhone lessens the need for its own large memory footprint.

Ultimately, any specs for Apple’s new smartwatch are the result of well-reasoned guesswork from a variety of tech pundits and Apple analysts. Cupertino themselves have been tight-lipped about the internals of the wearable other than it contains the integrated chip known as the S1, so expect the real details to come out on announcement day early in 2015.

Applications for the New Apple Watch

Health and fitness apps appear to be one notable genre perfect for a smartwatch. The Apple Watch comes with a host of sensors to monitor heart rate and other daily activity, like the number of steps taken. Expect this data to be interpreted in iOS apps, including Apple’s own HealthKit, introduced as part of iOS 8.

Expect Apple’s new mobile payment service — known as Apple Pay — to be a popular service that simply makes sense on a smartwatch. It leverages Near Field Communications (NFC), a recent technology that facilitates wireless communications between two devices in close proximity. Expect point of sale systems vendors to support Apple Pay as the technology matures.

Of course, using the WatchKit development API, third party developers will come up with app ideas that Apple never considered for the Apple Watch. Some are obvious, like a variety of travel apps from hotels, airlines, and car rental services, offering similar functionality as a smartphone app, but with the added convenience of wrist access. Checking everything from sports scores to finding your car or a restaurant on a map makes sense on a smartwatch.

Battery Life a Potential Concern with the Apple Watch

Tim Cook never touched on battery life during his recent Apple Watch announcement, so this might be an area of concern for potential users. It might be a case where the device needs to be charged on a nightly basis. Either way this is an area worth watching after the smartwatch’s 2015 release.

Also the fact the Apple Watch needs to stay tethered to an iPhone — the iPhone 4 and earlier also are not compatible — raises concerns about the real advantages of the technology. Frankly, any of the killer applications for an Apple smartwatch — notably Apple Pay and HealthKit — work fine just using a smartphone, with a similar usability factor, they just aren’t accessible from the wrist.

The best choice for many potential smartwatch customers would be to wait until the market matures. Wearable technology shouldn’t have to tether to a smartphone to operate. Maybe the second or third generation of the new Apple Watch will allow functionality independent from an iPhone?