10 things you need to know about the Apple Watch

Last Tuesday I got to watch Tim Cook introduce the Apple Watch, then got to spend some time trying it on, running through the demo, and hearing about the features. For an unreleased product, there was still a ton of information provided. That's probably why we're seeing some confusion about what exactly was said, when, and how. If you go back and re-watch the keynote or look at Apple's Watch page, you'll find a lot of the recent questions, and almost all of the recent "new information" was actually stated right there on stage or spelled out in black and white on the web. Much of the rest was addressed in the demo area. (I live-tweeted a lot of that.) So, in an effort to put it all in one place, and hopefully put some minds at ease, here's what you really need to know about the Apple Watch!

1. Not complicated

Because there are multiple materials and multiple bands, there's some concern that it's not a typical Apple product. Both the iPhone and iPad had very few options at launch, but phones and tablets are things you put in your hands, not on your wrists. They're windows to the internet and apps. The Apple Watch is fashion. (And yes, it is funny that Apple gets criticized both for too little and too much choice.) To keep things simple:

  1. You can get them small (38mm) or large (42mm)
  2. You can get them for fun (aluminum Apple Watch Sport), casual (stainless steel Apple Watch), or formal (gold Apple Watch Editions) situations.
  3. You can get durable plastic bands in a variety of colors, or fashionable leather and metallic bands to complement them.

So, choose a size, choose a material, choose a band, and you're done. Pretty much like choosing a phone and a case.

2. Lefties aren't left out

Apple demonstrated the Apple Watch primarily on the left arm. Many people, regardless of whether they're right or left handed, wear watches on their left arm. However, if you prefer wearing your Apple Watch on your right arm, there'll be a way to rotate the display and switch the straps to accommodate you.

3. Secured by skin contact

There may not be Touch ID on the Apple Watch, but Apple has come up with a novel way to secure it anyway. When you put your Apple Watch on, you enter a code that authenticates it for things like Apple Pay. Then, as long as the Apple Watch maintains contact with your skin, the authentication remains active. If the sensors in the bottom detect a break in contact — if it's taken off, pulled off, or removed in any way — it locks and you have to enter the code again to unlock it again.

4. Water resistant, not proof

The components inside the Apple Watch have been sealed to help them resist contact with water. So sweat, rain, washing your hands, and similar activities aren't a problem. However, the Apple Watch isn't water proof so you can't shower, bathe, swim, or dive with it on.

5. Runs solo

For some things, including anything that requires an active internet connection, the Apple Watch will need to tether to your iPhone, For other things, primarily offline things, the Apple Watch can go it alone. That includes playing music you've stored locally while you're out on a run.

There's on-board Bluetooth LE so you can listen with wireless headphones, but for GPS or to get on the internet you'll need your iPhone with you.

6. Lasts a day

In a perfect world all our electronics would run forever with screens set to maximum brightness and radios broadcasting on full. Sadly, we live in a real world where every pixel and every bit cost us in power consumption. That's why the Apple Watch, with it's Retina display and iPhone tethering will need to be charge every night.

Apple has included a magnetically aligned inductive charger, however, so it's easy to connect.

7. Control and continuity

The Apple Watch comes with a version of Remote, the app that lets you control an Apple TV or iTunes on your desktop. You'll also be able to use it as a remote viewfinder for your iPhone's camera. Just set your iPhone down, run for that group shot or solo stance, preview right on your watch, and then tap to shoot or set a timer.

Apple Watch also comes with Continuity, the feature that lets you start something on one of your Apple devices and continue it on another. For example, start a message on the Apple Watch, pick up your iPhone, and continue it right from there.

8. Catches the vibe

Thanks to its Taptic feedback engine, the Apple Watch can alert you and provide you withs simple information even with the screen off. For example, it can provide walking directions by providing you with different vibrations to indicate a turn left or right, or your friend or family member can send you a vibration code to tell you they're waiting for you outside, ready to take you home. Your loved one can even send you their heartbeat, just so you know they're out there, okay, and thinking of you.

9. Accessibility enabled

Both the Taptic engine and Siri, the Apple Watch provides important accessibility options to people with visual impairments. The same vibration-driven walking directions and voice control that are mere convenience for sighted users become absolutely empowering to anyone and everyone with low vision or blindness.

(I neglected to ask Apple about VoiceOver and other accessibility features, but hopefully I'll either find out soon or Apple will announce more at some point.)

10. Apps incoming

Apple Watch will be able to pull actionable notifications right for iOS 8 apps on your iPhone and show them to you on your wrists. Developers will also be able to make widget-style Glances to show important information from their apps on the Apple Watch, and eventually, with WatchKit, they'll be able to make unique interfaces especially designed to bring some of their functionality natively to the smallest screen.

Bottom line

There's a lot more to the Apple Watch of course. We know it'll start at $349 but we're still waiting to here about pricing for the higher end models, including the luxury editions in gold and rose gold. Apple has also said they're coming early next year, but there's been no official word on a shipping date yet.

Still, there's a lot we do know, so if you have any other questions, fire away in the comments!

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • The apple watch is too thick for my taste. Sent from the iMore App
  • Me too. Also, the starting price is way more than I would like. I'm passing on this one. Pebble does what I need for 1/2 the cost. Sent from the iMore App
  • Yes! It can store music locally and stream it to my PowerBeats 2 headphones while I'm out running without my phone! Yes! Yes! Yes! I'm now officially sold.
  • I love that feature too. My only question if it does not have GPS you won't be able to log your run on the fitness app? So it will be great to run without your phone but you won't know how far you've gone and at best you will have to manually add it to the fitness app. Don't like that. Hope the figure out a fix for that.
  • I might be wrong but I thought it had an m8 chip which is able to calculate distance and elevation. I'm assuming it will sync with your phone when you return and will be accessible to any fitness app as usual. But since no Gps it won't be able to map your run?
  • Hope this is true otherwise it'll be a no go for me. Sent from the iMore App
  • Unfortunately, I don't think it has the M8... I think all it has is an accelerometer. I'm primarily a biker, so it's not as much a pain for me to carry a phone somewhere on me... but it would be nice to have the watch totally capable at that price point.
  • Rene, Can it or can it not go in the shower with you? You say two different things in the article and video.
  • Watches just don't need to be in the shower. Hot water can cause the case to expand, breaking the seals and letting water in. This is any watch. As a former watch repairman, I've seen too many people whine, "But my watch is water resistant. Waaaaaaah!" It is. It isn't heat resistant.
  • The security thing is clever!
  • As someone who hasn't wore a watch in years and was negative of this category, I'm pretty much buying an apple watch. Hopefully there's an iPhone app to help manage it.
  • The security thing sounds like it would work great if you don't take the watch off... but not so great when you take it off every night to charge. Still want one!
  • Putting in your password once a day seems fine with me. I do it like 50 times a day on my iPhone. Sent from the iMore App
  • You'll hate passcodes when you get Touch ID. Friggin brilliant. Sent from the iMore App
  • Yeah. But going from putting my password 50 times a day (or more,apparently the daily average is 100) to once a day is good enough for me. Sent from the iMore App
  • Hopefully you'll be able to log in once using TouchID on the phone.
  • I think the proposition is interesting enough that I will likely buy one, but that 3rd item above sounds like a real pain in the ass. One of my concerns about the watch is that it's very, very, big. I'm an average sized person, but even the small version of the watch barely fits on my wrist and no matter how tight I make the strap, it's going to be moving around a lot, perhaps even slipping upside down. This has been true of every watch I've ever owned. If a simple breaking of the skin contact will make the Pay useless ... well, it just sounds like a nightmare waiting to happen to me. Pin and Chip is still far superior to contactless (NFC) payment IMO in that it is almost as fast, but allows you to do things like leave a tip. If this catches on, tips will have to be automatically added to your purchase as the number of people tipping will drop precipitously.
  • Not sure why, unless you take off the watch every few minutes. Wake up in the morning, type in your PIN, use it during the day, then take it off at night to charge. lol, or wear it really, really, loose n the wrist so it flops around. Though, not as secure as fingerprint on the iPhone..
  • Some of those bands they showed loop around instead of buckling. That might just give you the fit you're looking for.
  • They very explicitly said it was a "tap" and not a vibration. Which is one of the reason it is so interesting, you want have a buzzing wrist. Sent from the iMore App
  • Why does the Apple Watch need an iOS device for GPS? iOS devices can use an external GPS like a Bad Elf or Dual GPS which connect via Bluetooth. If the Apple Watch has Bluetooth, it should be able to talk to a Bluetooth GPS receiver, right?
  • Theoretically there could at least be an app for that. But do you want to carry a GPS receiver when you're out for a run? Might as well carry your phone. Sent from the iMore App
  • Very nice wrap, Rene...as usual :)
  • Great article, Rene! Thanks!
    Nice to know about the accessibility features. I can't really see APPLE abamdonning VO on such an important product, but time will show, I guess.
    Putting in a passcode once a day seems a tiny price to "pay" for a secure watch to me.
    I still can't make up my mind about whether I want an AppleWatch, but I can't see all the problems people put forward. Sent from the iMore App
  • Am I the only one wanting to know how many gigabytes will it have? Since you can store your songs on it.
  • Yes! I wanna know! Sent from the iMore App
  • There will likely be options. 4-8-16-32? And they'll change $100 for each increment. Sent from the iMore App
  • *charge Sent from the iMore App
  • I am in in been wearing the Galaxy Gear 2 since release and love using it. I decided to switch over to Apple after they finally caved into making a bigger screen!
  • René
    Will the Apple Watch work with cellular iPads running the A7 chip? If not, can you guess why not? After all the iPad mini retina and Air, cellular versions, run the same CPU, GPS and Bluetooth as iPhones with which the watch is compatible, such as the 5s.
  • Good question. Will the Apple Watch pair with iPads? If so will it pair with the iPhone at the same time, and will it take notifications from both?
  • That's a VERY interesting scenario. If you were willing to speak into your watch for those rare phone calls you wouldn't really even need a phone.
  • In the keynote, it says it'll only work with iPhone 5s and above
  • Which model is the low end? On stage, it seemed like it was the Apple Watch, but you seem to be implying that it's the Apple Watch Sport. Will all the bands fit all models of the watch? Do the bands fit both sizes of the case or are there separate ones for each size?
  • During the keynote they showed different band sizes for the different watch sizes. Didn't look like small bands would fit the big watch. Nor the other way around. Sent from the iMore App
  • Whilst the bands should fit, there would be colour and material mismatches at the band attachment points. Bands designed for the aluminium watches might look odd if paired with a stainless watch. For example, with the stainless steel watch, most band options are designed for the regular stainless steel watch. If you choose the space black stainless steel watch (case), there appears to be only one "matching" band available - the space black stainless steel link bracelet. Likewise, there are only black or white sports bands for the regular stainless watch (with no option for the space black stainless watch), whereas the Sport collection has several other colours available for the regular aluminium case (but only a black band for the space grey aluminium sport watch case). The bands designed for the gold watches would look really odd with watches from the other two collections - and vice versa. All the watch case / band options are listed on Apple's website (at least the first party options). Sent from the iMore App
  • Thanks for the info. With the slick way the bands attach to the case, I was wondering if you could dress up the Sport model with one of the fancier bands. Doesn't look like that will work. Maybe a third party band will accomplish this.
  • Rene, I'm still curious if it will be able to read blood pressure and transmit the data to an app on the iPhone. I'm probably going to get one anyway, but this would completely seal the deal for me. I have to take my BP at least twice a day, every day, and it's a major PITA when I'm traveling to take a monitor with me. Is there any information on this?
  • Everything seems to be profound so far but my greatest issue is paying for a watch for $300+ and it's not water resistant...I mean c'mon!!...with all those great features and stylish looks, the least they could have done is made it water-resistant... Sent from the iMore App
  • I believe he said it is water resistant but not water proof. If water gets on it it should be fine, like an iPhone but if you were to dunk it in a glass of water it wouldn't be, like an iPhone.
  • Featurewise the watch is great, but single day charge, which we know will last much less than that if we use features such as bluetooth all the time, is a big no-no for me. It looks a bit thick and ugly too.
  • I'm sure these 2 areas will get much better with subsequent iterations, so you may want to hold off for generation 2 or 3 if you're concerned about it.
  • I doubt that the day long charge spec is based on "not paired mode". I have my phone with me always as many people do. The day long charge spec probably factors in being paired with iPhone.
  • The watch is water resistant. If u think this watch is ugly u don't wear watches, this is the best looking watch out there right now for what it does. Sent from the iMore App
  • You do understand that this is purely a subjective opinion, right? I wear watches all the time, in fact I collect them, and I think the Moto 360 is a much better looking device.
  • The Moto 360 does look beautiful, although big. I think it was Andy Ihnatko who surmised that Apple may have gone with a more generic styling so that people could personalize it to their tastes with different bands, while the simple design not being horribly offensive or attractive since style is a personal taste thing. Not sure if that's actual but it sounds like a good explanation.
  • Rene, it would be great if you could expound on 5. Runs Solo please. There's a lot of folks, myself included, that would like to know exactly what the watch can do when it's not paired to an iDevice.
  • For us who will be buying the Sport version for working out with the watch this is a good question to have answered. I'd be willing to trade off some of the detailed tracking info for not having to run with my expensive iPhone, but it depends on what info would be missing. GPS route tracking is almost essential I believe. Maybe Runkeeper or Apple would still be able to provide this somehow though.
  • My fantasy wish for the GPS route tracking… I was hoping Apple would give the watches some kind of bluetooth mesh networking and triangulation to estimate location along with pedometer distance that would be recalculated every time watch passes another device giving off a signal. Also a hand-off data relay between any near-by devices with internet connection, kinda a fly-by mesh network to pass along mini bits until the message or packet gets to its destination. Things like quick text messages, location, taps… after all one would be working out but still want a little bit of emergency communication contact. So just like how all iOS devices have the ability to create a wifi mesh network to relay data without a internet connection but in bluetooth form for the watches. I really do like the walkie talkie feature and the doodle feature where the message disappear in seconds, my type of secure messaging lol. GPS route tracking is going to be a real sticking point since I would be buying watch primarily for fitness with the other features being bonus side benefits. Currently I walk/jog outdoor with my iPhone 5, but i can't see myself jogging with the iPhone 6 Plus and the workout capabilities of the watch will most likely dictate if I get the 6 or 6 Plus. Get on it Apple… you have 6 month to enable this in software. :)
  • It seems that you can go for a walk or run with only your Apple Watch and it'll measure steps (and distance), and gauge intensity, but requires your iPhone if you want to measure distance for activities other than step-based activities - like cycling. To quote Apple: "Apple Watch uses the GPS and Wi‑Fi in your iPhone to help measure the distance you travel during activities that can’t be measured in steps, such as cycling." And "The Apple Watch accelerometer measures total body activity, counts your steps, and helps calculate your calories burned throughout the day." For me, this is acceptable - I would rather not take my phone with me on a run - especially since the watch can play some music too. One would hope it will later sync the data back to the phone's health app. An iPhone 6 Plus in my cycling shorts is going to look very conspicuous. Maybe a backpack is required ;) Sent from the iMore App
  • One of the reasons I was going for the 6 was the smaller size for taking while running and cycling, but if I can just wear the watch, I may prefer the 6 Plus. I use a Camelback when cycling but not sure if the 6 Plus would even fit in the pocket in it.
  • Charging every Night is ok, i do it also with my phone. I do not have to sleep with a watch on my wrist. Sent from the iMore App
  • It is the same content in the three different models? Sent from the iMore App
  • Taken as a whole I like the Apple Watch. The App screen sort of is a mess to my eyes. I get that it minimizes the need for a lot of scrolling to find the app you want, but I just find its unpleasing to my eyes.
  • For some reason I'm concerned about how water resistant it is/isn't. In the real world if the device cannot be showered with or run under the tap for a good rinsing, it's going to get pretty grimy over time collecting body salts and other gunk. And, it seems unduly ambiguous that it's rain and sweat resistant, but can't be taken in the shower. Sounds a bit delicate to me. How does Pebble stack up in that regard?
  • The Pebble is water resistant to 5 ATM. And for comparison's sake, most Android Wear watches are IP67 rated.
  • The fact that you need to have your phone with you for the GPS function is a deal breaker for me. They should have built a GPS receiver into the watch and figured out a way to share data with your iphone so it would be possible to send and receive texts while out on a run. To me, a lot of the features on this watch are useless, yet they leave out a very important one.
  • I have a question Rene...
    It has a mic (for Siri) and a sort of speaker for alerts, Siri, etc. Can it therefore make/take calls and play music? Sent from the iMore App
  • Nothing about the Apple Watch (or any Android Wear devices, for that matter) appeal to me at all. I just don't find any use there, personally. As a gadget fan, I'm hoping somebody proves me wrong - if not this generation, than the next. Sent from the iMore App
  • Wondering how the apple watch will support users with more than one watch. I would like to buy the sport and the edition for different occasions. Will I have to manually upload data and settings to the cloud each time I switch in order to get a continuos experience? Sent from the iMore App
  • i have a question that really is bothering me: will i be able to buy different styles of watch bands at the apple store???
    because i can't decide which one like better and anyways i know that for casual i want the leather band, but for sport i really want a plastic band
  • In that case you should buy the stainless steel Apple Watch and not the Sport version. The stainless steel watch has leather bands, and others, plus black or white sports band options. At launch, this appears to be the current situation. Or buy the sport watch and hope for some third party bands - they'll be coming! I guess the sport watch will be the $349 version (perhaps that is the 38 mm price), and perhaps there will be different storage options. No info about that yet. Sent from the iMore App
  • Will have to see the watch in person. Sent from the iMore App
  • Will it work for people that does not have an iPhone instead they have an iPod touch and an iPad? Sent from the iMore App
  • I wonder if Rene can give us an impression of how much thicker it really is compared to the Android devices currently out there? If I were to go by TWiT.TV's Leo Laporte or Mike Elgan, both of which I don't know if they have actually handled even a prototype claim that it is massively thick and have been describing it as a Smurf Pillow.
  • I wish it didn't look like a big fig newton.. :( maybe it will grow on me.
  • A $350 watch that can't get wet. Sorry, but I'm going to wait. Sent from the iMore App
  • A $350 watch that can't get wet. Sorry, but I'm going to wait. Sent from the iMore App
  • "For some things, including anything that requires an active internet connection, the Apple Watch will need to tether to your iPhone, For other things, primarily offline things, the Apple Watch can go it alone. That includes playing music you've stored locally while you're out on a run. There's on-board Bluetooth LE so you can listen with wireless headphones, but for GPS or to get on the internet you'll need your iPhone with you." So how does the music get on it. Through iTunes Match or some kind of sync between the phone and the watch?
  • It liked the features it has. And it sounds great
  • No a lot of people especially lefties don't wear their watch on their left arm! Not intelligent ones anyway. : P As for this watch. I don't get it. A watch is meant to tell time. A simple and elegant device. If I want to do anything else I have my smartphone. If you have to carry it anyway... I also wonder about the health effects of having a constant bluetooth connection. Call me a conspiracy nut or whatever, but long term it can't be good.
  • The battery life is not good enough.
    I think I will just use a mechanic watch, I don't want to think about charging my watch everydag.
  • 11. garbage
  • I love the simplicity of it. I'm probably gonna get it for my iPhone 6
  • I have a teenager with an intellectual disability the apple watch would be just ideal if you could make calls. Is this possible with the apple watch?