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.