TIME Gadgets

Apple Watch: 10 Things to Know

It's coming out early next year

The rumors were true—Apple is indeed releasing a smartwatch. The Apple Watch (sorry, “iWatch” fans) will be the first big new product line Apple has introduced since the iPad in 2010, and the first under the leadership of Tim Cook as CEO.

Like the iPad, iPhone and iWatch before it, the Apple Watch will enter a market where other tech companies have tried and failed to reach a mass audience. As with those earlier products, Apple hopes that a mixture of sleek hardware design and easy-to-use software will convince millions to buy a device they never even knew they needed.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Apple Watch:

You Need an iPhone to Use It

Like many smartwatches, the Apple Watch is meant to be used in conjunction with a smartphone. Think of it as as an easier-to-reach display that can relay information from your phone—when someone sends you a text, for instance, the Apple Watch can display the message on its screen for easier access. Though the watch was unveiled along with the iPhone 6, it will also be compatible with the iPhone 5, iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c.

It’s Expensive and It Won’t Be Out Soon

Shocker—Apple is introducing a gadget at the very high end of the category’s price range. The Apple Watch’s retail price will start at $349 when it launches early next year. Samsung’s Galaxy Gear retailed for $299 last fall, while the Kickstarter-funded Pebble smartwatch costs $150. Apple products typically sell at a premium, which helps the company maintain its huge margins.

It Has Animated Emojis

Everyone’s favorite yellow emoticons will have more verve on the Apple Watch. Users will be able to customize the facial expressions of emojis by touching different portions of the figure’s face. For instance, users can touch the emoji’s mouth to widen its smile or tap its eyebrows to raise them higher. The 3D figures spring to life before being texted off to a friend also using an Apple Watch. The redesigned emojis are a way to compensate for the fact that the Apple Watch screen is prohibitively small for sending traditional text message to friends. In addition to animated emojis, Apple Watch will analyze incoming texts and present a selection of potential responses that might make sense in context. Users can also use the phone’s microphones to dictate text.

It’s Compatible With Apple Pay

The new device is part of Apple’s broader scheme to replace your physical credit card through Apple Pay, a service that allows people to buy products through the press of a button on their iPhone 6 or Apple Watch. Utilizing Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, the devices will be able to communicate with payment systems at participating retailers using credit card information they already have tied to their iTunes accounts.

So far, McDonald’s, Staples, and Macy’s are among the companies that have agreed to accept Apple Pay.

It’s Using the Watch Dial in a Creative Way

The iPod’s click wheel was an innovation that simplified the chore of navigating through a thousand songs on an MP3 player. Apple hopes it’s hit on similar design magic by turning the traditional watch dial—now the “Digital Crown,” in Apple PR-speak—into a button that can be used to navigate the watch face. Through the dial, users will be able to zoom in and out on the screen, as well as scroll up and down, without obscuring the watch’s small surface. It also serves as the home button and the way to call up Siri, who will return as the Apple Watch’s digital assistant.

It’s Got a Boatload of Fitness Features

Fitness apps are seen as key to gaining a foothold in the wearables market. At the Apple Watch unveiling, Apple heavily promoted the ability of the watch to be a personal trainer as well as a communications device. The Apple Watch will use an accelerometer and GPS technology to constantly track the activities of its wearer, whether he or she is jogging, cycling or on a leisurely walk. The watch will also encourage users to meet basic fitness standards like standing up a bit during each hour and getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day.

It Has Three Different Models in Two Sizes

The Apple Watch will come in three different styles. There’s the basic Apple Watch, the Apple Watch Sport, which will have a sweat-resistant wrist strap and the Apple Watch Edition, which will come in an 18-karat gold watch case. All of them will be available in two different sizes of either 38 mm or 42 mm for the watch face. The watches will all be customisable with easily changeable wrist straps. Expect these colorful straps to become the iPhone cases of the wearables era.

You Can Send Someone Your Heartbeat

Apple spent a lot of time at its press event talking about how the Apple Watch is the most personal device it’s ever created. Case in point: a user can “send” someone else their heartbeat by pressing two fingers to the Apple Watch screen to allow it to measure a pulse. Users can also share sketches, sound recordings and wrist-based love-taps for other forms of 21st-century flirtation.

It’s Extremely Sensitive

Apple claims that the technology inside its watch will allow it to both give and receive tactile feedback with quite a bit of subtlety. The vibration system, called Taptic Engine, provides haptic feedback that varies based on the context—for instance, the device would vibrate differently depending on whether you needed to make a right or a left turn while using a navigation app. The Apple Watch’s touch screen will also be able to differentiate between a tap and a press, which would should present more control options on the very small amount of available real estate.

Apple Still Hasn’t Revealed a Bunch of Important Information

With the Apple Watch not slated for release until 2015, Apple still has a lot of questions to answer. How’s the battery life? The fact that the company crowed about the iPhone 6’s improved battery life but was silent on Apple Watch may not be a good sign. We also want to know whether it’s water resistant, whether there will be a version for lefties and which app developers will be on board at launch.

TIME Gadgets

The Apple Watch Will Have Animated Emojis

Apple Unveils iPhone 6
Apple CEO Tim Cook talks about the Apple Watch during an Apple special event at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts on September 9, 2014 in Cupertino, California. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

Everybody’s favorite yellow emoticons will have even more verve on the new Apple Watch.

Apple has devised new animated emoticons that allow users to devise customized facial expressions by touching different portions of the figure’s face. For instance, users can touch the emoji’s mouth to widen his smile or tap his eyebrows to raise them higher. The 3D figures spring to life before being texted off to a friend also using an Apple Watch.

The redesigned emojis are a way to compensate for the fact that the Apple Watch screen is prohibitively small for sending traditional text message to friends. In addition to animated emojis, Apple Watch will analyze incoming texts and present a selection of potential responses that might make sense in context.

 

TIME Smartphones

The iPhone 6 Will Have Apple’s Most Advanced iPhone Camera Yet

Phil Schiller
Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, discusses the camera features on the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus on Sept. 9, 2014, in Cupertino, Calif. Marcio Jose Sanchez—AP

The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will boast even more advanced cameras than Apple’s previous phones.

The new phones will have an eight megapixel camera, 1.5 micron pixels and a f/2.2 aperture. A new feature called Focus Pixels will automatically determine the direction of the phone’s focus and the distance to move the lens, leading to sharper images. Apple says the phones will be better at detecting faces than previous models, and the more advanced iPhone 6 Plus will boast optical image stabilization, which compensates for pictures taken with shaky hands.

In terms of video capability, the new camera will be able to shoot videos in 1080p at 30 frames per second and 60 frames per second. The camera will also expand on the iPhone 5s’s slow-motion capability by allowing users to film at 240 frames per second rather than just 120.

The front-facing camera for FaceTime has also been overhauled, with a new aperture that allows in 80% more light. The camera will also feature a burst mode that will take 10 photos in a single second and let the user pick the one that looks the best (the one with no blinking eyes, for instance). Apple marketing head Phil Schiller said the feature would be perfect for “burst selfies.”

TIME Markets

Facebook Is Now Worth $200 Billion

Facebook Holds f8 Developers Conference
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

The record-setting figure is still just one-third of Apple's market cap

Facebook’s valuation passed the $200 billion mark for the first time Monday. The company’s stock closed at $77.6, a new all-time high, giving it a market capitalization of $200.26 billion, according to Google Finance.

The social network has consistently impressed Wall Street analysts in its quarterly earnings reports over the last year thanks to robust growth in mobile usage and advertising revenue. Many analysts believe future prospects for the company are extremely high because Facebook has not yet begun to monetize acquisitions like Instagram and WhatsApp or place a significant number of pricey video ads in users’ News Feeds.

Facebook is also continuing to grow its user base quickly outside the U.S. The company announced today that it now has 100 million users in Africa, which it says is half the total number of Internet-connected people on the continent.

By comparison, Apple, the most valuable company in the world, had a market cap of $590 billion at the close of trading today. Google’s market cap was about $400 billion.

TIME technology

Amazon’s Fire Phone Is Now Just 99 Cents

AN AT&T worker holds the new Amazon Fire phone at an AT&T store on July 25, 2014 in San Francisco.
AN AT&T worker holds the new Amazon Fire phone at an AT&T store on July 25, 2014 in San Francisco. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

Critics turned off by an over-emphasis on selling the user Amazon products

Amazon’s first-ever smartphone now costs under a buck, the company announced Monday, after less than two months on the market. The Fire phone’s price has been cut to just 99 cents under a two-year contract with AT&T.

The online retailer is notoriously reticent to divulge sales figures for its specific products, but the fact that the Fire phone has tumbled nearly $200 in price in a matter of weeks implies that its sales were not up to Amazon’s expectations.

The device, Amazon’s latest ambitious foray into the world of electronics, launched during the summer to middling reviews. Critics praised its high-quality camera and 3D screen but were turned off by the limited app store offerings and over-emphasis on selling the user Amazon products.

Amazon’s price-drop comes one day before Apple is expected to launch two new, larger iPhones and a smartwatch.

TIME Companies

Facebook Now Has 100 Million Users in Africa

10% of all Africans now use the social network on a regular basis

While Facebook’s growth tapers off in the U.S., the social network is continuing to rack up new users abroad. The social network announced Monday that it now has more than 100 million monthly active users in Africa.

The figure means that nearly 10% of all Africans use Facebook on a regular basis. That’s also half of the 200 million Africans that are connected to the Internet, according to Facebook. More than 80% of Facebook’s users in Africa are visiting the site via mobile devices.

Facebook does not regularly break out userbase figures for specific countries, so there are no specific earlier numbers from Africa to compare it to, but the company had 411 million monthly active users outside Asia, Europe, the U.S. and Canada as of June, according to its latest quarterly earnings report. The company announced in April that it also had 100 million users in India.

Much of the company’s focus right now is on attracting more users in the developing world. Facebook’s Internet.org initiative recently launched a mobile app that provides free Internet access to wireless subscribers in Zambia. Earlier this year the social network also bought a drone company, which it plans to use to beam Internet access to remote areas.

TIME Retail

Twitter’s Newest Feature: Shopping

A step into e-commerce for social networking giant

Twitter is diving into the world of e-commerce with a new “Buy” button embedded directly into tweets, the company said Monday.

When clicked, the button will prompt users to enter their payment and shipping information to purchase a product. Twitter will then store that information to make future purchases more seamless. The company promised that Twitter-exclusive items would be available to purchase through the tweets.

The feature is currently available for a limited number of U.S. users on Twitter’s iOS and Android apps. Home Depot, Burberry and Pharrell are among the 20-plus brands and artists that will be offering products for sale during the feature’s early rollout.

“This is an early step in our building functionality into Twitter to make shopping from mobile devices convenient and easy, hopefully even fun,” Twitter said in a blog post.

Twitter has long been signaling that it has big ambitions in the world of mobile commerce. The company hired the former president of Ticketmaster as its first head of commerce last year and recently introduced a partnership with Amazon to let users place products in their Amazon shopping cart via a Twitter hashtag.

The opportunity is lucrative. Research firm eMarketer projects that mobile commerce revenue will climb above $50 billion in the U.S. in 2014. And Twitter’s not the only social network going for a piece of that pie: Facebook began testing a very similar “Buy” button back in July.

 

 

TIME technology

Twitpic Is Shutting Down, and It’s Blaming Twitter

Twitter Illustrations Ahead of Earnings Figures
The Twitter Inc. application and logo are displayed on a laptop computer and Apple Inc. iPhone 5s in this arranged photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, April 25, 2014. Bloomberg/Getty Images

“We're sad to see Twitpic is shutting down,” a Twitter spokesperson said.

The photo-sharing website Twitpic is shutting down due to a trademark dispute with Twitter, Twitpic said Thursday. In a blog post, Twitpic founder Noah Everett announced that the company would shutter its operations on September 25.

Everett said that Twitter’s lawyers had contacted Twitpic’s legal team demanding the company abandon its trademark application or risk losing access to Twitter’s API, the code that lets Twitpic users share photos over Twitter. “Unfortunately we do not have the resources to fend off a large company like Twitter to maintain our mark which we believe whole heartedly is rightfully ours,” Everett wrote. “Therefore, we have decided to shut down Twitpic.”

Twitpic was a popular service in Twitter’s early days as a means of sharing photos on the social network. As Twitter gained more features, it eventually made embedding photos a part of the main Twitter website and mobile apps, lessening the need for Twitpic. Twitter has also steadily narrowed the number of companies to which it grants full access to its API over the years.

When asked whether the allegations by Twitpic were true, a Twitter spokesperson said in an emailed statement that the social network has to protect its brand and trademarks. “We’re sad to see Twitpic is shutting down,” the spokesperson said. “We encourage developers to build on top of the Twitter service, as Twitpic has done for years, and we made it clear that they could operate using the Twitpic name. Of course, we also have to protect our brand, and that includes trademarks tied to the brand.”

Twitpic will launch a feature to let users export their photos and videos in the coming days.

 

TIME Regulation

Google Refunding Parents At Least $19 Million for Kids’ Unwanted Purchases

Holiday Shoppers Visit A Google Winter Wonderlab
A shopper plays the Riptide 2 GP video game on a Google Inc. Nexus 7 tablet computer at the Winter Wonderlab inside the Roseville Galleria mall in Roseville, California, U.S., on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Apple made a similar settlement and Amazon may do so as well

Google is the latest tech company to be dinged by federal regulators for making it too easy for kids to rack up unwanted in-app charges on their parents’ phones. The tech giant has agreed to a settlement of at least $19 million with the Federal Trade Commission to refund parents for their children’s unauthorized charges.

According to the FTC complaint, Google in 2011 did not require any password authorization to confirm in-app charges in its Google Play Store, then called the Android Market. The feature was added later, but inputting a password opened up a 30-minute window in which purchases could be made without a password confirmation. These issues led some parents to complain that their kids managed to rack up hundreds of dollars in charges buying virtual goods in games and other apps, according to the FTC. Seemingly harmless children’s mobile games can sometimes have individual items or features priced at as much as $200.

In addition to the refunds, Google will be required to get express consent from consumers when charging for in-app purchases in the future.

The Google settlement is the latest action in an ongoing campaign by the FTC to force tech companies to make their mobile payment systems more transparent. The Commission reached a $32.5 million settlement with Apple over the same issue in January, and is currently suing Amazon to seek similar refunds for customers whose kids placed unwanted charges.

TIME stocks

Apple Stock Slips Ahead of New iPhone Unveiling

Apple Hosts Its Worldwide Developers Conference
Attendees gather at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference at the Moscone West center on June 2, 2014 in San Francisco, California. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

After Samsung rolled out new phones Wednesday

Apple stock dipped more than 4% on Wednesday, just a few days before a Sept. 9 event where the company is widely expected to unveil the iPhone 6. The tech giant’s shares closed at $98.94, finishing the day below $100 for the first time since August 18.

There could be a number of culprits for the Apple slide. The company’s iCloud service is at the center of a widely publicized hacking scandal in which nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities were stolen from Apple accounts and posted on the Internet (Apple says the incident was a “very targeted attack” and its services were not compromised). Samsung also announced its latest set of large-screen smartphones Wednesday, including the newest iteration in the Galaxy Note Line and a new phone with a curved screen. The iPhone 6 is expected to have a much larger screen than older iPhone models as a response to the success of Samsung’s bigger phones.

Apple had been in the midst of a long rally in share price since it beat expectations in its July quarterly earnings report and announced a 7-to-1 stock split. In addition to the virtually assured iPhone 6 unveiling, the company is rumored to be debuting a smartwatch and a mobile payments system next week as well.

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