What exactly is making the Apple Watch tick? The good folks over at iFixit have answered that burning question for us by taking apart one of Apple’s new devices. They discovered that the screen and battery are fairly easy to remove but the watch’s S1 integrated computer chip, which Apple has disclosed little information about, is harder to wrench loose. Below the chip, there are hints of new health features that Apple may yet implement in the watch if they receive regulatory approval. Check out the full breakdown of the Apple Watch in the pictures above.
"Three perfectly pitched TV ads"
Apple product launches have been known to go wrong. Servers have crashed (iPhone 3G). Mobs have thrown eggs (iPhone 4S). Line squatters have spoiled the optics (iPhone 6/6+).
There was nothing wrong with the optics Friday. Whatever is happening in the space where demand overwhelms supply is happening behind factory and firewalls, well out of sight.
What we’re seeing instead are three perfectly pitched TV ads and a queue of Parisians outside Colette on a sunny April day in Paris. AppleInsider’s Daniel Eran Dilger was there.
Things could still go bad, but so far so good.
Hats off to Angela Ahrendts, her team at Apple Retail and whoever else had a hand.
"They're actually starting to do their jobs"
Third-party apps aren't as good as they could be (yet)
The Apple Watch, Apple’s first foray in into the wearable world, is already one of the best smartwatches on the market. But there’s one big thing holding it back.
When you get the Apple Watch, you’ll find it preloaded with a suite of full-powered, Apple-made apps — Messages, Mail, Calendar and more. If those aren’t enough for you, there’s also an Apple Watch app store, already packed with third-party apps from companies like Foursquare, Uber and JetBlue.
However, those third-party Apple Watch apps have a big drawback: They aren’t “native” apps running on the Watch itself. Instead, they’re basically extensions of their iPhone counterparts, with all the code running on your iPhone while the Apple Watch displays their user interface. They also can’t actively utilize some of the Apple Watch’s hardware, like the heart rate monitor.
What this means for you as a user is the third-party Apple Watch apps just aren’t as powerful as they could be. That’s a shame, because so much of our digital devices’ functionality comes from full-fledged third-party apps — think about how often you use Facebook or Google Maps on your iPhone.
Still, some of today’s Apple Watch apps make do with the limitations. And Apple has said developers can start making truly native apps sometime later this year.
If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that Apple Watch developers can use the time between now and then to experiment and learn about how people use their Apple Watch. Plenty of today’s Apple Watch apps say “we’re here,” but they don’t offer a compelling use case for a smartwatch app (You have to cut developers some slack, though: Many haven’t gotten much, if any, time with the actual device they were coding for). With lots of Apple Watches out in the wild, developers will learn more about how people respond to them and make their apps better down the road. Some developers, however, will learn a painful lesson: What makes a great smartphone app does not necessarily make a great smartwatch app.
For many frustrated web users, this is one of life’s great mysteries
Most computer users know little about how Wi-Fi works. In fact, one of the only things many do know is that sometimes it doesn’t. But even a little bit of background knowledge can go a long way towards making your Internet connection zip along.
Initially developed as a way to replace your ethernet cable — the cord that used to connect computers to the web after we ditched dial-up — Wi-Fi is a popular technology that provides interconnectivity between devices.
“People are probably most familiar with using Wi-Fi as a way to connect to the Internet, since for most people it’s the network they use at home or at work,” says Wi-Fi Alliance CEO Edgar Figueroa. “However, Wi-Fi has evolved and now it’s a replacement for many different cables such as video cables, audio cables, USB cables.”
But most importantly, Wi-Fi currently carries more than 60% of the world’s Internet traffic. Interestingly enough, this great achievement is basically done with radio waves, though it’s a little more complicated than your car stereo. Unlike the FM receiver in your car, Wi-Fi is essentially two radios communicating back and forth that use lower power and broadcast over a much shorter distance. These two radios let web users download data from the Internet as well as upload information — even just submitting addresses via your browser counts in this two-way communication.
Another way Wi-Fi is more sophisticated than terrestrial radio is that it uses the Internet Protocol to communicate. This language of the Internet makes Wi-Fi very resilient and very structured. “Every single transmission that we send and receive has that requirement for confirmation,” says Figueroa. “It takes a lot of investment and orchestration.” Imagine instead of sending data, you’re shipping a package across the world with request for delivery confirmation, says Figueroa. That’s what the Internet Protocol is like, only it applies to every single byte transmitted.
And once that data is flying through the air in radio waves, it’s subject to interference, victimized by everything from other Wi-Fi signals to radio waves emitted by microwave ovens to cement walls. That’s where Wi-Fi’s two frequencies, 2.4 gigahertz and 5 gigahertz, come in. Wi-Fi can broadcast on both frequencies, a benefit that helps its signal cut through all the noise and deliver a fast, strong signal from your wireless router to your computer.
“Essentially these frequencies are like two different FM radio stations,” says Figueroa. According to physics, the lower the frequency, the farther a transmission can go. With Wi-Fi, 2.4 gigahertz is the lower frequency, so it can reach computers located farther away than than the 5 gigahertz band can. But 5 gigahertz offers the capacity to carry more transmissions. “Imagine if you had a highway that went very far but it was only a one lane highway,” says Figueroa describing 2.4 gigahertz Wi-Fi. By comparison, 5 gigahertz Wi-Fi is a highway that doesn’t go as far, but it offers 6 lanes, so it can make traffic move faster.
“Five gigahertz Wi-Fi offers enough coverage in terms of area that it can cover the whole home,” he says. “So for most people, the distance is not really as much of an issue as the speed.”
But ever since the age of cordless phones, people have had problems with radio signals crossing. The issue continues today with neighbors and their Wi-Fi networks. One way to get around this is by setting your frequency to broadcast on a certain channel. While that sounds technical, it’s really not. Most routers are good at automatically detecting the best channel to use. And 5 gigahertz networks have many more channels than networks broadcast on the 2.4 gigahertz frequency, another reason to use the new standard, if you can.
For people who have patchy Wi-Fi, fine-tuning their network is a better idea than simply installing a network extender. “Network extenders are becoming more popular,” says Figueroa. “They’re repeaters, so they take what might be a faint signal coming from upstairs into the downstairs environment and then, essentially, they’re repeating that signal.” But the problem with these extenders is that they propel an already weak signal. So, if your wireless Internet is only transmitting at half the speed it should, the extender will repeat that signal, pushing out an even weaker signal itself. You could be standing next to the extender and have full bars on your phone or laptop because, technically, you’ve got a strong wireless signal, but your Internet speed and performance will be degraded and poor.
Wi-Fi also has a number of security features. To access the network, users must have a password for WPA2, also known as Wi-Fi Protected Access (the 2 represents the fact that this feature is in its second generation). This is where you put in your password to get onto the Wi-Fi network. There’s another security feature called Advanced Encryption Standard (better known as AES) that was developed by the U.S. government to keep data safe as it transmits from one device to the other. “Every instance of every communication that goes over Wi-Fi is exclusive in that it’s encrypted and only the two parties involved understand it,” says Figueroa.
But perhaps the most important feature of Wi-Fi is that it’s backwards compatible. This is how all your old computers are able to connect with your new, super-fast routers. “If you go buy a Wi-Fi (router) today, it works for that device you may have bought back in 2000,” says Figueroa. “There’s not too many technologies that you can say that about.”
This is what it's like to open a new Apple Watch
Apple’s long-awaited Watch is finally available. Customers who bought the device are starting to get their devices in the mail today, April 24. (The Watch is not being sold in Apple Stores.) Developers, include TIME, are releasing have rolled out apps for the device. If you’ve ordered one but not received it yet or still unsure, here’s a closer look at what comes in the box:
Flick through 12 of the day's biggest headlines and tap for a faster look at the news+ READ ARTICLE
TIME is on the Apple Watch. TIME’s new mobile app brings the latest headlines right to your wrist. An intuitive user interface allows readers to swipe through The Brief, TIME’s up-to-the-minute collection of the most important stories of the moment.
Tap a headline to open the full article on your phone within the TIME Mobile App or play the audio version of The Brief to have the news read aloud while you’re on the go. Users of the app—developed by Time Inc.’s Seattle-based mobile engineering team—can adjust the volume using audio controls on the watch, the phone or a car via the dashboard.
The Brief has more than 850,000 subscribers. Now they can get it with just a glance at the wrist. Download it here.
Don’t have the Apple Watch yet? Sign up for The Brief below.
Apple early adopters have historically paid a big premium for early access to less-than-fully-baked products. Is the Apple Watch worth it right now?
Our long, smartwatch-less, national nightmare is finally over.
The Apple Watch was officially released today. That doesn’t mean you can walk up to the counter and buy one yet—watches may not be coming to retail outlets until May—but now is as good a time as any to ask the all-important question: Should you, gentle reader, become an Apple Watch early adopter?
The answer may simply come down to your feelings about the product, which the reviewers tell us is a cool, somewhat flawed, but legitimately mainstream first foray into wearable technology. If the idea of literally strapping an Apple mobile device to your body doesn’t sound very appealing, then the decision isn’t complicated: Skip it for now. At the other end of the spectrum are tech junkies like me for whom a first-generation Apple Watch isn’t a question at all, but an inevitability.
But for many normal people who make rational purchasing decisions based on costs and benefits—let me know what that’s like sometime!—the Apple Watch presents a real dilemma: Do you take the plunge and get in early on the smartwatch trend, or do you wait until the kinks have been worked out?
A short history of Apple price cutting
Your decision should largely depend on two variables: How much cheaper and better will the Apple Watch be in the future, and how long will one have to wait until that future arrives?
A look at Apple’s major new product categories going back to the beginning of the millennium gives us some insight into both of these unknowns.
The original iPod. Released in October of 2001, it cost $399 and shipped with five gigabytes of storage. A year and a half later, the first major hardware revision—which introduced the dock connector and a greatly improved and less break-prone interface—doubled the base model’s storage and dropped the price down to $299.
The iPhone. A cautionary tale for early adopters if there ever was one. Launched in late June 2007 with the 8 gigabyte model retailing for $599, the iPhone’s price was cut to $399 less than three months later. And just over a year after the original release, Apple shipped the iPhone 3G at $199, a 66% price reduction.
Apple TV. Not all of Apple’s new product categories have seen their price fall quite so fast. The Apple TV didn’t get cheaper for three and a half years; but between March 2007 and September 2010 it went from basically a $299 media center PC to a $99 streaming box.
The iPad. Some might argue that the price of the iPad hasn’t changed much at all. More than four years after its release, the base model still sells for the original sticker price of $499. That said, the many consumers who waited two and a half years for the $329 iPad Mini feel they made a very wise decision—and it’s hard to argue considering that sales estimates suggests it’s the iPad most people actually wanted.
So what’s the bottom line? Well, I crunched the numbers together (you can see my admittedly unscientific methodology in the footnote below) and found that since 2000, the average major new consumer-product category from Apple fell 48% in price between the original launch and the first major price cut, which on average took 2 years and 3 months.
Here’s two graphics I put together with the data:
(Source: Money research, Apple.com)
One might look at the graphic and argue that the average obscures two dramatically different stories: The iPhone and Apple TV experienced very large price cuts, while the iPad and iPod saw more modest reductions. But even the smallest price drop, the iPod’s, was 25% in less than 18 months.
So there’s a clear lesson in the big picture: Early adopters have paid a significant premium to be among the first to own a new line of Apple devices.
The Product-Isn’t-Good-Yet Tax
Then there’s another big cost to early adopters: purchasing something that’s about to get a lot better very soon.
To a certain extent, this phenomenon is built into every electronics purchase. The computer you buy today won’t be quite as good as the computer you could buy a few months, let alone years, from now.
But it’s especially true when it comes to brand new product categories. It isn’t just that the price of Apple’s post-2000 innovations fell when the first serious revisions hit the market. It’s that the new and less expensive versions were much better than the originals.
It’s hard to believe now, but the original iPhone didn’t ship with an app store, group messaging, high-speed internet, or even the ability to copy and paste text. It was also exclusive to one carrier, AT&T, which at the time was notorious for spotty service. “The iPhone was crippled when it first came out,” recalls Jean-Louis Gassée, a former Apple executive interviewed in the recently released biography, Becoming Steve Jobs. It was only a year later, when the iPhone 3G was released, “that the iPhone was truly finished.”
One could argue the Apple Watch is similarly crippled. Cupertino’s latest widget completely depends on the iPhone for a GPS and data connection, turning the watch into a slightly souped-up timepiece when worn on its own. It’s not hard to imagine that a future Apple Watch model that could exist indepently, making it a truly revolutionary device instead of an (extremely advanced) accessory.
The question for prospective early adopters, then, is how long are they willing to wait until the Apple Watch is also “truly finished.” And how much are they willing to pay right now?
*Here’s how I crunched the numbers: The average includes the iPad, iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV. I didn’t consider the Macbook and Macbook Pro to be new products because both were extensions of a previous product line—the iBook and Powerbook, respectively—and launched at the same price points as their predecessors. I didn’t include the iPod touch, which Apple considers an extension of the iPod brand, for the same reason. I counted the original iPhone’s 8GB as the base model because the 4GB version was discontinued after less than three months.
Assuming you actually got one today
The Apple Watch is set to ship today, and assuming you’re one of the lucky buyers actually getting their new wearable sometime soon, you’re probably on the hunt for some new apps.
While truly native third party Apple Watch apps aren’t coming until later this year, there are plenty of Apple Watch apps worth downloading right away. The five apps below are a great place to get started, performing functions that actually make sense for a smartwatch:
Car-hailing service Uber’s Apple Watch app makes it dead simple to request a pickup where you’re currently standing, which feels very James Bond — assuming Bond needed a ride home from the bar for some reason. Currently, the app defaults to the kind of Uber you’ve got selected on your iPhone (UberX, UberBLACK, UberT and so on).
The best weather app for iOS is just as fantastic on the Apple Watch. When you’re out on the town and it’s about to rain on your parade, Dark Sky will send you gentle notifications that it’s time to get indoors — or find an umbrella, at least. Dark Sky also gives you more in-depth forecast information when you’re planning your wardrobe for the day.
Once you buy movie tickets online or with Fandango’s iPhone app, they’ll appear on your Apple Watch with a scannable code all set for showtime — just flash your wrist, and you’re in. See ya, paper stubs.
No more fumbling around your pocket for your phone in hopes you load up Shazam’s music-IDing app before you miss that catchy-but-unidentifiable song. Just let your Apple Watch do the listening for you.
Check your flight status and load up your boarding pass right on your Apple Watch with JetBlue’s app. Plenty of other airlines are boasting similar features, including Delta, American Airlines, WestJet and more.
Craving a venti two-pump vanilla non-fat extra-whip latte? Starbucks’ Apple Watch app lets you find the nearest stores as well as pay for your order via Passbook (Starbucks doesn’t support Apple Pay). You can also see if you’ve got any spending rewards ready to go.
RunKeeper’s Apple Watch app will let you track your runs while leaving your iPhone at home (unless you want GPS tracking). It’s not clear if RunKeeper will be more useful than the Apple Watch’s built-in fitness apps, but it does boast a feature that blocks all incoming notifications while you’re out on a jog.
Just after midnight on Friday, April 10, Apple officially started taking pre-orders for the Apple Watch (to be released April 24). The device has garnered a lot of interest from shoppers and the media alike. But let’s be honest – the new Apple Watch isn’t for everyone. You need an Apple iPhone to use it, so Android smartphone owners are out of luck. The device is brand new and hasn’t been battle tested. And with a price range that starts at $349 and runs all the way up to $17,000, it’s certainly not a bargain, either.
Good news, however: There are plenty of worthy Android and iPhone-compatible smart watches that don’t share these very specific Apple Watch weaknesses. To prove the point, we’ve compiled this list of great Apple Watch alternatives below that are definitely worth a look.
Pebble Time Steel
If you haven’t taken a look at the Pebble smart watch since its black-and-white e-paper formative days, you owe the company a second look. It’s latest watch, the Pebble Time Steel, has an upgraded 1.25” color e-paper display, a 3D accelerometer, compass and a mic for voice commands. The Steel connects to your iOS or Android smartphone via Bluetooth to control music and receive emails, messages and texts. Plenty of third-party apps are available for the watch, as well (RunKeeper, Weather Channel). The best feature of the Pebble Time Steel may be its battery life, however – it can go a full 10 days without a full charge.
The main downside to the Pebble Time Steel is that it’s running neither an Apple-based nor an Android-based operating system. That’s not a huge problem – there are plenty of solid third-party apps available for the Steel, from RunKeeper, Misfit, The Weather Channel and more big names. But it simply won’t have the same kind of intense third-party support that giants like Apple and Google can command.
The Pebble Time Steel is coming this July with a price of $299 in brushed stainless, matte black and gold finishes.
Samsung Gear Fit
At first glance, you might not immediately recognize the Samsung Gear Fit as a fully featured smart watch – its long, 1.84” AMOLED digital screen looks like it belongs on an activity monitor. But really, that’s what the waterproof Gear Fit is – it’s an activity monitor for fitness fanatics that doubles as a smart watch. It features an accelerometer, gyroscope and heart rate sensor to accurately track all your exercise. But it also has the smart watch features most buyers are looking for, like receiving emails and SMS messages, displaying call notifications and more. And it does it all at a killer price point.
The lightweight Samsung Gear Fit works with most Samsung Galaxy branded Android smartphones and tablets. You can find the Gear Fit at Amazon.com for just $133.37.
LG G Watch R
Looking for a smart watch with a more classic analog watch look? Check out the LG G Watch R. Like the Apple Watch, the water-resistant G Watch R tracks calories burned, sleep quality and other important health and fitness metrics. It runs Android Wear wearable operating system, so it runs a multitude of apps, including Google Maps, Edmondo Running and Facebook Messenger.
The sporty LG G Watch R is compatible with the Android phones running Android 4.3 and higher. It is available on Amazon.com for $299.
The Motorola Moto 360 is a beautiful smart watch that pairs with Android 4.3 smartphones and higher. It features a scratch-resistant, 1.5” circular touch screen, plenty of fitness tracking functions and face customization options, 512MB of RAM and the Android Wear wearable operating system. It can receive call alerts, text messages, social media updates, GPS directions and more. You can even send short messages via voice command.
The Moto 360 charges at night, though be forewarned – its battery life is less than stellar, especially if you use it often. Many owners complain that their Moto 360 dies before the end of the day (10 to 12 hours). Still, if you can handle this notable shortcoming, you can get this great smartwatch for just $179.00 on Amazon.
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