Posts tagged Apple Watch

What To Expect In 2015 For Wearables

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2014 finished with a bang, at least if you call USA and North Korea bickering over a Seth Rogen satire movie a bang. Besides that, 2014 was a year of smartwatches, bigger phones, and flat design at its finest. The new line of iPhones was released, with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus making headlines for their giant size (by Apple’s standards).  iOS 8 was released on September 17th, and Android even hopped on the software wave when they announced Android Lollipop at their recent Google I/O conference. The internet suffered many different hacks, leaks and viruses starting with Heartbleed and the NSA leak, and finishing with the Sony Playstation and Xbox hacks.  And offsetting the ever-growing smartphone size, smaller smartwatches are starting to take off in popularity, with Android Wear OS released alongside many new Android smartwatches from a variety of manufacturers.

The Smartwatches Of 2015

And that leads me to the biggest smartwatch announcement: Apple Watch. Last year I said Apple Watch would be a big highlight for this year, and it was. Well, at least the announcement was. Set to be designed in three styles, Apple Watch Sport, Apple Watch, and Apple Watch Edition, the Apple Watch wasn’t actually released, despite all the press and hype even from a year back. The only promise Apple gave us was a public release of “Early 2015”, which promises to be a big event whenever it happens. As great as the release of the smartwatch will be, the first time Apple will be branching into a new vertical since Steve Jobs’ death, there will be some unavoidable consequences. For instance, there have been many smaller smartwatches makers, most prominently the “Kickstarted” Pebble, along Samsung and the Android gang’s watches. Some of the less well-funded makers will likely need to sell or potentially go out of business.

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The fact is that consumers tend to favor sticking with their native tech ecosystem, , just as the product companies desire. It’s just easier. But also, with so much more money and development resources, Apple is hard to beat in terms of quality of hardware and software. It’s a little sad, as some of these startups and smaller watches were actually not that bad, but will still likely fall prey to Apple’s enormity.

More Wearables

So far in the progression of wearables, smartwatches have been the only successful niche. Smart glasses, such as Google Glass, were a lot like the segway. There was a lot of hype, but no actual use in daily life. For instance, Google Glass was a highlight of Google’s I/O conference, a special restricted public testing called the Explorer Program. With the I/O announcement, and the Explorer Program, the excitement level was high for the public release in the beginning of 2014. Unfortunately, when the public release did come, nothing really happened. Partly, this was because of all the controversy of Glass’ pretty much secret filming capability, leading to it being banned in many places. But also, the whole concept was to make a device that can seamlessly let you access the internet without pulling out your phone, but the execution of that idea lacked. First of all, the glasses looked geeky. I can’t lie, when you wear something like that you’re kind of throwing your  style out the window for technology. Also, the main control of the device is speaking, which doesn’t really work when in public, not because of the sound quality, but because you just look weird talking to no one, while staring blankly into space.

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So, what comes next? As I’ve argued, smartwatches will become big whether the product is significantly useful out of the gate or not.  As the line of products grows, just as it did with iPhones way back when, their usefulness and quality will increase dramatically.  The key to a successful wearable is that it’s both novel and useful. Most wearables that have failed to succeed lost their battles because they weren’t useful enough, such as (most notably) Google Glass, some Kickstarter gadgets, and early smartwatches. Many concepts simply didn’t have enough features and interaction with the outside world to make a dent in our daily lives.  So it’s pretty hard to predict exactly what type of wearable will find the most success this year, though CES featured a few “out of the box” products that start to hint at what types of products might come out of blue in 2015: for example, mind reading.

Mind Reading

Ok, ok, maybe not exactly mind reading, but products like Thync, a small device you wear on your head that changes your mood using electrical pulses, and Mellow Mind, another headpiece that measures your state of relaxation and with music teaches you to relax, hint at a new branch of technologies working to understand, read, and even manipulate your mind. However whimsical, the popular neural-controlled cat-eared Necomimi may show a direction that consumer and lifestyle products are headed. As much of human existence has been focused on interacting with the world through our fingers, direct interaction via the brain is quite exciting. Not just for consumers, to see what will be made from them to use and marvel over, but also for entrepreneurs, companies and scientists, as a world of possibilities opens up. We often see technologies interacting with brains in sci-fi, whether it’s operating your home, high-tech simulated worlds, or much more, it really is amazing that we are already staring to go in that direction with CES 2015.  As scientists and engineers become more adept in their understanding of direct interaction via neurons and electrical pulses, we will hopefully reach a stage where all this practical interaction with technology will be possible, and sci-fi will become real once again.

Apple September Conference Part 1 – Apple Watch

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Every year, Apple always says that this new upgrade and this new release is the most significant since the release of the first iPhone. Everybody has heard it. Every year, you’re like, “Yeah, sure.” But this year, Apple may not be lying. At their annual September conference today, Apple released one off the biggest new hardware releases ever, apart from the release of the first iPad. Even though the iWatch (actually the Apple Watch, as it’s really called) was widely known to come out at this event, and very highly anticipated, Apple’s main tactic of somehow surprising everyone with their new features and technologies. Along with the Watch, two new iPhones were showed off, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the predicted bigger “phablet”, a 5.5 inch iPhone. All these hardware upgrades, and still Apple managed to release iOS 8, although they had already released it back in the WWDC. But, to start off, I decided that it’s only fair to satisfy your curiosity and get going with the Apple Watch.

Apple Watch

There’s so much to say here. To start though: the hardware. In essence, the Watch is a Apple-like version of most of the smartwatches already out there on the market. A upward facing rectangular screen is the main show of the Watch. As with all their other devices released today, the Watch has a curved body coming off of the screen, and coming back around to the flip-side of the wearable. Unlike other smartwatches out there, the Apple Watch implements a new technology as the main notification output, rather than the extremely popular vibration technique. The Watch has Apple’s new Taptic Engine, which allows the user to get notified by a literal tap on the wrist. On the bottom of the device, there is a little pad, also containing a GPS, Accelerometer and Heart Rate sensor, that can tap you on the wrist, and even tap you differently for different activities. For instance, it can tap you on the right side of your wrist to go left for walking directions, and on the left side of your wrist to go left.

On the right side of the watch, there’s two different manual buttons, both very important. The first button, located below the other one, is just a rounded off rectangular button that when clicked, brings up a page filled with little thumbnails of all your contact, which from there you can call and text.  The second button is really one of the things that sets Apple’s Watch from any other watch on the market. This button also influences the whole OS for the watch. And quite frankly, this button is a brilliant design element to add onto what is already there. This button is the Digital Crown. All watches have crowns, so Apple decided to add one in theirs. Except on the Watch, the crown does two things. It acts as the home button, so you just push it to go home. But second of all, the button acts a zoom. Practically the whole OS is based off of this capability, as that way more info can be put on the screen since no fingers are obstructing it. And this leads us to the OS.

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From what we can tell from the Keynote and videos released afterwards, the OS is built into “neighborhoods” of apps, which you and scroll and pan through using your fingers. Each app is a little circle, and the circles are arranged in a shapeless blob. Wether you can customize the placement of the circular apps on the black background hasn’t been released yet, but I’m assuming you can, as you are able to on any other Apple OS. To go to a specific app, you pan the screen so the chosen app is in the obvious center of the screen, and zoom using the crown. The screen zooms in, showing you the app’s page. Developers will have to use this feature of zooming in and out to travel between pages inside the app, as the photos apps does that Apple showed off in the Keynote. When you zoom in on the app, a collage of all your photos will appear, from which you can zoom in again to look at specific pictures, and swipe to go between individual pictures as the info is now big enough to have a finger in the way and not totally be obstructed.

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The screen of the watch is small, and that makes a problem to both the software and hardware designers at Apple. How to make an easy way give input or control without obstructing the screen. The first way is the crown, but there needs to be one more way, as it’s to hard to ask developers to use the zoom feature all the time. So they made a special technology only for the Watch that has to do with touch. Since your fingers are so big compared to the screen, the tapping interface can really only apply when there is only one big button on the screen, (no typing, all communications are done with voice dictation and word recommendation) and the info takes up the whole page. But, that may be hard to implement, so the technology they invented allows the device to differentiate a tap, a short touch on the screen, from a press, a longer, harder touch. That way, one virtual button can be used for two purposes.

Unfortunately, the watch won’t be available until early 2015, but as a teaser for what will come next year, Apple released the three different styles of the Watch that they have meticulously designed: Apple Watch Sport, Apple Watch, and Apple Watch Edition. The regular Apple Watch is the standard design, made from a stainless steel or a black stainless steel material. Another great aspect of the Watch in terms of customizability is the ability to easily remove one band and replace it with another. Since there are many different bands, if you buy, say, a sport fluoroelastomer neon green band, and that isn’t really appropriate for a meeting with the CEO of your company, you could exchange it with a silver chain Apple Watch band. Of course, the material of your watch will stay the same, but that wouldn’t change how you use it very significantly.

Overview

There is a lot of new and exciting technology packed into this relatively tiny device. The Taptic Engine, the touch/tap differentiator, the Digital Crown, and more. As has been widely discussed through the tech world, everybody knows the consequences of this release: the closing of many small tech companies. Start-ups like Pebble will fail, as all the money coming to them will immediately go to the Apple Watch. But for the consumers, the question is, is the $400 worth it?

The watch is meant to be a segway between your phone and everyday life. Many people have the unfortunate addiction of constantly checking their phones because of practically meaningless notifications from a variety of social networks and games. The way I see it, the watch would make you able to live you life without having to take your phone out of your pocket. Sure, you need to have your phone with you for GPS and Wifi, but other than that you can do pretty much everything else right on your watch without much effort.

Apple iWatch_interface_1

Now that’s great. But what’s the difference between the Apple Watch, and say, Android Wear’s line and OS? Well, for starters, the aesthetics are different. In my opinion, Apple software makes it easier for third party apps to be easily incorporated, as the Android Wear software doesn’t have an recognizable home screen. Also, Apple’s design is just more appealing to me, but that differs from person to person. But, the main reason why Apple is so successful, and can attract so many die-hard fans is that their devices work so well together, something that companies like Samsung and Google haven’t mastered yet. If you have a Mac, an iPad will work much better than a Nexus tablet for you. And if you have an iPad, a iPhone will benefit you greatly over a galaxy S4, especially with the new continuity feature in iOS 8. And if you have an iPhone, the Apple Watch is your best option.

Wether you get an Apple Watch or a Android Wear watch depends on one thing: wether you like Apple or Android software. The design, the features, the specs. If you have on product in the line, you will most likely get the other. Altogether though, the Apple Watch is a cumulation of many great design features and new technologies, and will certainly live on in the history of Apple as a great invention.

 

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