Earth’s reigning tech overlord just finished a San Francisco show highlighting Apple’s recent and upcoming advancements, but the star of the show was Apple Watch—wearable tech that’s sure to bring humans one step closer to digital augmentation.
Available for preorder April 10 and purchase April 24, the cheapest model costs $349 and the 18k gold-plated top model is $10,000. Apple predicts sales will range from 10 million to 20 million in the first year alone, which would make it the most popular wearable technology ever. In coming years, these sales may rival 100 million—the number of iPhones sold last year—once people convince themselves they can’t live without the Watch.
Like smartphones, the Watch is amazing yet unnecessary. As a fitness tracker, the Watch features a heart-rate monitor, accelerometer, and burned-calories counter. It shows a simple diagram of how long you sit, stand, or exercise, and keeps detailed metrics on whatever variety of exercises you do at the gym. All the data can be shared with a third party, so you can take Cook’s romantic advice and “Send your heart rate to let someone know you’re thinking about them.“
As a debit or credit card alternative, the Watch is continuing Apple Pay’s gradual path to relevance by putting the feature conveniently on your wrist. Visa, Master Card, and Amex cardholders can give their account information to Pay for the luxury of purchasing with a wave of the wrist. Though stores such as Starbucks and Panera Bread have embraced the tech, the world still waits for Apple’s in-store reader device to become ubiquitous.
The Watch’s primary purpose is to put the features of the iPhone conveniently on the user’s wrist. “Anything you can receive on your phone, you can receive on the Watch,” Cook says. Siri, apps, emails, messaging, calling, music, and photos are all pushed from the user’s phone to the Watch, and notifications make themselves known with a “tapping” vibration.
The tapping can also be used to get the attention of a friend. Digital Touch is another new feature, which allows wearers to sketch a picture that is instantly transmitted to another wearer’s screen.
The watch does not have a camera, keyboard, GPS, or Wi-Fi, but it will stream Grumpy Cat memes and map your way across the city via the iPhone in your pocket. Selfies require the iPhone, and texting requires you to speak to your wrist James Bond-style. Unsurprisingly, the Watch is only compatible with iPhones. Linkable models include the 5, 5C, 5S, 6, and 6 Plus.
The $349 starting price makes the Watch one of the cheapest new categories Apple has ever introduced, but wristband customization is likely to boost the average consumer’s price tag to around $500. The Watch is available in three collections—Sport, Watch, and Edition—which have aluminum, steel, and gold faces. Digital displays include numerous changeable options that range from the classic numbers to seriously-WTF-time-is-it.
Many believe Tim Cook lacks the fist-slamming megalomania necessary to wear the pants of his predecessor because flaws have popped up in products under his reign. The iPhone 6 had bendgate, and the 5C is now getting belated blowback for occasionally exploding into a third-degree skin torch.
The Apple Watch is already catching flak for its battery life. It allows 18 hours of active/passive use and three days of standby. A one-day lifespan may be a joke in the watch world, but it’s the standard for smartphones. If a nightly recharging is the only downside to this wearable tech, all seems forgivable.
If the Watch catches on the way Apple’s massive PR push wants it to, the world will find it the next must-have tech. Like smartphones, what seems unnecessary now will probably be sucking the social skills out of every American teen tomorrow.