What Did We Just Learn About The Apple Watch? Not Much

We were expecting Apple’s media event to answer all the questions we had about the Apple Watch — but in the end it mostly covered old ground and a few non-wearable announcements. Much of what was said on stage we’d heard six months before, though there are a handful of new details to pore over.

For starters, there’s the simple matter of availability and pricing. Apple will take preorders for its smartwatch starting April 10, and will begin actual sales in nine countries on April 24. It will debut with a range of designs that range in price from $349 to more than $10,000.

The ability to make calls from your wrist is something Apple hadn’t previously mentioned—and which you can’t yet do on Android Wear. Watch owners can use the device’s integrated microphone and speaker to initiate and receive calls—though whether you’ll want to walk down the street talking to your watch is another question.

It sounds like it’s going to be the same as using your iPhone in loudspeaker mode, except you’ll have both hands free to carry groceries or cling on to a subway train pole. With the limited range of the smartwatch’s internal components, you might need your wrist pretty close to your face for it to work—but we’ll know for sure when the first review units arrive.

Assault On The Battery

We also got a new hint on battery life. Apple CEO Tim Cook said the watch will last 18 hours over a variety of activities, although that doesn’t clarify things much beyond the “all-day battery life” phrase he used at the original Apple Watch unveiling last year. And the fine print in the official press release helpful notes that “battery life depends on device settings, usage and other factors.” So again until we get to test the watch out we’ll have to take Apple’s word for it.

[Update, 3:34pm PT: Apple added a new Apple Watch battery-life page to its site that gives some additional details about its claims. Here’s what it says about the 18-hour claim:

All-day battery life is based on 18 hours with the following use: 90 time checks, 90 notifications, 45 minutes of app use, and a 30-minute workout with music playback from Apple Watch via Bluetooth, over the course of 18 hours. Battery life varies by use, configuration, and many other factors; actual results will vary.

The same page notes that charging the Apple Watch should take about 90 minutes to reach 80% battery capacity and 2.5 hours to reach 100%.]

So it’s possible that light users will get a whole day’s use from the Apple Watch, just as they do with their iPhones. Any kind of serious activity, though—making calls, tracking runs, going on an Apple Pay-powered shopping spree—and you might be looking for a charger by the early afternoon.

That’s a big problem for a device designed to be worn constantly, always listening out for input and monitoring your vital statistics at regular intervals. We heard nothing about the rumored low battery mode that some insiders say kicks into action once the battery life dips below a certain level.

Apple VP of technology Kevin Lynch was on hand, as he was in September, to showcase a few different apps, but again this was mostly treading old ground: apps to browse photos, unlock hotel doors and send doodles. We did find out that Apple Watch apps are handled by a separate app built into iOS 8.2, which rolls out from today. If you don’t have an Apple Watch, you can use it to see what you’re missing.

Aside from prices and shipping dates, there was very little in Apple’s Spring Forward showcase that we didn’t already know. We’ll have to wait until April to get the big questions about battery life and day-to-day use answered.

Image via Apple

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