The Apple iWatch - How Does It Stack up Against the Competition and Is It worth Your Money?
The Apple iWatch was one of the most anticipated products to hit the market this year ever since its news of its development were announcement by Apple in 2014. During its pre-order phase Apple took more orders of the iWatch in the first day (10th April) than Google sales for the Android Wear watches during the all of 2014.
If the release of the iWatch has captured your attention, then there's a good chance you're asking yourself is it really worth the money, how much does it cost, and what’s it like to use and how does it compare to the competition? Although one question in particular that's baffling me is how they've come up with the staggering valuation of $24,000 for the gold plated 'Watch Edition'?!
These are all things I am going to look into to understand what caused people to go so crazy about the iWatch, when products like the Pebble and Samsung Gear haven’t sold nearly as well.
Apple opened up pre-ordering on the 10th of April and received such huge demand for the product that even though the official launch date was the 24th of April, you will find it very difficult to find one of these watches in store. So cancel your trip down to your local Apple shop because in-store displays have now been postponed until June.
Apple has launched a range of Apple iWatch variants from its basic model with a plastic strap, to an integrated metal strap and even a gold plated premium version.
Let's take a look at the variants of these watches and their respective prices. The cheapest option is the basic 38mm Apple ‘Watch Sport’ model being sold for AU$499. Apple also have a slightly larger version at 42mm but it sells for AU$579. There are 10 models available within these two sizes which all come with either silver aluminium or space grey aluminium casing. Besides the casing you also have a choice of coloured straps such as white, blue, green, pink and black.
The next category is the Apple ‘Watch’ model that has 20 versions available. The main body of the watch is the same with two variants of 38mm or 42mm but the casing instead is made from stainless steel. The cheapest version within this category is the 38mm for AU$799 which comes with a sport band. The 42mm is $879 and both are available in either black or white.
Then the price jumps when the strap changes. If you wanted the same 38mm stainless steel watch but with a black classic buckle you will need to pay $949 or $1,029 for the 42mm edition. There is also a Milanese strap and leather loop version available for the same prices.
If you would like a modern buckle, as Apple call it, there is only the 38mm edition available for $1,099. Otherwise, go all out on their ‘Link Bracelet’ version at a hefty cost of $1,399 (38mm) in silver or $1,549 (38mm) in black.
Finally, for the ludicrous of you out there, there's a choice of 8 models within Apple’s ‘Watch Edition’ that start at a base price of $14,000 and rocket to an astronomical $24,000 per watch. What makes these so special is that they come with an 18-carat gold case and a choice of three different straps. However, this astounds me because someone can pay the equivalent or even considerably less to get a brand new Rolex watch, which has the potential (if properly maintained) to last an entire lifetime. I understand the functionality can be beneficial for the watch but to spend $10,000 or more on a watch thats battery will be dead in 4 years time, an iOS that will be dated as well as incredibly out of date / slow hardware parts makes it all seem like a money spinning weapon for Apple.
Of course Apple are targeting the super wealthy with their highly priced watch making it available in Parisian boutiques, yet we need to ask ourselves. Do the super wealthy really want to spend $20,000 on a watch, which is virtually identical to a $499 watch with a slight garnish of gold over it? Expensive watches justify their price through dedicated craftsmanship, so have Apple completely lost the plot and wasted money they could have instead spent perfecting their new watch for its existing customer base? These are just the first two questions that spring to mind.
Yet, I want to delve into the price of the watch and its gold content just a little. According to this Forbes article, Apple have patented a new mixture of gold which makes it more durable, scratch resistant, lighter and stronger, otherwise known as "Apple Gold". This is achieved by combining low density ceramic particles instead of precious metals. This new composition, however, means the gold has half the amount of pure 24 karat gold than ordinary 18 karat gold (75% gold, 15% silver and 10% copper). I don't want to bore you to death with gold composites (here's the geeky breakdown if you are interested) but to put it simply, the amount of gold on the Apple's 'Watch Edition' has a current market value of AU$563. They may release a Watch Edition with a gold link bracelet in the future, but for now, as it stands the Apple Watch has a value of $499 in its most basic form plus an extra $100, lets assume, for a fancy strap and $563 for the gold casing. A total value of $1,162, liberties being taken? I think so! Another worrying aspect about all this is that Apple's general product history shows that models last roughly 4 or 5 years maximum. Who do you know who still has an iPhone 3?
The retina screen of the 38mm edition has a 272 x 340 resolution whilst the 42mm has a 319 x 390 resolution. Sapphire glass protects the front of the watch and the total number of watch face options is 38. The watch is also IPX7 certified which is a waterproof standard for “short duration of water immersion” within depths up to one metre.
On-screen typing will not exist due to the devices small screen so instead Apple have installed “Smart Replies” which allows users to dictate their responses to texts and messages.
Technology has been stuffed inside the device that will allow wearers to monitor heart rates, calorie consumption and body movements. NFC technology in the watch allows for contactless payments to be made but Australia will have to wait along with other countries until this is made available.
Apple CEO, Tim Cook, has claimed that battery life under heavy use will last only 2.5 hours, whilst on average it should last roughly 18 hours. Total charge time is 2.5 hours, but a quick 1.5-hour charge from dead will give you roughly 80% battery.
Storage has been reported at 8GB but ‘9to5Mac’ revealed that in reality you would only have 75MB for photos and a dismal 2GB for music to use. Once again a case of Apple telling us one thing and delivering another.
But, most importantly you will need an iPhone to operate the iWatch and you only have a choice of the iPhone 5 and 6 models as the iPhone 4 is not supported.
Pros of Using the Apple Watch
Back on planet earth the $499 edition can offer users a host of advantages. Text messages are simple and easy to send because the iOS seamlessly picks up your words and converts them into text. In noisy surroundings a voice clip overcomes this hurdle. Answering short calls whilst on the move directly to your wrist has also proven very handy, especially when hands are full.
The exercise app is also easy to monitor and quick notifications to your wrist make keeping on track an easy process, for example a quick reminder to stand up for one minute at least once an hour. So, the inbuilt Apple apps work well and can remove the agitating ‘reach into your pocket for a quick check process’ from your daily life.
Apples new iOS for the watch has been designed from scratch and the new ‘taptic engine’ has improved the mapping experience. Different vibrations can tell the driver whether to take a right or a left during navigation mode as well as be programmed to alert users of different notification types.
Cons of Using the Apple Watch
The majority of apps need to initially be setup via the phone and this can be very time-consuming and annoying. If a particular app needs to access your location, the app will appear broken until you check your phone and click to approve location services.
Also, it is yet to be decided whether the slow loading app times are due to the watch or the apps themselves, but either way load times are as fast as the garden slug. This I’m sure we can all imagine will be highly frustrating, especially when we're so used to our phones giving us what we want, when we want it.
Facebook notifications will be sent to the watch but you cannot open them because Facebook is yet to build a compatible smartwatch app, a huge disappointment to numerous customers so far.
Finally, the iWatch does have one of the shortest battery lives on the market which mean its another device to charge daily and another thing to run out annoyingly at the wrong time.
Now that we have a more in-depth knowledge of the new addition to the Apple family, I was intrigued to see how the iWatch stood up next to its two main rivals. I have chosen the Pebble and Samsung Galaxy Gear smart watches to compare against.
|Pebble||Apple iWatch||Samsung Galaxy Gear 2|
|Price from (Basic Model)||$150||$499||$200|
|Mobile Platforms||Android- 2, 3, 4, 4.1, 4.2||iOS - 8||Android – 4.2|
|iOS– 5, 6, 7, 8|
|Calendar Reminder||Alarm||Incoming Call|
|Calendar Reminder||Text Message|
|Digital Touch||Voice notes|
|Text Message||Missed Call|
|Link Loss Alert|
|Incoming Notification Options||View Content||Listen to Content||Listen to Content|
|View Content||View Content|
|Smartphone Remote Features||Shake to Dismiss||Auto reconnection||Call Conversation|
|Music Control||Call Conversation||Respond to Notifications|
|Camera Shutter Control||Music Control|
|Find my Phone|
|Respond to Notifications|
|Methods of Notification||Vibration||Sound||Backlight screen|
|Heart Rate monitor|
|Water Resistance||50m (5 ATM)||1m (Splash proof)||1m (Splash Proof)|
|Digital Display||1.26 inches||1.49 inches||1.63 inches|
|Screen Resolution||144 x 168 pixels||272 x 340 or 319 x 390||320 x 320 pixels|
|Display Technology||Black & White ePaper||Retina Display||AMOLED|
|Battery Life||7 days||1 day||1.5 days|
|Battery Capacity||140 mAh||300 mAh||315 mAh|
|Storage||512 KB||8GB (3GB usable)||4GB (2GB usable)|
|RAM||128 KB||512 MB|
|Case Diameter||63.25 mm||38 / 42 mm||67.51 mm|
|Weight||38 grams||73 grams|
|Watch Case Materials||Plastic or stainless steel||Aluminium, Stainless steel and Gold||Stainless steel|
|Wireless Connectivity||Bluetooth 4.0||Wi-Fi||Bluetooth 4.0|
|Charging Connection||USB Cable||Wireless||USB Cable|
Comparing these three phones gives a good insight into the smartwatch marketplace. Pebble was one of the first smartwatches to come into existence from its crowd-funding campaign on indegogo. It uses a very basic screen to display its information and is compatible with multiple devices making it the most versatile smartwatch available. The iWatch and Galaxy gear sit at the other end of the spectrum, specialised for their particular platforms and suited to one operating system. This as a result produces more impressive tech features such as camera’s and GPS connectivity but of course at the expense of battery life.
Both the Samsung and Apple devices require daily charging, which means its just another device to charge when you get home, yet both provide a conveniently accessible extension to your smartphone that sits on your wrist. Yet this is also the case for the Pebble, however at a much lower price.
The idea of a smartwatch might be slightly gimmicky but we are yet to find out as the wearable tech industry is still within its infancy. If I were to recommend a smartwatch to someone at this stage, it would be the Pebble. It’s a great all rounder, does all the basics correctly and serves as much as a watch than it does as a smart watch. Once the smartwatch industry develops to a more mature point, prices will decrease, teething issues will be ironed out and a more streamlined product will be made available to customers. As a result this will all come together to provide better value for the customer. Right now though, paying a wallet-crushing premium of $24k for a gold plated smartwatch simply seems like pure madness in my opinion.