Connected multi-purpose devices have been making strides toward obsoleting single-purpose products one by one (viz. cameras, CD players, radios, books and e-readers). The latest device in high-tech firms’ sights is the wristwatch — but if the launch of the Apple watch today is any indication, one device the new product won’t obsolete any time soon is the smartphone.
The innovative Apple Watch, targeted for availability in early 2015 at prices beginning at $349, can accomplish many of the same tasks as a smartphone. But it’s worthless without a smartphone – specifically an iPhone 5, 5c, 5s, 6 or 6 Plus. The latter two models also were introduced today, along with new smartphone payment technology and a new version of Apple’s iOS operating system.
Apple didn’t say why an iPhone is needed for the Apple Watch, but it is likely that the phone provides Internet connectivity. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have near field communications (NFC), so that could be how they provide connectivity to the watch. Apple didn’t respond to an inquiry from Telecompetitor in time for today’s deadline asking for details about this. The iPhone 5 series devices have Bluetooth so perhaps that is how they connect to the watch.
Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly told attendees at the company’s annual launch event today that the Apple Watch is “the most personal device we’ve ever created.” He also made a point of saying it was not a “wearable,” bloggers said.
The Apple Watch
The Apple Watch announcement follows other news involving devices designed to wear on the wrist from Google and from Samsung. But unlike the products from those manufacturers, Apple’s device looks and, depending what mode it’s used in, functions just like a traditional watch.
The Apple product is available in two different sizes with three different housings and six different straps. Users also can choose from a wide range of watch faces which even include a throwback Mickey Mouse design.
Users can control the high-tech features of the device through some traditional Apple interfaces such as swiping and tapping on the device’s tiny touchscreen. But in addition Apple introduced a new “Crown” interface that resembles the pin on the side of a conventional watch to wind the watch or set the time. The Crown, however, acts more like a computer mouse, enabling users to pull up different menus and providing other navigation capabilities.
The Apple Watch also has a new technology Apple calls a “taptic engine” that delivers subtle vibrations to the wrist to alert end users to messages and notifications, which the user can then view by lifting his or her wrist.
Third-party developers will be able to create apps for the Apple Watch – and Apple already has established partnerships with entities like BMW, Major League Baseball, and SPG Hotels to create apps that find the owner’s car, find major league game scores and unlock hotel doors, respectively.
Another innovative design aspect of the Apple Watch is inductive charging. To avoid the need to create a plug in the watch, the charger connects via a magnet.
iPhone 6 Carriers
As expected, the new iPhones have larger screens than earlier models, making them more competitive with “phablets” from companies including Samsung The new iPhone 6 has a 4.7-inch screen and 720-pixel resolution while the iPhone 6+ has a 5.5-inch screen and 1080-pixel resolution.
The new iPhones also feature enhancements to the devices’ cameras such as Focus Pixel technology which, according to Apple, was previously available only in professional cameras. An image signal processor compensates for shaky hands or dim lighting.
The devices also have NFC to support Apple Pay’s smartphone payment platform announced today and will be available from Apple and from all four major U.S. carriers beginning September 19.
Apple adhered to its usual pricing for the new devices. With a two-year contract, the iPhone 6 will cost $199.99 for the 16 GB model, $299.99 for the 64 GB model and $399.99 for the 128 GB model.
The iPhone 6 Plus, with a two-year contract, will cost $299.99, $399.999 and $499.99, respectively, for the 16 GB, 64 GB and 128 GB models.
The company’s press release doesn’t reveal the full list price for the devices – a price that is becoming increasingly important in view of the pricing plans that carriers have been offering recently.
As usual, Apple also reduced the price on last year’s models. The iPhone 5s will be available in the U.S. for a suggested retail price of $99 to $149. The iPhone 5c will be available for free to “qualified” carrier customers, the company said.
Apple Pay is intended to be a faster, easier and more secure alternative to paying for goods and services with a credit card. Users will be able to make payments with the touch of a single button. Purchases will be charged to the users credit card linked to but not stored on the device.
“When you’re using Apple Pay in a store, restaurant or other merchant, cashiers will no longer see your name, credit card number or security code, helping to reduce the potential for fraud,” said Apple Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue in an announcement about Apple Pay. “Apple doesn’t collect your purchase history . . . And if your iPhone is lost or stolen you can use Find My iPhone to quickly suspend payments from that device.”
As Apple explained in the announcement, with Apple Pay “a unique device account number is assigned, encrypted and securely stored in the Secure Element on your iPhone or Apple Watch. Each transaction is authorized with a one-time unique number using your device account number and instead of using the security code from the back of your card, Apple Pay creates a dynamic security code to securely validate each transaction.”
All three major credit card companies will support Apple Pay, as will the six largest U.S. banks and numerous retailers including Macy’s, McDonald’s, Staples, Subway, Walgreens and others.
In addition to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Apple Pay also will work with the iPhone 5, 5c and 5s, Apple said. But the 5-series devices require the end user to also have an Apple Watch.
That suggests that the 5-series phones are using the near-field communications built into the Watch to make payments — perhaps connecting to the watch through a Bluetooth link.
Apple isn’t the first company to offer smartphone payment capability. Other options include Google Wallet and Softcard, a venture of several major wireless carriers formerly known as ISIS (and renamed for obvious reasons.)
According to Cook, Apple Pay developers have done the best job of focusing on the user experience.
Apple executives didn’t spend much time on iOS 8, the newest version of the company’s smartphone operating system available September 17.
But according to a press release, the offering includes “new Messages and Photos features, predictive typing for Apple’s QuickType keyboard and Family Sharing.” Additionally, iOS 8 supports a new app known as “Health.”
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