Apple Watch Technology

It’s safe to say that no one knew anything about the Apple Watch until it was revealed on stage at Cupertino’s Flint Center, just a few hours ago. With that in mind, expectations were varied, and it was hard to guess what type of tech Apple would be putting into its diminutive device.

Sure, we heard rumblings about some of the various sensors that might be included in the watch, and some of it was common sense more than anything. But ultimately, what was just unveiled by Tim Cook and company came as a surprise to us all.

We’ve already broken down many of the personalization options and design principals, but the technology behind the Apple Watch is especially fascinating. Inside, we’ll talk about some of the most prominent technological feats to make its way to Apple’s inaugural wearable device.

Digital Crown

I would call it a crowning achievement, but that would just be a pretty bad pun. Seriously, though, input has been one of the sore spots of smartwatches and wearable devices since the their inception. The problem with touch input on a device so small, is that your fingers usually get in the way and obscure the screen.

Apple’s solution to this, as has been the case with all of its flagship game-changing products, is to come up with a new input method. The Macintosh had its mouse, the iPod its click wheel, the iPhone its touch screen. For the Apple Watch, the new method of input is the digital crown.

Digital Crown Apple Watch

 

The digital crown mimics the look of a traditional crown on a tradition watch—the knob used for winding a watch, setting the time, date, etc.—and replaces it with a digital version that allows for zooming and panning on the Apple Watch interface.

Think of the digital crown as a mix between the iPhone’s Home button, and the iPod’s click wheel. Along with zooming and panning, a press on the digital crown will take you back to the Apple Watch’s Home screen.

What strikes me the most about this new form of input, is how smooth and precise the movements seemed to be. Obviously, I can’t say for sure without going hands-on with the device itself, but the videos did enough to convince me that this would be a satisfying and accurate means of input.

Touch Screen & Force Touch

If it wasn’t for the digital crown, the Apple Watch’s touch screen would sit at the top of the heap with regard to technology. It’s a high resolution Retina display that’s capable of showcasing rich graphics, sharp fonts, and crisp photos.

Touch Screen Apple Watch

The display, which is rumored to be of the OLED variety, lends the energy efficiency necessary for a device this small. After all, a small device equals an even smaller battery.

Apple Watch Force Touch

Even more interesting, though, is the concept of a new Force Touch gesture. Thanks to the tiny electrodes around the flexible Retina display, the Apple Watch can distinguish between a light tap and a firm press, resulting in the appearance of unique contextually specific controls. Apple calls this the most significant new sensing capability since Multi‑Touch, and I’d tend to agree. The new Force Touch gesture lends depth to your touches, something that current iPads and iPhones just aren’t capable of doing.

Taptic Engine

Each Apple Watch includes a linear actuator that produces haptic feedback. The purpose of this haptic feedback is not merely to produce sterile, impersonal, alerts and notifications. On the contrary, the Taptic Engine is geared towards producing an almost human element in Apple’s new wearable.

Taptic Apple Watch

When receiving alerts, turning the digital crown, or tapping the screen, you’ll feel a tactile sensation that’s unique for each kind of interaction. The result is a feedback engine that provides a keen sense of awareness and subtlety.

Most importantly, however, the Taptic Engine provides users with a nuanced experience that allows for intimate communication with other wearers of Apple Watches. For example, you could get your wife’s attention with a tender tap, or send her a digital representation of your heartbeat, and both would appear on her watch.

Heart Rate Sensor

Speaking of heartbeats, the Apple Watch includes a built-in heart rate sensor. This comes as not a surprise, but as a forgone conclusion. I think we all expected a heart rate sensor, among other sensors, to make an appearance in Apple’s wearable, and it did not disappoint in this regard.

Apple Watch Heart Rate Sensor

The heart rate sensor in the Apple Watch is located on the rear of the device, and it’s covered with sapphire lenses to protect the specially designed sensor, which utilizes both infrared and photodiodes along with visible-light LEDs. This sensor, along with an accelerometer, and the GPS and Wi‑Fi radios in your iPhone, can work together to measure physical movements more accurately.

Charging

As far as rumors go, they seem to have been dead on with regard to the charging aspects of the Apple Watch. Indeed, Apple’s wish is that users will be able to charge their Apple Watch in the dark, or while half asleep. The result is a mix of Apple’s MagSafe technology, which is prevalent in its MacBook line, and inductive charging.

Wireless Charging

Users can simply place the charging pad near the rear of the Apple Watch, and the charger will attach to the device via magnets, self-aligning itself for the perfect connection every time.

The S1 System on a Chip

The Apple Watch utilizes a custom system on a chip (SOC) dubbed the S1. Since its current iPhone SOC architecture could not fit within the small confines of the Apple Watch, something custom had to be designed. The result is the S1.

The S1 is completely encapsulated in resin to protect its electronics from the normal wear and tear that’s normally associated with a watch. This, presumably, includes water, shock, dirt and grime, etc.

More to come

Although we certainly have a wealth of knowledge about the Apple Watch, there are still quite a few questions that have gone unanswered. I suppose we’ll have to wait for the inevitable leaks, and the actual product release in early 2015, before we’ll be able to answer all of our questions.

Some of my remaining questions are:

  • What’s battery life like?
  • What’s the water resistance rating?
  • How much RAM?
  • Is the speaker strong enough to make it possible to listen to music without some sort of wireless headset?
  • What’s battery life like??
  • What’s battery life like??????!

And that’s really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to questions. Perhaps some of them will be answered in the coming days and weeks, or, perhaps we’ll have to wait until the device gets closer to launch.

At any rate, the Apple Watch looks to be an impressive piece of tech. Although it doesn’t appear to have all of the sensors that it was rumored to have, I’m still plenty excited, and I’m sure that Apple is still holding a few trump cards in its hand for later.

What do you think?

  • No mention on what glass the iPhone 6 uses unless I missed something.

    • Jeffrey Feuerstein

      They mentioned it, its not sapphire, its strengthened glass, so stronger than before but not sapphire

      • Thanks, my broadcast was in and out and I missed quite a bit. So is it not Gorilla glass at all? It could be that super flexible glass we saw after all..

      • James Gunaca

        “Ion-strengthened glass”

      • Jeffrey Feuerstein

        Nope, as James mentioned, Apple called it ‘Ion-strengthened glass’, they didn’t say what it was so I expect something between gorilla glass and sapphire strength.

  • bllackghost

    what about the fitness for people don’t have m8 chip , like iPhone 5 & iPhone 5c owners .. is the watch will be enough to count your work or you should take your iPhone too?

    • Chang in Charge

      I was wondering this too or if you could leave your iPhone at home when you go for a run? or leave it in the locker when you go to the gym?

      • Ali Majid

        As shown in some video ads in youtube apple channel
        Most of the videos they have their iphone with them

      • Jailbrkr21

        the watch doesn’t have GPS, it uses the GPS from your phone, so if you want to map your run then you will need both the watch and phone with you.

      • Chang in Charge

        What about just step tracking without mapping?

      • It requires the phone for just about everything…

  • In all honest truth, this watch looks like a fitness watch. There are third party fitness companies that has watches that looks similarly to that. I would only wear it for working out, but the Moto 360 looks sleek and does evrything else. The only issue it’s the software, but it’s beyond sexy.

  • Also I swim a lot, can you go in a pool with it? Would it be able to track your swimming? If not then something is definitely wrong with Apple this year.

    • Jailbrkr21

      it has a waterproof speaker so i would assume that the whole thing would be waterproof.

      • David Jensen

        Waterproof speaker? Elaborate on that please =)

  • True Story

    Upon seeing this watch my eyes involuntarily rolled into the back off my head to protect me from witnessing such an abomination

  • Beta382

    I don’t think that RAM is going to be a spec people will actually care about on the Apple Watch. You aren’t actually doing enough with the device for it to matter. And if you are, then you should just be using your phone to begin with.

    Battery life, yes. That matters, more than anything else.

  • arvindb02

    How long until we get a jailbreak?

  • sadaN

    I was really looking forward to this one, but… squared? Oh Apple, screw you, watches are meant to be ROUNDED!!!!!

    • AppleFanboy

      I actually have a rectangular watch. I just hate the thickness on this one.

    • benny001

      Not true.

  • Tommy Gumbs

    The iPhone was innovative be it changed everything. This watch only exist for iPhones users. If that makes sense.

    • James Gunaca

      Yes, all 200 million iPhone customers, and the next 100 million over the next 12 months. Pretty sizable market to address there!

      • Tommy Gumbs

        That is my point. The iPhone had a market at launch time that was unlimited. Unlimited because it was a new product category.

        The Watch has a market of 200 million people. That is not a sizable market at all.

        Now obviously their hopes is to use the watch to expand the current iPhone market, while creating a new market, but you can’t create a new market if the product is heavily tied to an existing product like the iPhone because the eco system is heavily closed.

      • I agree, but thats the apple arrogant way. I always wanted to see iMessage in other platforms, same way Blackberry did with its BBM.

      • Tommy Gumbs

        I agree 100%. iMessage is another great example. Why can’t Apple release a “iMessage” app for other platforms? Great point!!!

  • Topuz

    I have a button dedicated for sending emojis and doodles to my friends? Really?
    Remember that part when Jobs told the story about “you had me at scrolling” when he unveiled the original iPhone? Well, they lost me at the doodle button this time.

    • Lance Baker

      The button takes you to your contacts where you can message or call them. From there you can also doodle. So it’s not a dedicated doodling button.

  • Donovan

    You forgot “what’s the battery life like?!?!?!?!?!

  • Straw hat

    Features are nice, design is meh. iPhone 6 looks digusting in pictures but when i saw the space grey in video i lIked it. Not bad. Going to wait till it’s released and then see some reviews.

  • dirtmanjames

    What about us left handed people? I wear my watch on my right wrist, so I will be getting in my own way all the time.

    • Tristan

      I’m sure there is a mode where you can turn it upside down for lefties. Its just the buttons would be the other way around.

      • Kenrick Fernandes

        yeah for lefties this is going to be annoying as hell! I’m a lefty and i hope this can be turned the other way around

  • Matt

    I can’t wait to get my hands on one, or should I say get one on my hand

  • CS

    Battery life is the biggest issue, next to the device switching on when you raise your wrist. Something tells me that’s not going to work out as smooth as they say.

  • Kristen

    How far can you be away from your iPhone and have the watch still be functional for notifications and such? Does it use iCloud sync for notifications, or is it some type of bluetooth pairing? And of course, dat battery life??

    • James Gunaca

      Probably Bluetooth LE which is about 30-50 meters, I think.

  • mwpitt52

    Honestly Apple did not hit the mark with watch. Nor did the moto 360 due to poor battery. Waiting for someone to come out with a decent smart watch.

    • James Gunaca

      I would expect Apple’s tech in this regard to be pretty industry leading; meaning they didn’t put in less than stellar tech for a new device category they are joining. What would you define as decent?

      • mwpitt52

        Its too much tech in watch. I have a Pebble and all you need is the time and text and phone notifications. Also having a big square on your arm makes you look like a teenager. Not for professionals. $349.00 for basic sport model is way over priced. With Android you will get more selection at lower cost. Just my 2 cents.

  • Julio Camacho

    I was hoping for something innovative, not this hideous thing.
    I know you apple fans won’t agreed, because it is apple right!
    but this ugly piece of junk looks more like an ipod nano with straps, than nothing else.
    I was hoping apple would off come out with something atleast better looking than the competition, but I think it was too much to ask…
    I rather buy myself a moto 360 which looks better than this.
    Talk about innovation, APPLE!

    • sNick

      It’s the first version of this thing. Wait a year or two and it will be much more awesome.

  • n0ahcruz3

    If this thing can last a whole week with a single charge then i might consider it. 😉

    • James Gunaca

      It won’t even go two days without a charge is my guess.

  • Shingo

    please solar powered

  • fteoOpty64

    First issue is that it is thick, hence, heavy as well. We have to wait for the final production version to find out how thick and heavy it really is. Then battery life which is a show stopper for many, consiering that their notifications comes several times a minute. unless they set the watch to not automatically on the screen until they touch the screen of the crown, then bateery savings measures has to be used to the extreme to last the working day which ought to be 12 hours at the very least.