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The Apple Watch Mystery Won't Be Solved March 9

By Chris Maxcer
Feb 27, 2015 11:30 AM PT
apple-watch-march-9-media-event-spring-forward

The fog shrouding Apple's first major new product entry since the iPad -- the Apple Watch -- won't be lifted on March 9 when Apple is widely expected to tell us more about its forthcoming Apple Watch release.

Apple's invite to its media event is characteristically coy, with its vague "Spring Forward," tease, which likely refers to the shift in daylight savings time -- and well, time itself -- but the event possibly could include a new MacBook Air, iPad Pro, or an Apple TV/Center-of-Your-Universe-Hub announcement, as well.

No matter what "Spring Forward" actually refers to, Apple is slated to start delivering the Apple Watch in April. By having a prerelease media event to show it off in more detail in March, as well as introducing a pre-order date before shipping starts, Apple will gain another big news cycle.

While the new Pebble Time smartwatch broke pledge goals on Kickstarter, rocketing up to more than 51,000 backers and US$11.2 million in funding with 28 days to go, the Apple Watch likely will break waves, compared to the ripples made by Pebble Time. So yeah, Apple will be well served to give potential buyers a little heads up before they flood Apple Stores. More to the point, Apple needs to give new buyers a chance to figure out which version of the Apple Watch they want to wear -- not to mention figure out which Apple Watch they can afford.

So What's the Big Mystery?

As near as I can tell, the Apple Watch event likely will fill in some knowledge gaps around functionality, as well as pricing -- and while I'll get to them in a minute, the mystery is whether most of us new buyers suddenly will turn into watch wearers for longer than a few months.

Will I become a watch wearer again?

I don't know. Oh, I'll snap up an Apple Watch as soon as I can, probably a Sport Edition, but that doesn't mean that I'm sure I'll like it and use it everyday. There are two reasons I'll buy, though.

First, I write about Apple, so I'm buying an Apple Watch. Second, even if I didn't write about Apple, Apple is offering an interesting leap forward in smartwatch technology, especially for Apple enthusiasts. Because I would like to have an iconic everyday watch but haven't yet been enticed enough to buy any, an Apple Watch is a likely choice.

The mystery is whether an Apple Watch will be useful enough to be worth wearing... and charging... every day, especially for people like me -- Apple enthusiasts who buy Apple gear because we appreciate using it even more than we like its looks.

For us, the Apple Watch will need not only to fit our personalities, but also to offer us a reason for being on our wrist in the first place. I've already written a bit about how Apple will manipulate our buying triggers and get us to purchase an Apple Watch... but loving it for months and years? That's still a mystery.

Hopes, Dreams and Limitations

What can we expect to learn from Apple's March 9 event? Obviously, pricing. The Apple Watch (basic edition) starts at $349 but the Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch Edition options could retail at any price. Seriously, pick any number over $449 and less than $21,000 you might not be wrong.

Other factors also may become more clear, however, including initial limitations. For instance, because the Apple Watch must pair with an iPhone for location tracking -- in order to use the iPhone's GPS and WiFi abilities -- the Apple Watch isn't going to map your run and tell you exactly how much distance you traveled while trail running -- unless you also pack your iPhone for your run.

For some, this is a big disappointment, but apparently it's not that big a deal for the two very fit young ladies featured in Apple's health and fitness promotional video. (If you can spot their iPhones hidden in their body-hugging workout clothing while they run around outside, let me know.)

As for me personally, I would be interested in knowing how many miles I cover when I play basketball for an hour. Also, while I could tape over the Apple Watch or slip a wristband over it while playing ball, will it maintain a connection with my iPhone when it's off the court? Or would I have to strap the iPhone to my body, too?

To be fair, you can't expect a gadget the size of an Apple Watch to do everything -- there's a give and take, right, and we understand that. It just means that the Sport might not be quite as sporty as a super active person would hope.

Charging, Charging and More Charging

One huge question concerns charging: Will a normal person be able to get through a day wearing an Apple Watch? What if that day is Friday with a Friday night out on the town?

How long will it take to charge? Will you need to charge it every night? It's highly likely, which means you might not be able to use your Apple Watch to help monitor the quality of your sleep. If there's one thing that many people could improve on, it's sleep habits.

I'm guessing I won't be able to use it as a quiet vibrating alarm for when I need to get up really early -- unless I give it a precharge before bed.

If charging becomes a high-maintenance chore, will the Apple Watch still help me live a better life? I don't know -- I have the nagging feeling that great technology should free us, not tie us down.

Is It Waterproof?

Recent comments by Apple CEO Tim Cook suggest an Apple Watch can be worn in the shower, which is great and all. If I have to charge it every night, though, I'll hardly need to put it on right after I get out of bed and before I step into the shower.

Right now, the Apple Watch Sport seems like it's only for sissy indoor, simulated sorts of sports. Does shower-proof mean it can handle three hours of drizzling rain? Sport my ass.

I'm interested in what it can do in deeper water. Can you go hot tubbing with it? How about swimming? Snorkeling is probably out. What about paddle boarding or kayaking? What's your all-day risk look like? Can it be dunked completely down to six feet or so multiple times? Or does one underwater crash mean your Apple Watch is done?

These are some questions that I hope Apple answers before the Apple Watch goes on sale.

What About Apps?

Some reports have indicated that the first round of apps will allow only basic features -- for instance, no pressure touch and no taptic vibrations.

Despite limitations that likely will be put in place to ensure consistent experiences -- and make sure apps don't drain the battery too fast -- I believe Apple will share the stage with a trusted third-party app developer or two to show off some interesting new app.

Apple Watch Accessories

Meanwhile, other reports indicate that you shouldn't get your hopes up for the ability to buy third-party custom watchfaces anytime soon. If you want Mickey Mouse, great, but something entirely different from a visionary third-party designer? Maybe not soon.

How about those bands? It's still unclear as to how Apple will price its own bands, but what I'm really curious about is how Apple will allow third-party bands. Will they approve them? Certify them? Or will manufacturers just start building their own?

I don't care how it happens, but I sure as heck want to see a wider, more manly band. Just saying. Something overly manly, even. If I can't find a non-Apple band that fits, I'll have to fashion my own out of barbed wire or modify a Leatherman Tread band to make sure that the world, in addition to myself, knows that I'm still packing plenty of testosterone.

Something New and Special?

I'm holding out some hope that Apple will introduce a new Apple TV home automation hub device and that the Apple Watch will play a role, but I think the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference will be a more likely venue. So what, then, anything?

I think so.

I'm having a hard time imagining an hour-long rehash of the Apple Watch introduction without introducing something new -- or other Apple products, too. The Apple Watch is certainly important enough to Cook and Apple to warrant an hour-long pitchfest, if not longer. Yet I can't help thinking Apple has more of a story to tell than we think we know.

Of course, if you can get out of regular work hours March 9, you can view a live stream of the event via OS X with Safari, or iOS or an Apple TV.


TechNewsWorld columnist Chris Maxcer has been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and he still remembers the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. While he enjoys elegant gear and sublime tech, there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. To catch him, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at WickedCoolBite.com. You can also connect with him on Google+.


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