Saturday, July 4, 2015

So, should you order an Apple Watch? (w/video)

Apple hosted their big shindig on Monday to announce new Apple Watch details, new MacBook laptops and more. The folks at MacRumors have some excellent roundups, if you're interested in the nitty gritty. The highlights:

Apple Watch

--Pricing starts at $349 for an alumninum Sport model and goes all the way up to $17,000 for the 18K gold Edition. Prices vary by material (aluminum, stainless steel and gold) and size (42mm and 38mm). Buyers can choose bands ranging in price from $49 to $449.

--Starting on the April 24 launch date, you'll be able to make a reservation at an Apple Store to try on an Apple Watch model you select online.

--The Apple Watch will be water resistant, but it won't be waterproof, per se. You'll be okay wearing one while exercising, in the rain and while washing your hands (or all three, simultaneously), but it should not be submerged (i.e., while swimming).

--The battery is expected to last 18 hours during mixed use (defined as 90 time checks, 90 notifications, 45 minutes of app use, and a 30-minute workout with music playback). It should last up to three hours of continuous phone calls, up to 6½ hours during an active workout session, and up to 6½ hours of playing audio. When used simply as a watch, the battery should last 48 hours -- and in a newly announced Power Reserve mode, for 72 hours. It will take 1½ hours to charge the battery from 0 to 80 percent using the included inductive charger, 2½ hours to get to a full 100 percent charge. The battery will be replacable, but only by sending the watch to Apple for installation.

--The Financial Times says the Apple Watch 2 launch is targeted for 2016; new case materials could be coming this fall.

Retina MacBook; New MacBook Air and Pro

--The new 12-inch Retina MacBook (starting at $1,299) is separate from Apple's Air and Pro lines. It weighs 2 pounds and is 24 percent thinner than the current MacBook Air. It comes in three iPhone- and iPad-style colors (gold, silver and dark gray). There's a newly redesigned keyboard and trackpad that can tell taps from presses (Apple calls it "Force Touch"). It boasts only one external port, a USB-C connector that will handle charging and external storage and displays; it will not have the traditional MagSafe charger available in other MacBook models. Follow the link above for processor and graphics details.

--Updates to the Macbook Air and Pro lines were slight, including processor and graphics upgrades, and a redesigned Force Touch trackpad.

Apple TV

--Maybe a little lost in all the Apple Watch hubbub is a a new HBO Go subscription that will let you add HBO programming to your Apple TV whether or not HBO is part of your cable subscription. It will cost $15 a month and become available next month. The plan meshes with rumors that Apple might create a Web-based television service that would bypass cable companies altogether.

--The price of an Apple TV was dropped to $69 (from $99).

The fallout

Seeing Apple offer a watch priced at $17,000 raised a lot of eyebrows, although some had pointed out in advance that it's pretty much impossible to buy a solid gold watch for under $10,000.

Am I likely to run out and buy one? Well, not a solid gold one, that's for sure. And the model I'd be most likely to consider would still cost $350 to $400, which is way more than I've ever spent for a watch, be it smart or dumb.

I don't need to be sold on the concept. I've worn my Pebble smartwatch since I got one in their initial Kickstarter project, and I love it. Glancing at my wrist to find out who's calling, or who sent that email or iMessage that just arrived feels a lot better than having to fish my phone out of my pocket every few minutes. When I'm at one of our kids' swim meets, it vibrates to let me know when there's lightning in the area. How cool is that? And I would expect you could do anything with an Apple Watch that I can do with my Pebble.

Should you buy an Apple Watch? I dunno. Maybe it's better to ask whether you should by one of these Apple Watches or the next version. I've always found the second iteration of a new gizmo to work a little more smoothly than the first, anyway. (My first-generation iPod touch didn't even have volume buttons, f'r crying' out loud.) With new models expected this fall or next year at the latest -- and, presumably, new prices -- you might be happier in the long run.

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