While Apple revealed several interesting interface and design features of the Apple Watch during the company’s iPhone-focused event last September, there are many other questions about the device that remain unanswered. Fortunately, Apple recently sent out an invitation for a media event on March 9 that will likely provide more details about this highly anticipated product. As previously reported by Tech Cheat Sheet, there have been multiple rumors that Apple would hold another media event for the Apple Watch since early February.
Although Apple didn’t explicitly state what will be covered in the media event, the “Spring forward” teaser seen on the invitation above offers a fairly big hint. “Spring forward, fall back” is a well-known mnemonic phrase that references adjustments made for Daylight Saving Time. It is also worth noting that the event takes place on the day after clocks “spring forward” on March 8. So assuming Apple isn’t unveiling a new type of spring-powered footwear on March 9, it appears that the Apple Watch will be the focus of its upcoming media event.
Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Apple will provide answers to all the questions that people may have about the Watch. Apple still doesn’t publicly release some of the technical specifications for its existing products, such as the size of the batteries used in each of its iPhone models. On the other hand, since the debut of the Watch represents the introduction of a completely new category to Apple’s lineup of products, the company may be a little more forthcoming about its first wearable. Here are four key questions about the Watch that we hope Apple will answer at its media event on March 9.
1. How often will the battery need to be charged?
One of the main factors that limits the capabilities of today’s wearable tech devices is battery life. Since most smartwatches are considerably smaller than standard mobile phones, the devices typically have lower capacity batteries with less power. This battery life limitation is one reason why many smartwatches are tethered to smartphones. Tethering allows smartwatches to access additional features like GPS without draining its own limited power supply. The battery life of the Apple Watch could be a major factor for determining the device’s success.
While CEO Tim Cook has previously suggested that the Watch would need to be recharged once a day, insider sources who spoke with 9to5Mac have suggested that Apple has had trouble achieving its goal of “19 hours of combined active/passive use” per charge. While it’s unknown if this is more than enough power for a typical user or if Apple has since improved the device’s battery life, a short battery life would seriously hamper the Watch’s appeal.
2. What are the prices of the various models?
Along with battery life, pricing is the other biggest question that most people have about the Watch. While Apple has already announced that the devices will be available in three collections (the Watch, the Watch Sport, and the Watch Edition), the only pricing detail that the company has revealed is that the cheapest model will start at $349. It is widely assumed that the $349 price applies to a Watch Sport model, since its casing is made of relatively cheap aluminum. The stainless steel Watch models are expected to be the mid-tier devices, while the 18-karat gold Watch Edition models will be the most expensive.
While the Watch Sport and Watch models are expected to have prices that may be comparable to what is charged for the iPhone, the Watch Edition models may be a unique outlier in Apple’s product lineup. As reported by Tech Cheat Sheet, price estimates for the gold Watch Edition have ranged from $1,200 to as high as $20,000. Although it’s clear that Apple is positioning the Watch Edition as a premium fashion accessory, the device’s retail price will reveal even more about Apple’s target demographic.
3. What will be the upgrade process for the Watch?
One reason why the iPhone is such a profitable product for Apple is that the company debuts a new model (or models) every year. The latest models usually feature a faster processor or other technical improvements that encourage users to upgrade their iPhones. While this refresh cycle could just as easily be applied to a smartwatch that costs around $349, it’s hard to imagine that even a wealthy customer would be willing to drop several thousands of dollars each year in order to get the latest hardware upgrades for the Watch Edition model.
While people typically trade in their older iPhone models for credit, there is probably less demand for secondhand luxury wearable tech. After all, if you can afford to spend $5,000, $10,000, or $20,000 for a new Watch Edition, why would you spend even half as much to get last year’s model? Many of the questions about the process for upgrading the Watch Edition model arise from the melding of two industries with very different goals. Devices made by traditional luxury watchmakers are expected to have incredibly long lifespans and are often passed down as family heirlooms. On the other hand, the mobile tech industry makes devices that are expected to be obsolete within a few years, if not sooner.
For all these reasons, Apple may want to provide some detailed guidance about the upgrade process for the device at its media event. One way that Apple could alleviate people’s worries about keeping their wearable up to date would be to guarantee a certain amount of credit for devices that are traded in for new models. Another possible method might be for Apple to replace the internal components of an older device when new hardware becomes available. This would allow first-generation Watch Edition owners to get the benefits of new hardware without having to worry about plunking down the full cost of a new model.
4. How waterproof is the Watch?
Whether you’re spending $349 or $20,000 for your Apple-branded wearable, the last thing you want to do is break it. Unlike a smartphone that may be protected from the elements with a case or simply kept in a user’s pocket, the Watch is intended to be worn on the wrist. Because of this, it will only be a matter of time before the device gets wet. For this reason, the device’s ability to resist water damage may be one of the biggest questions that Apple will need to address at its media event.
According to Yahoo Tech journalist David Pogue, Apple representatives told him that the device would be water resistant, but not completely waterproof. “Sweating, wearing it in the rain, washing your hands, or cooking with it are fine,” wrote Pogue. “Take it off before you swim or get in the shower, though.”
However, according to French tech site iGen.fr, CEO Tim Cook recently told a group of Berlin Apple Store employees that he wore his Apple Watch in the shower. Although this comment seemed to imply that Apple had improved the device’s ability to resist water, the source suggested that the Watch was not certified IP67. According to the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), IP67 means that a device can remain fully immersed in up to one meter of water for 30 minutes. It is also the water resistance rating that Samsung achieved for its Gear S smartwatch. In any case, Apple will need to further clarify the water resistance level of the Watch at its upcoming media event.
Follow Nathanael on Twitter @ArnoldEtan_WSCS