With the Apple Watch-focused “Spring Forward” media event just around the corner, leaks about the highly anticipated wearable have reached deluge proportions. While there has been intense speculation in the media about the pricing, battery life, and features of the Apple Watch ever since the device was first unveiled almost six months ago, it seems that many new details about the device have only emerged over the past week. Here’s the lowdown on all the latest information about the Apple Watch.
1. Apple Pay: Not just for the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus
SVP of Internet software and services Eddy Cue recently revealed new details about how the Apple Watch will enable iPhone 5, iPhone 5C, and iPhone 5S owners to use Apple Pay, reports Mashable. Since the contactless payment system relies on Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, older iPhone models that do not have an NFC chip cannot be used as standalone Apple Pay devices.
However, during a demonstration of the Apple Pay system at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, Cue explained how the owners of these older iPhone models will still be able to use Apple Pay if they pair their iPhone with an Apple Watch. According to Cue, a user will only have to enter their passcode into the iPhone once in order to enable the Apple Pay function on the Watch. Then, as long as the iPhone remains within range and the Watch is unlocked, a user simply double taps the Watch’s side button in order to process a payment. For additional security, users can also require the device to request a passcode each time a purchase is made.
“You don’t have to authenticate on the phone,” said Cue, according to Mashable. “Your watch has to be unlocked and your phone can unlock your watch and so it knows, if I took my watch off and gave it to you it would know. If I wanted to pay right now I could just pay with the watch and not have to take the phone out at all or unlock it.”
2. Battery life and ‘Power Reserve’ mode
One crucial aspect of the Watch that Apple declined to discuss in detail during the media event last September was exactly how long the battery life could be expected to last after each charging. Earlier this year, insider sources that spoke with 9to5Mac claimed that Apple was having difficulty achieving its original goals of “19 hours of combined active/passive use” per charge, or alternatively, 2.5 to 4 hours of active application use.
However, according to the latest information obtained by 9to5Mac, Apple has significantly improved the battery life over the past few months. The Apple Watch battery life is now expected to last longer than a “typical day of mixed active and passive use.” Alternatively, users will be able to get around five hours of heavy application usage out of the device before it needs to be recharged. While the device will still need to be recharged each night, the recent battery life improvements make it even less likely that a typical user will exhaust the battery life before the end of the day.
It may also be possible to extend the battery life of the Apple Watch even further if the user puts the device into a special low energy mode. According to sources that spoke with The New York Times, Apple has developed a special Power Reserve mode that uses less energy by only displaying the time.
3. Standalone music function
Although most Apple Watch features will require that the device be tethered to an iPhone, the device will have a standalone music function. As stated on the recently updated Watch section of Apple’s website, “And when you leave iPhone at home to go for a jog, listen to music directly on Apple Watch.”
Exactly how much music users will be able to store on the device could be revealed at the upcoming March 9 event. According to 9to5Mac, prototype models of the Watch feature 8GB of storage. Assuming that Apple doesn’t implement a tiered storage capacity pricing system like it does with the iPhone; it is more than likely that all variants of the Watch will include 8GB of storage space. Users will be able to stream music from the device via a Bluetooth connection to speakers or headphones.
Although joggers will only need their Watches in order to listen to music on their runs, they will still need to bring their iPhones in order to fully access the Activity app’s fitness-tracking capabilities. While the Apple Watch has its own accelerometer and heart rate sensor, it still relies on the iPhone’s Wi-Fi and GPS to keep track of distance and speed during runs.
4. Apps: Short but sweet
As Apple discussed during the original Watch unveiling last September, the wrist-worn wearable will use discreet taps to alert users of notifications. While this method of alerting a user is less intrusive than a sound or even a vibration, Apple wants to make sure that users do not get annoyed by incessant tapping. According to sources that spoke with Bloomberg, Apple has set down several guidelines for app developers to ensure that this doesn’t happen. Besides recommending that developers be prudent about how often their apps send out alerts, Apple has also suggested that apps should be designed to operate for no more than 10 seconds at a time. According to the Watch section of Apple’s website, users also have the option to activate a “Do Not Disturb” mode that will silence all alerts.
While the apps may not run for long, there should be a wide selection of high-quality apps ready by the time the Apple Watch becomes publicly available in April. Per Bloomberg’s sources, Apple is working with multiple companies – including Facebook, BMW, and United Continental Holdings — to ensure that their apps are working perfectly before the device’s release.
According to 9to5Mac’s sources, other companies that may have apps ready in time for the device’s release include Twitter, Panera Bread, Salesforce.com, Uber, and Mailbox. Although the time limitation guidelines for Apple Watch apps would seem to preclude the possibility of games, the sources claimed that some “light” gaming apps that will work in tandem with related iPhone apps may also be in development.
5. Heart Rate Glance
One of the more unusual Watch elements is the device’s built-in heart rate sensor. As Apple announced at its media event last September, the heart rate sensor enables the “Heartbeat” communication feature that allows a user to record and send their heartbeat to another user. Additionally, Apple revealed that the heart rate sensor would be used by the Workout app to help it estimate the amount of calories that a user burned. Now it appears that the heart rate sensor will be used by a third feature.
According to new information from 9to5Mac’s sources — the built-in heart rate sensor will also be used for a feature called Heart Rate Glance. This feature will allow users to see their own constantly updated heart rate reading (beats per minute) and plug this data into the iPhone’s Health app.
Apple is expected to reveal even more details about the Apple Watch at a “Spring Forward” media event on Monday, March 9. While a lot of new information about the Apple Watch has emerged from official and unofficial channels over the past week, there remain many unknown details about the device, such as pricing and a specific release date.
Follow Nathanael on Twitter @ArnoldEtan_WSCS