What we now know -- and still don't know -- about the Apple Watch
At its media event on March 9, Apple was supposed to fill in the missing details on its new Watch line, which ships April 24. Some blanks have been filled in, but many pressing questions remain.
David CarnoyExecutive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
ExpertiseMobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakersCredentials
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Apple's "Spring Forward" event on March 9 was supposed to fill in the missing details on the company's new Apple Watch , which it initially unveiled back in September. However, Apple being Apple, decided to leave us with a number of unanswered questions and keep the mystery going. However, unnamed Apple spokespeople have been giving bloggers and journalists tidbits of information as everybody keeps digging for answers.
In the light of that, I've divided the list of questions into three sections: questions that were answered; ones with partial or unconfirmed answers; and a final section with questions that remain completely unanswered.
What's the global rollout plan? The April 24 date refers to availability in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Hong Kong, Germany and France. Apple will announce availability in additional countries at a later date.
How much will the specific models cost? Apple had already announced that the Watch would be available in three configurations, starting at $349 -- the entry-level Apple Watch Sport (aluminum body with Ion-X enclosure), midlevel Apple Watch (stainless steel body with sapphire crystal), and the luxury Apple Watch Edition, with a solid gold body -- and that each version would be available in small (38mm) and large (42mm) versions. On March 9, Apple detailed the pricing.
The Apple Watch Sport will be available in silver or space gray at $349 for the 38mm size and $399 for the 42mm model. The Apple Watch with a steel case starts at $549 for the 38mm and goes up to $1,049, depending on the band. The 42mm model is available for $50 more at $599. The Apple Watch Edition, which features an 18-karat gold case, starts at $10,000. (Again, see When and where to buy the Apple Watch for more details including UK and Australia pricing.)
Will the two differently sized versions be any different in features or price? As detailed above, the larger 42mm models cost $50 more for the entry and midlevel models. Furthermore, the larger models offer slightly better battery life than the 38mm ones (see below).
How expensive will the high-end, gold version cost? Prices for the gold Apple Watch Edition start at $10,000 in the US, £8,000 in the UK and AU$14,000 in Australia, and range up to $17,000, £12,000 and AU$24,000 respectively. While that may be a tall order for a product whose successor is almost certainly coming next year, it's far from crazy in the world of luxury gold timepieces.
How much will the straps cost? The straps on all the Watch models are interchangeable. Apple showed a variety of models -- made of leather, metal or plastic, clasping with old-fashioned buckles or newfangled magnetic loops -- at the launch event, but no price ranges were provided.
What's the battery life? Apple has posted pretty comprehensive battery life numbers for a variety uses, including audio playback (6.5 hours). There's also a low-battery mode that lets you see the time for 72 hours. Apple stated its goal was to make sure people go a day's worth of battery life (18 hours) based on typical usage patterns. (That number is for the smaller 38mm model; the larger 42mm model is said to have a slightly longer lifespan.) The big question is how the Watch will do in independent battery tests. That's one of the first things we'll be looking at when we get the Watch in for review.
Will Apple Pay on the watch work if you have an iPhone 5 or 5C (neither of those devices have TouchID, which is required to authenticate Apple Pay)? Apple has said that the Watch will work with the iPhone 5 or better, with legacy products like the iPhone 4S not supported. You authorize Apple Pay on the Watch with the iPhone's Touch ID sensor (for the 5S, 6 and 6 Plus) or your unlock PIN (for the 5 and 5C), as confirmed by Apple Senior Vice President Eddy Cue to CNET earlier this month.
Just how water-resistant is that Watch? As CNET's Scott Stein confirmed on March 9, the Apple Watch is rated IPX7, meaning it can be worn every day and in the rain, but isn't meant to be used while showering or swimming.
Is the battery replaceable and how much will it cost to replace? You'd hope you'd be able to replace the battery on your $10,000 18-karat-gold Apple Watch Edition, let alone one that costs $349. The good news is that TechCrunch is reporting that Apple has confirmed that you can replace the battery, though how much it'll cost to do that remains unknown.
How much onboard storage is there for apps and music?9to5 Mac is reporting that every Watch will have the same amount of internal storage: 8GB. However, only a fraction of that will be usable for storage. "As a user, you are only allowed to use a subsection of that total space for certain types of data," the article notes. "As confirmed with Apple, users are only allowed to store up to 2GB of music on the Watch and up to 75 MB of photos for the Photos app."
It's still unclear how you'll get music onto the Watch and whether you'll be able to store offline music from services like Spotify, Rdio and Beats Music , which is now owned by Apple and will presumably have a presence on the Watch (rumor has the service may get a name change later this year).
How many apps will be available at launch -- and what will they do? Apple's is showing examples of dozens of new apps on its site, with hundreds, if not thousands more available at launch. You'll have to download apps via your iPhone and transfer the Watch, which supports both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless connectivity. We've rounded up the most notable first round of apps.
Will Apple allow third-party companies to make watch bands and other accessories for the Watch? We imagine fashion companies like Burberry, Gucci and Prada potentially might want to get in on the Watch-band action. Third-party bands and accessories are already being announced, but it's unclear whether or not these are blessed by Apple yet, or if there will be an official "Made for Apple Watch" accessory program.
What can I actually do with Apple Watch that I can't do with my iPhone? The short answer appears to be not much -- for starters, anyway.
Is the wireless charging compatible with the Qi standard? The Watch uses a form of inductive charging to recharge its internal battery, though it's unclear just what it is. We've seen reports that the Apple Watch's charger uses one of the "industry standard inductive charging protocols," but Apple has won't say what, if any, modifications it might have been made to it. However, we haven't seen any mention of Qi.
Will the 18-karat-gold Apple Watch Edition (or any other models) have a "trade-in" plan, so you can get discounts on future models? You can walk into Tourneau (and other stores) in New York and sell your used Rolex for a pretty penny. Will Apple have a trade-in program or is eBay your best bet for unloading your Apple Watch before Apple Watch 2 (presumably) comes out next year at the same time?
Will the Apple Watch support "smart straps"? A report from TechCrunch that the test units of the Apple Watch have a data port near the strap connector have fueled rumors of smart straps (a la the newly announced Pebble Time ) that could support extra sensors or batteries. 9to5Mac has shot this down, saying the final consumer models don't have the port -- but rumors persist that we'll see third-party bands that will extend battery life.
The apps that come with the Apple Watch (pictures)
How do you get music on and off of it and will it work with any music services besides iTunes/Beats? A lot of people want to know how this will work with Spotify, for instance, and whether you'll be able to store tracks locally on the watch (offline mode) like you can with an iPhone.
How will the heart-rate monitor work (will it be capable of measuring heart rate continuously)? Many fitness trackers only measure heart-rate on demand. We want to know if the Apple Watch will offer continuous heart-rate tracking.
Will Apple have its same return policy for the Watch as its other products? If you buy something in Apple's online or brick-and-mortar store, you have two weeks to return it. Same for the Watch?
We'll stop there, but obviously, there are more questions about the Apple Watch that probably still need to be answered. If you have your own questions, feel free to post them in the comments section below.
Editors' note: This story was originally published on March 6, 2015, as "21 things we still don't know about the Apple Watch." It has been updated and retitled accordingly with information that has since been revealed.