Apple Watch was originally announced in September 2014 with three key features: a precise, customizable timepiece, an intimate way to connect and communicate, a comprehensive health and fitness companion. This has since evolved into the Apple wearable of today centered around health and fitness.
● Swappable bands
● Premium materials
● Integrated heart monitor
● Activity tracking and alerts
● Apple Music and Podcasts
● Apple Pay built in
● Cellular models
● Siri integration
● Spring 2015 first release
Apple Watch launched in the spring of 2015 with three distinct models, several bands designed by Apple and fashion companies, and software that emphasized communication. Only one of those remain a part of the lineup today; bands. Apple made the wrong initial bet on their wearable, but still delivered a smash hit product despite that, because the users found its purpose.
Apple Watch design and features
The Apple Watch has seen a few design changes over the years, but they all share similar design characteristics throughout. They run watchOS, and only the first generation watch no longer receives updates. The Digital Crown, changeable watch bands, and an OLED screen are present throughout each generation.
The Watch features a simple hook and sliding mechanism to secure watch bands in place. Not only does Apple offer a range of bands themselves, but third parties can make custom ones as well. Similar to the era of iPod cases, then iPhone cases, watch bands have exploded into its own micro-business.
Every generation has used the same band latches and sizes, even when the screen size changed. A pair of small buttons on either side of the casing can be depressed to release a band and change it out with ease.
The Digital Crown is based on the real crown a person uses to set the time on an analog watch. Apple set out to re-create this type of analog control for the digital era, and invented the Digital Crown. It is mounted on liquid metal that is conductive which allows the crown to turn without the need for more complex wiring for signals.
The Digital Crown acts as a home button, always taking you to the watch face or app list. It also acts as a scroll-wheel for navigation. A long press will invoke Siri, and a double press will open your last app.
Embedded in the flat side of the crown is a conductive plate. This is used to complete the circuit from your wrist to your finger during an ECG.
Force Touch Display
Every generation of Apple Watch has featured something called a force touch display. This display allows you to press "into" the content to open up contextual menus. If this sounds familiar, it's because it was the fore-bearer to the now deprecated 3D Touch. Because of its small screen and limited interactions, Force Touch stuck around for this device, and it's easy to see the reason.
Each generation of Watch features various technologies all targeted at one thing: activity monitoring. The heart rate sensor and accelerometer both track your movement and activity throughout the day, and update three separate rings to show you how many calories have been burned, exercise minutes tracked, and hours you've met your stand goal.
Apple Watch allows users to share their activity rings between themselves inside the Activity app. This app will award users medals based on continued habits and closing their rings, and can even let users challenge each other. One initiative called "Apple Watch Connected" will allow gyms to reward their users based on how well they perform in the activity app.
Apple Watch history
The world held its breath for an Apple iWatch, and it never came. Instead, Apple gave us an introduction to a new naming scheme and a new product: Apple Watch. Tim Cook announced the new product with a "one more thing" at the September 2014 iPhone keynote. Five years later, the Series 5 shines as Apple's fully realized wearable computer.
Exemplifying the importance of a single large update to a device line, Apple Watch Series 5 changes the Apple wearables game again. This watch has a long-requested feature; an always-on display.
Until now, to see what was on your watch screen you'd need to perform an acrobatic maneuver to activate the screen, or tap it awake. Both proved intrusive and could cause awkward glances if you're seen tapping a watch during a meeting or social event. Users can just glance at the Watch, if it's in view, and see whatever data is present at that moment, and hopefully the time.
To accomplish this without sacrificing battery life, Apple put in a variable frequency display, which lets the screen slow its refresh to as little as 1Hz to keep data on the screen, refreshed, but not animating.
Other new features include ambient noise level monitoring and a built-in compass. The microphone will listen to the environment around you and warn you if it is too loud. And the compass lets you see which way you're facing on the map, which comes in handy when you're lost in town.
The Series 5 also marks the return of ceramic to the Apple Watch line. The new case design that arrived with the Series 4 dropped the material, but brought it back for Series 5. Add in the newest material, Titanium, and that brings the latest watch to four materials in multiple finishes each.
The introduction of the Apple Watch Series 4 went without the usual bells and whistles. Fall 2018 can be considered the equivalent to the iPhone 4S; a device released a few years in, feature-rich, in its stride, and it sees an iterative, if not important update.
The larger screen is immediately apparent, increasing to 44mm and 40mm screens without adding much to the case size was quite the engineering achievement. Apple also altered and improved the heart rate sensor on the bottom. This allowed for an important new health feature: ECG.
Apple Watch Series 4 with built-in fall detection and ECG became the must-buy for elderly parents or those relatives with mobility issues. This was a big step forward in getting the Apple Watch on more peoples' wrists, as the fitness approach had been well-tread.
Apple updated the software and watch faces to handle the bigger screens, allowing for more data than ever to be displayed.
While rife with quality of life or health updates, unless those benefits appealed to you or the bigger screen drew you in; upgrading from the series 3 wasn't a must.
This generation, Apple finally found its stride. The new watch featured vastly improved battery life, cellular models, and much faster wireless transfer speeds. The Apple Watch Series 3 launched in fall 2017 and was sold alongside the Series 1, replacing the Series 2. The Apple Watch Edition gained a new material color as well: gray ceramic.
Apple did make an odd design choice with this generation, specifically the cellular models. Apple chose to differentiate cellular versus GPS models by having the Digital Crown colored red on cellular watches.
Series 1 and 2
Apple learned a lot from its first year in wearables. They toned down the high fashion approach and peeled back the curtain on a new generation of Apple Watch: your new health and fitness companion. The Series 1 and 2 were announced by COO Jeff Williams at the September 2016 iPhone event.
Apple started by showing us the Apple Watch Series 2, to everyone's confusion, because this was a massive departure from the previous naming scheme and skipped a number entirely. The Series 2 was Apple's course correction for the wearable and was presenting the device primarily for health and fitness.
The Series 2 could be purchased in aluminum, stainless steel, or ceramic; gold was quietly discontinued. The Apple Watch Edition naming did stick around for the ceramic watch, however.
The Series 2 new features included "swimproofing" which Apple declared was safe up to 50 meters submerged. This watch also included GPS and a brighter screen.
Series 1 debuted alongside the new flagship Series 2, but distinguished for its price gap and lesser features. A Series 0 with the new S2 chipset, the Series 1 stays at the bottom of the lineup without the new swimproof and GPS features in an aluminum case.
The first-generation Apple Watch went on sale 6 months after its introduction. Apple did not start calling its watch models "series" until the second generation. Initially released in a three-model tier set, since it was supposed to be a fashion object, it went: Sport, Watch, and Edition. Each model housed identical internals with only the case material making a difference to the user. The Series 0 was dubbed as such as it came before the Series 1.
Apple Watch Sport was meant to be the entry-level watch, purchased by athletes and those with an active lifestyle. Made from aluminum, it was available in space gray, silver, and rose gold; mimicking the iPhone colors of the time.
The "Watch" was the main flagship. This is the Watch for those who are used to wearing a watch every day. Made of stainless steel and available in space gray and silver; this was priced as high as a mid-tier iPhone, yet expected to be the primary choice for consumers. However, the Sport model proved more popular over time.
Apple Watch Edition was Apple's, and more likely Jony Ive's, statement to the world that they were a serious jewelry company. Coming in with 18 karat gold or rose gold, this ultra-luxury device sold for $10,000 or more.
Apple Watch Pricing and Accessories
The Apple Watch attempted to become a fashion icon, and while it didn't quite reach that level, it is iconic for its ease to change looks on demand. This has spawned a thriving third party case and band market, and a slew of docks and chargers.
The entry-level watch starts at $200 for the Series 3, which only comes in aluminum material with space gray or silver color. If you want the latest model, the Series 5 starts at $399 for space gray, gold, or silver aluminum; $699 for space black, gold, or standard stainless steel; $799 for space black or standard titanium; or $1299 for white ceramic.
Apple Watch Series 5 and Series 3 are on sale today. Check out the AppleInsider Price Guide to learn more about model pricing.