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What you need to know about Apple Watch, Apple's attempt to remake wearables

TechHive Staff | Sept. 11, 2014
Tim Cook finally got a chance to roll out a brand-new product--heck, a brand-new product category--for Apple on Tuesday, unveiling the company's new Apple Watch lineup at a highly anticipated press event in Cupertino. Apple demonstrated many juicy features of the watch, but left a lot to the imagination, including exactly when we can buy one. Here's a breakdown of what we know and what we still can't wait to find out.

What kinds of sensors does the Apple Watch have? Can it track my heart rate?Apple says that the watch has a couple different sensors, including an accelerometer (as you'll find in most smartphones), and a "custom" sensor that uses visible-light and infrared LEDs along with photodiodes, all on the back of the device, to determine your heart rate. The Apple Watch can also talk to your iPhone's GPS and Wi-Fi to help with figuring out location and other information.

So it's a watch and a fitness tracker?The accelerometer lets the watch count your steps, and it can rely on the GPS in the paired iPhone to determine the distance. That data comes in handy for two of the apps Apple included on the watch: Activity and Workout. Activity shows your progress toward daily goals for moving, exercising, and even standing. Workout is for more detailed tracking of a variety of activities, including distance, pace, time, and calories burned during each session; you can also use that app to set workout goals, and the watch will give you feedback as you reach those goals. Both of the watch's fitness apps sync data back to the Health and Fitness apps on your iPhone, too.

How do you navigate the Apple Watch? It's got a touchscreen, right?It does have a touchscreen, but the Apple Watch's big innovation is the little dial that sticks out the side, also known as the Digital Crown. That's a high-tech version of the crown you'll find on standard wristwatches, which you turn to set the time or wind the watch. In the case of the Apple Watch, however, the Digital Crown acts more like the iPod's Click Wheel: You can turn the crown to scroll through a list or zoom in and out of a map. Pressing the Crown returns you to the watch's home screen, just like pressing the Home button on your iPhone would.

Below the Digital Crown, you'll find a button, which Apple simply refers to as "the Button." Press it to access the Friends app, which brings up a Contacts-style collection of the people you like to stay in touch with. Tapping a picture of a friend lets you send them a message, make a phone call, or make contact with the Apple Watch's Digital Touch features (which we'll talk about below).

You can touch and tap on the screen too, but if you recall using the sixth-generation iPod nano (the little square one from 2010 Apple sold watch bands for, remember?), the size of your fingertip is bound to obscure whatever you're trying to tap; that's why the Digital Crown is there to let you navigate the Apple Watch while still being able to see the entire screen.

 

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