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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.

That said, there's one gesture that works pretty well on even a watch-sized screen — swiping. Swipe around your Apple Watch screen and you can jump to little bits of information — your calendar, your location, current weather data, and so forth. Apple calls these Glances, and they strip out the most relevant information from apps and put them into a form you can digest just by looking at your Watch's screen.

When you do touch the Apple Watch, its screen can actually distinguish between a regular tap, which you'll use to select things, and a harder touch, which is how you'll access contextual menus — kind of like right-clicking with your mouse. Apple calls this technology Force Touch, and it's enabled by tiny electrodes in the display.

Can the Apple Watch do anything my iPhone can't do on its own?Apple showed off a really cool-looking app called Digital Touch, as we mentioned above. Digital Touch lets you tap out a pattern on your watch face, which your friend will see and feel on his or her own Apple Watch. You can also draw each other little pictures, which has some practical purposes — in his demo, Apple vice president Kevin Lynch drew a picture of a fish to indicate to one his Apple Watch chums that he wanted sushi for lunch. And if you hold down two fingers in Digital Touch, you can send your heartbeat, which shows up on your friend's watch as a glowing, pulsing heart. This might encourage couples to buy his-and-hers watches so they can let each other know anytime how their hearts flutter for each other... or pound like hammers when they get really mad.

Can I use the Apple Watch to pay for things?Yep! Apple said that the watch supports Apple Pay, its new mobile payments system. That means the watch definitely has near-field communication, or NFC, technology. The iPhone 6 models also have a dedicated "Secure Element" chip that stores your encrypted information — not your actual credit card numbers, but rather a "device account number" that is used to create a single-use security code to authorize each transaction. The phone provides the watch with information about the items stored in its own Secure Element, and then the watch has the ability to use those items itself in order to pay wirelessly. There's a nice security touch, too: If you take the Apple Watch off, it'll lock and require a code before you can purchase anything, so if someone steals your watch they won't be able to use it as a credit card.

What kind of apps did Apple build for Apple Watch? Will it run third-party apps?

 

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