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5 things the Apple Watch can and can't do

Zach Miners | Sept. 10, 2014
The watch does much more than tell the time -- but what exactly does it do? And what can't it?

Apple's latest "one more thing" was a doozy: A high-tech watch that CEO Tim Cook hopes will "redefine what people expect" from a wearable device. The watch does much more than tell the time -- but what exactly does it do? And what can't it?

The US$350 Apple Watch is meant to be worn throughout the day and relies on its connection to an iPhone for much of its functionality. It can track health activity, communicate with friends and run a wide range of apps. It can even make retail payments.

Here are five things the Apple Watch can do, followed by five things it can't.

1. Messaging and calling. There's a variety of ways to communicate with the device: Users can send and receive messages by dictating them or selecting from preset options. There's a built-in speaker and microphone for phone calls -- though it seems those calls have to go through an accompanying smartphone and not directly from the watch to a network. Users can silence incoming calls by covering the watch with their hand. There's also a new way to communicate called "digital touch," which lets people draw on the watch's screen and send the image to friends, almost like a Snapchat doodle.

2. Siri. Apple's personal assistant can be accessed on the watch by saying, "Hey, Siri," or holding down the crown (the winder on a regular watch) on the side of the device. With Siri, users can dictate messages to friends, get turn-by-turn directions or perform local searches, like for movie times.

3. Fitness tracking. Apple says the watch can help people lead healthier lives, by letting them set goals within apps or tracking their physical activity using built-in sensors. There's an accelerometer like in a smartphone, and a heart-rate sensor that uses infrared and visible-light LEDs and photodiodes. The Watch's Activity app will graph data like calories burned or how long you've been standing up. Its Workout app provides more granular information for specific activities like running and cycling. Meanwhile, the companion Health app on the iPhone will let people share the data with third-party health and fitness apps.

4. Shopping. One of the more intriguing features is that the watch supports Apple Pay, a new system intended to replace debit and credit cards for making purchases. It's based on NFC, or near field communication technology, which is already in some Android smartphones but not Apple's. Visa, Master Card and Amex card holders will be able to keep their card information on file with Apple, and Apple will create a device account number for each card that's stored in a Secure Element chip. Watch wearers will then be able to buy items by double clicking the button under the crown and waving their wrist in front of special in-store readers. Apple says its working with Macy's, McDonald's and lots of other stores to have the readers installed.

 

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