Apple Watch release date, news and features

Fabled iWatch or iPhone Watch specs, price and apps

Apple's smartwatch remained firmly up Tim Cook's sleeve until the very end. Plenty of iPhone 6 spy shots leaked, but so-called "iWatch" photos didn't surfaced before the official announcement.

The final Apple Watch design isn't too far from the renders that we've seen in recent weeks. The iPhone-compatible smartwatch features a rectangular-shaped design, one knob and a single button.

Apple iWatch

The Apple Watch screens features scratch-resistant protection thanks to sapphire glass. That's really important for wearables that we bang and knock around all day.

Previous rumors indicated that the "iWatch" will end up with a 1.6-inch display, which is slightly larger than the square-shaped iPod Nano 6G, and a two bigger screen options at 1.8 inches.

For a real-world comparison, the now-launched Moto 360 has a circular 1.56-inch LCD touchscreen with an almost completely round 320 x 290 resolution.

It's the 2.5-inch screen that has us collectively scratching our heads. Samsung Gear Live is a large at 1.63 in. and LG G Watch is even bigger at 1.65 inches. Samsung Gear S tips the scales at 2 in.

Apple already makes a device with a 2.5-inch display, the iPod Nano 7G, but it's difficult to imagine the company crafting the same dimensions onto wrists without some of that Apple "magic."

This could be why we're hearing that the iWatch could come in two different sizes that conform to bigger and smaller wrist sizes.

There's also a chance that Apple may compete directly with the Moto 360 smartwatch that features a stunning circular watch face. Could Motorola's stylish smartwatch be why iWatch isn't due until 2015?

The company could, alternatively, go with a more fitness-focused approach with an Apple iBand that's modeled after the Nike FuelBand SE, but its smartwatch features would be limited.

Specs

That LG-made iWatch display may be locked behind sapphire glass to protect it from the sort of nicks and bumps that comes with a constantly worn wearable.

Sapphire glass is the same tough-as-nails material that's supposedly being used in the iPhone 6 in an effort to replace Gorilla Glass 3.

Apple iWatch
It could take cues from the circular Moto 360

The move, though expensive, would be much appreciated. We've brushed our Android Wear smartwatches against walls in just one week's time and that's too close for comfort.

At the heart of the iWatch needs to be a speedy, yet small processor along the lines of the 1.2 Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 that's inside the Samsung Gear Live.

Apple has partnered with Samsung and ARM for its iPhone processors in the past, including the A7 CPU iPhone 5S, so the same could be true for the iWatch core.

It would also help if Apple could match its two Android Wear competitors' the 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage. Something tells us it won't be user-replaceable.

Sensors

Apple isn't all about cramming more megapixels into its smartphones vs the competition, but it may be inclined to add more sensors than any other smartwatch manufacturers.

The iWatch has been speculated to include more than 10 sensors including an accelerometer, gyroscope, altimeter, compass, heart-rate monitor, pulse oximeter, among others.

This would pivot the iWatch from an iOS notification-reading wearable to a full-fledged fitness tracking devices, taking cues from the Nike FuelBand SE and expanding on that relationship.

Health-focused smartwatches and apps seem like the future of wearables given the biometric sensor-filled Samsung Simband prototype and Apple's own iOS 8 Health app that's just crying out for the iWatch.

Interface and apps

Like a Jetsons watch from the future, iWatch is likely to incorporate Siri on the wrist so that Apple's personal assistant can head your every beck and and phone call.

iWatch could put iOS 8 at your dominant-hand's fingertips at all times thanks to a streamlined interface and smaller versions of the apps that you use every day.

Apple iWatch

It's expected to push both iMessages and SMS texts to the Apple smartwatch and alert you of upcoming calendar events and reminder tasks.

This would eliminate the all-too-common problems of "I left my phone in the other room," "in the charger" or "in the car overnight." On second, it may ruin some of your best excuses!

The benefit of iWatch apps

An iWatch would basically take the most important notifications from your iPhone and beam them to your wrist.

Care to dismiss a call without the pomp and circumstance of taking your phone out? Done. Or maybe you're waiting by the iPhone for important news? Check.

The iWatch touchscreen may deliver the ability to more discretely dismiss calls and actively keep on top of the ones you want to answer.

Meanwhile, a built-in microphone could launch Shazam to identify a mystery song more quickly (like before the track ends five seconds too soon) or call up directions more safely.

With an iWatch literally on hand, there'd be no more dangerously fumbling with the iPhone on your dash while you wait for Apple CarPlay to be installed on your vehicle of choice.

iWatch apps in the making

We haven't seen official iWatch apps just yet, but Apple's iOS 8 Health app is almost certainly being readied for its first wearable due to metrics you just can't track with a normal iPhone.

Apple iWatch
iOS 8 features a Health app and it's a natural fit for iWatch

Apple's HomeKit has also been previewed as a way to tie together smart home electronics. It could trigger smart light bulbs, door locks and thermostat setting.

Since Android Wear devices like Moto 360 can initiate commands and message replies via voice recognition technology, the same is likely a part of Apple's iWatch roadmap too.

Just don't expect a full iOS 8 experience on the wrist or a phone-call-cabale iWatch decked out with a SIM card like the rumored Samsung Solo. Your Dick Tracy wristwatch days aren't here just yet.

Battery life

The biggest hurdle for the Apple iWatch and all smartwatches in general is battery life. No one wants to charge another gadget every day. We do that too much as it is.

Case in point, one of the major cons we mentioned in our Samsung Galaxy Gear review revolves around its pitiful one-day-per-charge battery cycle. It has a 300mAh battery.

The LG G Watch, which also runs Android Wear, is hardly better at a day-and-a-half average capacity running off of a still-tiny 400mAh battery. Moto 360 is in the middle with a 320mAh battery.

Apple iWatch
Curved battery design by Apple (credit: USPTO)

Apple has previously patented a curved battery design that could give it the extra space that it needs to boost the rumored iWatch beyond a day or two.

The smartwatch components need to be small, but the battery life does not, according to energy-drained consumers.

At the same time, they require more than the monochrome display of the Pebble Steel and the originalPebble watches, which eked out a respectable 3-4 and 5-7 day battery life.

This impossible task may be why Tim Cook and company reportedly faced battery woes early on with the iWatch and still hasn't overcome them completely.

Wireless battery charger

At least when the iWatch battery dies, there may be a cool way to recharge the device thanks to wireless charging technology.

Apple has reportedly called upon a wireless charging coil supplier in China to send samples of its technology so that it can implement it into the iWatch.

Apple iWatch
Certain iWatch apps could drain the battery quickly

The iWatch could therefore wirelessly charge through magnetic induction, a method similar to the Qi-compatible Moto 360 smartwatch.

The Moto 360 wireless charging cradle is rather slick, perfect for a nightstand. It could even come with the iWatch, sort of like the first iPhone included a dock in the box initially.

Qi is quickly becoming the more popular wireless charging standard ahead of its rivals. That being said, Apple does like going with its own proprietary technology more often than not.

Waterproof

A lightning connector could also be an alternate way to charge the iWatch, but that may be a more difficult task if Apple is to make it waterproof or at least water resistant.

Smartwatches that can stand up to the elements are being demanded by consumers who want their "24/7 wearables" to be true to that term down to the second.

If the iWatch is like currently Android Wear watches, expect it to be splash proof up to IP67, which is rated for a depth of 1 meter (3.3 feet) for 30 minutes.

That's good for the shower and accidental submersions, but not exactly fit for dunking the iWatch in the swimming pool or taking it in the ocean. Not this first generation at least.

Compatibility

iWatch is likely to loosely follow the iOS 8 compatibility chart by working with new iPhones and iPads that contain newer Bluetooth antennas.

The battery-saving Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy made its debut in the iPhone 4S, iPad 3 and iPad miniand can be found in all newer models.

It's the exact same lineup that can wirelessly sync with the Fitbit Force, Jawbone Up24 andNikeFuelBand SE.

The iPad 2, which can be upgraded to iOS 8, is the one exception to the chart. It may be left off of the iWatch compatibility list.

It may mean it's time to turn in that old iPhone 4 for an iPhone 6 or a price-reduced iPhone 5S when the new phones launch later this year.

Just don't expect any Android phone, new or old, to work with the iWatch. Android Wear can't connect to Apple's devices, and we expect Apple to return the favor.

TechRadar is going to keep updating this feature explainer leading up to the release date and cost reveal, going beyond the vague spring 2015 and $349 (likely well north of converted £223, AU$403) price.