Timing might be right for Apple Watch, experts say

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Apple revolutionized the smartphone industry when it introduced the first iPhone in 2007. Will the company’s first smart watch do the same?

Although the Apple Watch has several impressive features and unique capabilities, only time will tell whether it will be a game-changing device in the smart-watch market, wearable-technology experts tell Consumers Digest.

Apple unveiled the Apple Watch on Sept. 9, 2014. The price starts at $349, and the watch will be available in early 2015, the company says.

According to experts, among the most notable features are a scratch-resistant sapphire-crystal watch face and a control knob that Apple calls a “digital crown,” which allows users to navigate the smart watch’s various applications and modes without using the touch-screen controls. A similar winding knob serves as the power button for Motorola’s Moto 360 smart watch, but no other smart watch has knob-control capability.

The Apple Watch also is the first smart watch to have mobile-payment capability. A new feature that’s called Apple Pay incorporates near-field communication to allow users to make electronic payments at credit-card terminals as a tap-and-pay transaction. As a result, you don’t have to leaf through a purse or wallet for the right payment method. Apple Watch wearers will be able to hold the device close to a credit-card terminal and press a button on their wrist to make a purchase.

“The idea of making payments without having to fish even for your phone is very cool,” says Dan Rosenbaum, who is the editor of Wearable Tech Insider.

However, mobile payments are just the start. Rosenbaum says Starwood hotels will participate in a trial that allows its customers who have an Apple Watch to use it to unlock their hotel room rather than a conventional room key. Furthermore, other features, such as the ability to use the watch as a remote control for the Apple TV streaming device helps to set Apple Watch apart from other smart watches, says technology analyst Ben Arnold of market-research company The NPD Group.

“This is a premium device. It feels different,” Arnold says. “It feels like it’s more than a watch.”

For instance, a mobile application that’s called Digital Touch allows users to send small drawings to other Apple Watch users or to give fellow Apple Watch wearers a virtual tap on the wrist by pulling up their contact information and tapping the watch screen once; the recipient will feel his/her Apple Watch vibrate and will receive visual notification that you sent the tap. In addition, the smart watch can send a vibration to your arm when you receive a message or when you use the watch’s Map app and have to make a turn.

However, the Apple Watch doesn’t operate by itself. You have to use Bluetooth to connect it to a compatible iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 5s, 5c or 5 to operate the apps that are on the watch. Such a requirement isn’t surprising, because the costs that are associated with smart watches that don’t require smartphone pairing—namely an additional cellular-phone line and a separate SIM card to store data—are expensive, Rosenbaum says.

We also couldn’t help but notice that Apple provided no details about battery life. Although Apple says a magnetic inductive charger attaches to the rear of the watch face, it didn’t say how long you can use the smart watch on a single charge. “If it needs constant charging or isn’t capable of lasting through the day, it’ll fare poorly,” says Steve Jones, who is a technology expert and a professor of communication at University of Illinois at Chicago.

The Apple Watch will come with a variety of faces and bands, allowing consumers to customize their device.

The Apple Watch will come with a variety of faces and bands, allowing consumers to customize their device.

– K. Carlson