Apple Watch FAQ: Everything You Need to Know

The Apple Watch's time has come. Apple's smartwatch is now in the hands -- and on the wrists -- of some of the early adopters who got their orders in early. Expect even more watches to start popping now that Apple has started to fill its backlog of smartwatch orders. Still wondering what the big deal is about the Apple Watch and why you would want such a thing? Here's everything you need to know about the new smartwatch from Apple.

The basics

The Apple Watch runs a version of iOS that is simpler than its smartphone counterpart. You won't be able to make calls or use Web-based services from the watch without being connected to a compatible device (iPhone 5 and up, running the latest version of iOS 8). The Apple Watch pairs with iPhones via Bluetooth Low Energy and built-in Wi-Fi.

Powered by Apple's new S1 chip, the Apple Watch features a 38mm-wide, 340 x 272-pixel rectangular touch screen (which increases to 48mm, 390 x 312p on larger models). This display is coated with sapphire to protect the device from scratches. The watch is also sweat-resistant, and will juice up via a specially created MagSafe charger that attaches easily to the watch.

The Watch is available in three collections: Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch Edition. The Watch model comes in a polished or space-gray stainless-steel watch case and a selection of straps: sport band, classic buckle, leather loop, modern buckle, Milanese loop and link bracelet. Each of those bands is available in a variety of colors. The Apple Watch Sport comes in either a space gray or silver anodized aluminum finish with a sport band, while the Apple Watch Edition features an 18-karat rose or yellow gold casing and a range of exclusive straps.

MORE: Best Smartwatches for the Money

When can I get it?

You can order right now through Apple's website. The company started taking preorders for the Apple Watch on April 10, with nearly 1 million people placing orders on the first day the device went on sale according to Apple. That created a bit of a backlog, which seems to have eased. Jeff Williams, Apple's senior vice president of operations, says that orders placed through May will ship within two weeks, with the exception of the Apple Watch 42 mm Space Black Stainless Steel with Space Black Link Bracelet.

And now you have more options for getting your hands on an Apple Watch. When shopping for the smartwatch, you can now reserve one at an Apple Store near you, picking it up in person on a specified day and time. (Note that all styles aren't available in every store.) On June 26 -- the same day the Apple Watch goes on sale in additional countries beyond the nine it launched in during April -- you'll be able to buy a watch in person at some Apple Stores. It's unclear which models will be available at which stores though, so you may want to check with your local Apple Store before heading in to buy one. The Apple Stores do have Apple Watches on display that you can try on, in case you need some hands-on time with the device before ponying up the $349 starting price.

How much does it cost?

Starting at $349, the Apple Watch is already more expensive than competing smartwatches such as the Pebble Steel ($199) and the Motorola Moto 360 ($250).

It's available in three collections - Apple Watch Sport, Apple Watch and Apple Watch Edition. Each of these collections offers the two watch face sizes and a selection of bands and buckles. Apple Watch Sport, which sports a anodized aluminum case in silver or space gray, will cost $349 ($399 for bigger model).

MORE: Apple Watch Review

Apple Watch, which cases in highly polished or space black stainless steel, can be paired with a choice of three different leather straps, a stainless steel link bracelet and Milanese loop closure, and a black or white Sport Band. This collection will cost between $549 and $1,099 depending on what band you get.

The most luxurious of the lot, the Apple Watch Edition is crafted from custom rose or yello 18-karat gold alloys, and can be worn with specially designed straps and bands with 18-karat gold clasps, buckles or pins. The Apple Watch Edition starts at $10,000.

Expect to pay more if you're looking to extend your warranty beyond the coverage provided by the standard AppleCare package. An AppleCare+ protection plan for Apple Watch Edition costs $1,500 -- pricey, sure, though, if you're already throwing down $10,000 for a watch, Apple must figure you're willing to pay 15 percent extra for an additional year of AppleCare coverage on top of the two years Apple Watch Edition buyers will already get. Benefits include 24/7 customer support, a special setup hotline, and coverage for up to two incidents involving accidental damage to the watch. AppleCare+ costs are proportionally lower for the less expensive Apple Watch and Apple Watch Sport models -- $69 and $49, respectively. AppleCare+ for the standard and Sport watches adds a second year of technical support, along with coverage for two incidents of accidental damage.

How does it work?

In addition to a touch-screen interface that lets you tap and swipe your way through the system, the Apple Watch also offers several new means of interaction. A Digital Crown knob on the right edge acts like a home button. You can press this to return to the main screen, or turn it to zoom or scroll through options in the interface.

Next to the Digital Crown is a dedicated button that pulls up the Friends communication tool. This lets you contact a select list of people via your Apple Watch.

MORE: Top 10 Features of the Apple Watch

You'll still swipe and tap on the screen to navigate, but Apple has also introduced a new method of input. Called Force Touch, the device will register how hard you are pressing on the screen and trigger an action like a right click or long tap.

For hands-free control, you can also interact with the Apple Watch via Siri. Apple's voice-powered digital assistant can take dictation to compose messages, find the nearest coffee shop or tell you the next event on your schedule. 

With the companion app for the Apple Watch, you can customize your watch face's app icon layout and add an up-to-four-letter monogram. The companion app will also be the main way of managing the timepiece, letting you set voice dictation or audio replies as your default method of responding to texts.

You can also customize the fitness tracking functions via Companion by toggling goal notifications and "stand reminders" or setting how often you get an activity progress update. Stand reminders nudge you to get up when you've been sitting too long.

Security features are also determined via the companion app, it seems. You can choose to unlock the watch when you unlock your iPhone and enable a four-digit passcode for the timepiece. That can be used to authorize Apple Pay transactions. The Apple Watch can also be set to wipe itself after 10 inaccurate password attempts.

How long does its battery last?

Apple says its watch should last 18 hours on a charge, and our tests suggest that's a fair estimate. When we reviewed the Apple Watch, we still had plenty of charge left after a full day of use. Still, you're going to have to plug in the watch every day to recharge it. Apple also made a magnetic charging cable that easily snaps onto the base of the watch face to make juicing up the device a little more convenient.

MORE: Apple Watch Battery Life: How It Measures Up

Note that the Apple Watch has a Power Reserve mode, in which the device will show you the time and nothing else in order to conserve battery life. You're prompted to go into Power Reserve mode when you've got less than 10 percent of battery life left, though you also have the option of turning it on manually by holding down the Side button to bring up the watch's power-off screen.

TechCrunch reported that the Apple Watch battery will be replaceable, although it's not clear how much it will cost to send your smartwatch to the company in to get a new cell. According to TechCrunch, the lifespan of the battery is about three years, so you'll likely have to get a new one after that time.

What does it do?

In addition to telling time, showing stock quotes and weather updates, and functioning as a stopwatch and alarm, there's a whole lot more the Apple Watch can do.

Apple Pay

Thanks to the built-in NFC chip, the Apple Watch supports one-tap payments via Apple Pay. This brings the convenient digital-wallet feature to phones without NFC, such as the iPhone 5 and 5s. You can make purchases just by double-clicking the button next to the Digital Crown and holding your wrist up to a payment terminal. The Watch will make a sound and vibrate once your payment is confirmed.

MORE: Apple Pay: Can You Trust It?

Apple Pay is accepted at hundreds of thousands of stores in the U.S., including Whole Foods, Duane Reade, Bloomingdale's, McDonald's, Subway and Walgreens. A full list of supporting merchants appears at the bottom of the Apple Pay page.

Fitness Tracking

With an onboard heart-rate monitor and accelerometer, the Watch can track your fitness activity, including calories burned and workout intensity. The Watch's Activity app will even track something as simple as standing after a period of sitting, with the app encouraging you to meet daily goals for exercise and moving about. However, the Apple Watch will need to connect to your phone to get GPS data like distance traveled and pace.

Apple created a page on its website detailing the watch's heart rate monitor. Using a process called photoplethysmography, the monitor optically records heart rate with LED lights that detect the amount of blood flowing through your wrist. While it's not a continuous monitor, Apple claims it will constantly record your heart rate during workouts, and then take a reading every 10 minutes throughout the day and store it in the Health app. You can also manually check your heart rate at any time using the Heart Rate Glance display on the watch.

MORE: Smart Health: Apple Watch Wants to Get You Moving

The Workout app lets more serious fitness buffs set goals and monitor real-time stats. It also provides encouraging messages during your workout and shows a summary of your vitals after each session. Your tracked data can be sent to your iPhone's Health app so you can share the info with third-party fitness programs.

Apps, Actionable Notifications and Glances

There are three main forms of content that the Apple Watch delivers: Glances, Actionable Notifications and Apps. Glances are simple alerts that deliver bite-size, read-only information and reminders. Tapping on a Glance will launch the related app. Actionable Notifications let you react to your alerts with predefined functions set by the app. For instance, if you've left your lights on at home, a smart home app can alert you to that and give you the option to switch the lights off, without requiring you to open the app.

Apple's already shown off a whole bunch of third-party apps that will work on the wearable, including Instagram, Starwood (the hotel chain)'s SPG app, Shazam, Uber and WeChat. These native apps are full-fledged programs -- at the Apple Watch preview event in March, Apple's Kevin Lynch showed off how he could find a song on Shazam, check into a hotel and unlock his door with the Starwood app, book a ride with Uber, and send messages and stickers via WeChat. 

With iOS 8.2, you can download the Apple Watch app on your iPhone and use that to browse a store of titles for the wearable and install the ones you want on your wrist.

MORE: Best Apple Watch Apps

Other Functions

Couch potatoes may never have to leave their comfy thrones again, thanks to remote-control functions built into the Watch. You can skip through music on your iPhone or iTunes music library, navigate your Apple TV menu, enable Do Not Disturb and Airplane modes or turn on/off the smart lights in your house — all from your wrist. The Watch even acts as a remote viewfinder and trigger for your iPhone's camera. If you are separated from your phone, you can use the Watch to ping and locate it.

With Passbook integration, you can quickly pull up your plane tickets, boarding passes and loyalty cards without having to get out your phone. The app also alerts you when your discount or loyalty cards can be used.

You can send and receive messages and calls, but Apple also created cool new ways of interacting with your friends through its Digital Touch features. Share sketches by doodling on the screen, or send your heartbeat. Your recipient will get buzzed on his wrist in time with your pulse. The walkie-talkie feature lets you share sound bites with friends, and Tap sends silent, gentle vibrations to your contacts when you touch the display.

You'll also get some onboard storage to keep your music and photos. According to 9to5Mac, all models of the watch will ship with 8GB of storage -- 2GB for music, and up to 75MB for photos. That's about 150 to 200 songs and an estimated 100 pictures, which may sound restrictive, but you can store your pictures on iCloud Photo Library and keep just your favorites on the Watch.

For more on what you can do with the Apple Watch, see the complete list of features on the company's website. Apple has also posted a series of how-to videos, offering a guided tour of the Apple Watch's features. And select Apple retail stores are hosting workshops walking users through how to use their watches.

What apps does it run?

A truckload of Apple apps are available for the watch interface, including Activity, Calendar, Workout, Maps, Passbook, Music, Apple TV, iTunes, Remote Camera, Stopwatch, Timer, Alarm, Stocks, Weather, Photos, Siri and Settings.

A number of third-party app makers have come out with Watch-specific applications, which you can add via the Apple Watch app on your iPhone. Instagram will let you see your friends' latest photos and like or leave an emoji comment. You'll also get notifications of your Instagram likes and comments. The American Airlines app will remind you when it's time to head to the airport or start boarding, and provide connecting gate information and gate change updates. Book a ride via Uber, or reserve a bike for your Equinox class all from your wrist. The Deadline app will purportedly tell you when you're going to die. Talk about a death Watch.

Other major apps coming to the Apple Watch include Facebook, Twitter, Nike, WeChat, OpenTable, Shazam, At Bat, Nike+ Running, Shazam and BMW.

What's next for the Apple Watch?

Apple is usually mum about what to expect from future products. That said, the company comes out with new iPhones and iPads every year, so it's likely that the next version of the Apple Watch is under development right now, even as the smartwatch is just arriving in stores.

To that end, a June report in 9to5Mac said that the 2016 edition of the Apple Watch could add a FaceTime camera to the watch's top bezel. That would enable video calling from your watch, a feature straight out of Dick Tracy comics. That same report also says future Apple Watches could feature a new Wi-Fi chip for connectivity, which may free your Apple Watch from having to connect through your iPhone.

Beyond rumors, Apple has already announced a new version of the Apple Watch operating system that will let developers make native apps for the watch. WatchOS 2 also brings more Watch face customization options and lets users add third-party "complications" to the watch face -- those are widget-like pieces of information like the current temperature or your next appointment. WatchOS 2 takes a page out of Pebble's book with a new feature called Time Travel that shows future events, weather data, and other information with the twist of a dial. And fitness tracking capabilities should be improved with the OS update. Look for WatchOS 2 to become publicly available this fall.

Apple Watch vs. Competition

Several other brands are already making waves in the smartwatch arena, including Apple's biggest rivals, Samsung and Google. While Google's focus has been on its Android Wear operating system for wrists, Samsung has pushed through several smart bands under the Gear brand. The $149 Gear Fit is a fitness-oriented tracker, while the $350 Gear S is a 3G-enabled smartwatch that can run on its own without being tethered to a phone.

Major electronics companies have jumped on the Android Wear bandwagon, including LG and Motorola, which offer the G Watch and Moto 360, respectively. These watches cost between $150 and $250, and need to be connected to an Android device to work. Samsung also has an Android Wear watch called the Gear Live ($199).

The Wear system is like Google Now on your wrist, delivering notifications and alerts on a watch face. However, as of the current OS version (4.4W.2), dismissing a notification on your screen removes it from your watch, and there's no way to see a history of alerts on the timepiece. Navigating Android Wear is also very dependent on swipes, which gets tiresome after a while.

Android Wear does have some positive qualities, such as voice-activated searches and replies to messages, fitness features (heart rate on select devices) and a growing number of smart apps. For example, Lyft lets you call for a car using just your voice. But overall, Android Wear still needs work.

Apple's system offers more functionality. Plus, the Digital Crown knob makes for a less swipe-happy means of navigation, so you can get to the content you want faster.

Our favorite smartwatch before the Apple Watch's arrival was the $199 Pebble Steel, which is compatible with both Android and iOS devices and can run apps such as Yelp, RunKeeper and ESPN. There are already more than 3,000 apps available for the Pebble. Apple's wearable is only compatible with some iOS devices for now. The Steel is also much cheaper and offers long battery life, thanks to its E Ink display.

Apple may continue to face stiff competition, though. Pebble's recently announced Pebble Time has already smashed the company's previous record by raising $11 million on Kickstarter in just three days. The new Pebble will feature a color ePaper display, voice control and a new operating system. Not to be outdone, LG also just announced its Watch Urbane LTE -- a premium smartwatch that supports LTE and will run a proprietary operating system.

MORE: Apple Watch vs. Pebble Time Steel: What Should You Wear?

Other wearable devices are also cropping up, such as Fitbit's Surge and Microsoft's Band ($200), that have more of a fitness focus but also pack smartwatch features. People who want more dedicated health trackers may prefer these wearables, especially since the Apple Watch's fitness and health-tracking features feel a little underwhelming at this point.

What accessories are available?

As with the iPhone and iPad, accessory makers are coming out with a variety of add-ons for the Apple Watch, including bands that you can attach to the device as well as accessories such as charging docks and screen protectors. Not all of these accessories have hit the market just yet -- manufacturers had to wait until the Apple Watch was out in order to put the finishing touches on their products.

Apple is imposing some order on the rush to come out with watch-compatible accessories by launching a Made for Apple Watch program. As it did with its other mobile devices, Apple is issuing guidelines for accessory makers to produce approved bands for the Apple Watch.

Apple Watch Guide: Page by Page

1. How to Use the Apple Watch9. Send a Text Message
2. 10 Coolest Things the Apple Watch Can Do10. Make a Call
3. Best Apple Watch Apps11. Change Text Size
4. Best Apple Watch Games12. Mute Watch and Change Sounds
5. Best Apple Watch Bands13. Install Apps
6. Best Apple Watch Accessories14. Switch Between Apps
7. Set Up Your Apple Watch15. Lock the Watch
8. Change Your Apple Watch Band16. Add Friends to Friends Screen

Staff writer Cherlynn Low needs a smartwatch because she keeps losing her dumb watches. Follow her @cherlynnlow. Follow Tom's Guide at @tomsguide on Facebook.

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  • Ik_So
    I also believe that Pebble Steel can be compared with Apple Watch. It may not have very fancy specs, but it is practical and cheap!
  • terry1308
    I believe that the Apple Watch is a stepping stone for further technology.
  • Mclean1
    Super cool watch and it can turn my T.V over, their is a GOD thank you apple.