Apple Watch specs, price, release date and best features

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The Apple Watch is set to launch in early 2015. We run down its specs, price and latest release date news

The Apple Watch is the iPhone and iPad maker’s long-awaited entry into the wearables market. Revealed alongside the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus the Apple Watch was expected to be called the iWatch but Apple made a departure from its standard naming convention. We’ve collected together all the latest details about the Apple Watch to give you a better idea of how it works, some of its best features, its release date and how much it will cost.

The Apple Watch might not have a circular display like Motorola’s eye-catching Moto 360, but this is still a beautiful looking wearable. Depending on the model the square chassis is either built from stainless steel or 18 karat gold, with curved edges and interchangeable wrist straps.

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The screen uses a flexible retina display, laminated with sapphire glass to protect it from scratches and scrapes. It can also detect force, so know the difference between a tap and a press. Little is known about screen resolution yet, as Apple hasn’t made anything official.

Controlling the Apple Watch with a touchscreen is impractical, with Apple’s oddly-named Digital Crown. The company described this as a “multifunctional input device that lets you zoom, scroll and select without covering the screen”. In practical terms this means you can turn a small knob on the side of the watch to zoom in and out when looking at a map with the same action also used for scrolling up and down webpages. It also doubles-up as a home button.

On the underside are four IR and LED sensors that can detect the wearer’s pulse and send this data to the Health app or other iOS 8 apps. People can also share their heartbeat data with other Apple Watch owners. Another button below the Digital Crown gives users instant access to their contacts. Press the Friends button and select a contact to send a message, make a call or carry out other functions.

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The back of the watch is made from tough zirconia and doubles as a charging plate by using a combination of inductive charging and magsafe magnetic locking. This means there’s no need to align charging pins or carry a bulky charging cradle. Apple hasn’t revealed battery life yet and this remains one of the Apple Watch’s biggest mysteries.

The Watch is powered by a custom-built Apple S1 system-on-chip, paired with what Apple is calling a Taptic engine – essentially a vibrating motor that provides physical feedback on receiving notifications.

The brand new UI doesn’t look anything like iOS, with a series of circular icons letting users jump into any app from a single screen. The Apple Watch uses Siri for voice control and dictating messages, dealing with notifications and controlling nearly all apps.

Apple has also said the Apple Watch can be used to control Apple TV and act as a remote viewfinder for a paired iPhone camera. It will also support Apple Pay for contactless payments. The new iOS 8 Handoff feature extends to Apple Watch, letting users dismiss notifications from their wrists.

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Two health and wellness apps, Fitness and Workout, will track a user’s daily movements and measure performance when out on a run or cycling. The Apple Watch must be paired with an iPhone to track GPS location. Users can customise the watch face with different colours, designs and features. Apple will include a range of its own watch faces with third party developers expected to add many more.

The Apple Watch will launch in two different sizes and three distinct versions. The standard Apple Watch will arrive in stainless steel, the Sport Collection will use a 60 per cent tougher metal alloy, and the Apple Watch Edition will arrive in 18 karat gold.

Each model also uses different glass on the watch face. The standard Apple Watch and Gold Apple Watch Edition both use sapphire crystal glass, which should be able to withstand serious scrapes and scratches, while the Apple Watch Sport uses Ion-X Glass. Because sapphire glass isn’t particularly resistant to drops, ion-strengthened glass makes more sense on a watch that will be worn when exercising.

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Apple has designed six different straps along with a mechanism for making it easy to swap between them. The Sport band is made from sweat resistant plastic but people will be able to choose between a leather quilted loop, stainless steel link bracelet and Milanese loop.

The Apple Watch only works if paired with an iPhone and it will not work with Android devices. Apple has confirmed that the only iPhone models that support the Apple Watch are the iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c and iPhone 5 and the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

The Apple Watch will go on sale early in 2015. Prices will start at $349 (at least £220 in the UK) for the standard model.

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