The Apple Watch is finally with us, but how does it compare to its major rival, the Samsung Galaxy Gear range? A huge fanfare will greet the release of the Apple Watch, when it reaches Apple stores on April 10, but will this huge reception actually be justified?
Apple Watch raw data
So a good place to start is to outline what we know about the Apple Watch already. Apple was reluctant to release specifications regarding this smartwatch, and they won’t be available for sometime, but we do have a number of specific morsels of information about this new Apple device.
Clearly, Apple is placing a huge amount of emphasis on the appearance of the Apple Watch, intending for the device to offer a lot of physical options to the potential smartwatch buyer. Possibly Apple has recognized this as a mistake with previous smartwatch releases, and intends to capture as many potential customer demographics as possible.
With this in mind there will be three separate versions of the Apple Watch available in April, the standard Apple Watch, the Apple Watch Sport and the Apple Watch Edition. These greatly vary in style and price tag, and each model of the Apple Watch comes complete with a huge variety of strap choices and physical designs.
Apple Watch consumers also have two separate choices in terms of the size of device that they opt for. The larger of the two Apple Watches is dubbed the 42mm device, and measures 24.3 x 30.5 mm, 39 mm (1.5 in) diagonally. The smaller 38mm version’s dimensions are 21.2 x 26.5 mm, 33.5 mm (1.32 in) diagonally. There are also differences in pixel handling capability, with the larger of the two models armed with higher resolution. The 38mm model handles 272 x 340 pixels, with the larger Apple Watch capable of dealing with 312 x 390 pixels.
The Apple Watch will also offer a Retina touchscreen display with Force Touch, and Sapphire Glass or Ion-X glass covers depending on the model ordered. It will be interesting to see what impact this has on the iPhone 7, as the industrial purchasing of Sapphire Glass by Apple was predicted to have an impact on future iPhone handsets. It could be that it was simply intended for the Apple Watch all along.
Aside from the touch functionality, Apple has also included a Taptic Engine and built-in speaker for instant tactile feedback. It is obvious even at this early stage that Apple intends this to be a device which is particularly convenient and user-friendly to utilize.
Although the full specs of either model of the Apple Watch are not yet known, some details have been released. The Apple Watch will be driven by a custom S1 SiP (System in Package) chip, and features two notable sensors; an accelerometer and a built-in heart rate sensor.
The Wi-Fi provision is the 802.11b/g standard, and Bluetooth 4.0 support is included. Apple states that 18-hours battery life and MagSafe charging will be provided by the device, and the Digital Crown Home button will obviously be central to operation of the device, considering its fundamental importance in the iPhone series.
Most importantly, and indeed predictably, Apple has ensured that the device has NFC support, in order to help ignite its already popular Apple Pay system. The Apple Watch is compatible with the iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, and many owners of these devices will doubtless already be assessing the viability of purchasing one.
Galaxy Gear competition
Samsung attempted to steal a march on Apple with the release of the Galaxy Gear, which first entered into the public domain in September 2013. At that time there were already rumours of Apple releasing a smartwatch in the near future, and there was a good deal of analyst speculation which suggested that it might occur at some point during 2014. Clearly Samsung intended to head Apple off at the pass.
As it turned out, this has not been hugely successful. The Galaxy Gear has not established the smartwatch as a form of mainstream technology, and the number of units shifted has been rather disappointing. Samsung reported in February 2014 that it has sold 2 million units of the Galaxy Gear. By comparison, the latest analyst predictions for the Apple Watch is that it will shift 20 million copies by the end of 2015.
The Galaxy Gear is powered by an 800 MHz Exynos system-on-chip, and contains a 320 pixel-wide square-shaped Super AMOLED touchscreen display with a pixel density of 277 PPI. It has a 1.9-megapixel camera, and will no doubt be set up for Samsung Pay compatibility once this goes live. The Galaxy Gear also features 4 GB of internal memory, 512 MB of RAM, an accelerometer, and a gyroscope.
Apple has tried to cover every base with the Apple Watch, and emphasize the convenience of the device. Efforts have been made to collaborate with businesses and industries that would be natural tie-ins with the Apple Watch; hence the fact that EasyJet, Twitter, Siri and Apple Pay functionality were prominently mentioned during the Apple Watch unveiling.
Whether the Apple Watch will turn out to have specs as strong as the Galaxy Gear remains to be seen. But what can be stated at this point in time is that, as usual, Apple has carefully thought out where to position its device and how to define the smartwatch niche. No wonder analysts are predicting a 1,000 percent more successful launch.