According to a recent announcement by Apple CEO Tim Cook, the new flagship wearable device will be shipping in April 2015. There is still skepticism about how the actual launch date will be revealed and some are still hopeful a late February, early April media event will not only announce final watch details, but also reveal a new 12” MacBook Air with Retina display. Regardless of how or when Apple makes the move, Apple Watch will bring a competitive device to a crowded market. In traditional Apple fashion, the wearable brings new technology to ensure its domineering grasp on the competition.
Getting the most attention, the Digital Crown is a new-age stem and crown design similar to traditional watches, but in appearance only. Apple’s Digital Crown input system is “a versatile tool that answers the fundamental challenge of how to magnify content on a small display,” according to the Apple website. A pinch-t0-zoom requirement is the now-accepted standard of zooming on a smart device. However, with such small screens, wearable technologies struggle to provide a similar option. Pinch-to-zoom would simply cover the screen content and eliminate usability. The scrolling crown simply provides a way to zoom into detailed content on, say, a map. Additionally with a quick depression, Digital Crown returns the user to Home screen.
Another unexpected advancement is in the screen technology. While the Digital Crown solves zooming, screen size also limits touch input. As the Apple Watch screen surface is small, it takes new interactive technologies to prevent limiting the device to known input solutions. The Digital Crown is getting most of the attention, but the pressure sensing screen may stand above as a more scalable addition.
Apple Watch will be able to determine a tap, from a press. The existing version of this interaction is tap or tap-hold. Now, Force Touch is able to determine the virtual depth of a press and can draw new actions from the input.
As shown above, the virtual acceptance of a depression is recognized by small electrodes on the Watch surface. With this new interaction, contextual menus are presented on a per app basis. As exampled in the initial Apple Watch reveal, a press in the music application could bring up additional controls, pictured below.
It is believed that the press input option will be coded into new apps that launch for Apple Watch. Press interaction can make things a little easier on the screen. Without the need to actually add a contextual button, you may recognize the icon as three lines stacked on top of one another known vernacular as the “hamburger” icon, screen real estate is preserved.
Adding depth to the screen will prove to be an important new interaction and potentially change smart devices across the board. Tap, tap-hold, and press may all live harmoniously on any upcoming Apple device and offer new ways to provide toggles, responses, and interactions for any number of situations.
Apple Watch is set to launch in April and you can try ‘press’ for yourself. With an April launch, there is still a chance Apple will host another media event and announce other updates or refreshes while finalizing details about its new wearable.