Apple officially unveiled the Apple Watch at the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus launch event. It will be available in “early 2015”, starting at $349 in the USA with prices elsewhere yet to be announced (a rough conversion would be £220).

Smartwatches have become increasingly popular since the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Gear. However, Apple’s watch is a bit different as it is the first mainstream piece of wearable technology to support mobile payments. Apple Pay will be enabled, meaning you can swipe it to pay at shops (as you would with an NFC-enabled debit or credit card). For fitness fans, there is built-in heart-rate tracking technology which works optically, much like recent heart-rate wrist monitors. The four-sapphire-lens array underneath the Apple Watch seems a lot more robust, at least in external design, than other heart-tracking watches, and could be more accurate.

Apple’s customised fitness apps seem intelligently designed: one tracks calories, activity and time spent standing, while another is a dedicated workout app meant for a range of activities including cycling. The Apple Watch works with other fitness apps: it is Nike Plus-supported, and there are bound to be more apps available by the time it launches. Apple aims for the Apple Watch to have an edge on other smartwatches in terms of apps. Android Wear already has a fair amount of app support, but apps are a secondary part of Google’s watches.

Apple also added a different type of controller: a little Digital Crown on the side. This is a clever idea as it merges a home button and scroll wheel in one. It aims to help make pinch-to-zoom and scroll functions easier to pull off, while IR and photo sensors give it extra sensitivity. Using a direct-communication suite of apps called Digital Touch, the Apple Watch will also acts as a personal communicator to other Apple Watch owners. You can scribble designs, send vibration-enhanced taps, or send audio messages like a walkie-talkie.

Which phone do you need?

An iPhone 5, 5C, 5S, 6, or a 6 Plus is required. Earlier iPhones are excluded, and so are other phone platforms like Android.

How does it work?

The Apple Watch is meant to stay paired and connected with your iPhone while you wear it for most features, but it also does some things while disconnected, too. The watch charges via a clever combination of magnets and inductive charging: the charger just snaps on the back.

Aesthetics

The Apple Watch comes in various different styles but they’re all based on the same curved-edge rectangular-screen design. There are three different construction styles, two different sizes, and six different watch bands, leading to a surprising number of combinations. If it catches on, the Apple Watch could be the next “must have” gadget for business executives. However, will senior business people be willing to ditch their Tag Heuer or Rolex in favour of a touch screen device? Only time will tell…