It was another busy week on the Apple Watch news front. We also heard news about a new iOS beta testing program for non-developers. Here are just a few of the stories that we covered during the past week.
Countdown to Apple Watch continues
The Wall Street Journal answered a lot of questions about the new device, which was first introduced in September. Not surprisingly, these answers haven’t officially come from Apple, but rather from sources close to the Cupertino, California-based company.
According to the report, originally, Apple executives wanted to create a wearable device that could measure blood pressure, heart activity, and stress levels. These proved unworkable, leaving Apple “struggling to define a purpose of the smartwatch.”
Their answer, for now, is a little bit of everything: displaying a fashion accessory; glancing at information nuggets more easily than reaching for a phone; buying with Apple Pay; communicating in new ways through remote taps, swapped heartbeats or drawings; and tracking daily activity.
Now that the Apple Watch is almost here, many challenges remain.
For one, unlike other Apple products, the Watch is going to straddle the line between jewelry and consumer electronics, which creates “different types of expectations from consumers about quality, obsolescence and the buying experience.”
As we already know, this means a range of watches at different prices, starting at $349. Those Apple Watch Edition models with an 18-karat gold casing? They are “expected to be among the most expensive products Apple has ever made, likely surpassing the $4,000 high-end Mac Pro.”
The Daring Fireball’s John Gruber suggested that these models are going to be very expensive.
As Brent Dirks noted:
Gruber originally believed that the Edition, with an 18-karat gold case, could cost about $5,000. But he now believes the retail price could be substantially higher:
I can see which way the wind is blowing. For months I’ve been asking friends who might know — or know someone else who might know, or even know someone who knows someone who might know — whether my guess of $5,000 is too high for the Edition starting price. The answer has always been “No”. But the way I’ve been told “No” has given me the uneasy feeling that I’ve been asking the wrong question. I should have been asking if $5,000 is too low.
I now think Edition models will start around $10,000 — and, if my hunch is right about bands and bracelets, the upper range could go to $20,000.
Just imagine, $20,000 for an Apple product.
You too can be an iOS beta tester
Building on the success of last year’s OS X Public Beta program, Apple is planning to release iOS 8.3 as a public beta, as early as mid-March. The public beta will launch via the company’s existing AppleSeed program and will match the third iOS 8.3 beta for developers.
The first iOS 8.3 beta was released to developers on Feb. 9. It features new wireless CarPlay capabilities, a new emoji picker, and support for Google’s two-factor authentication system. It also introduces Apple Pay support in China.
Apple’s iOS public beta program is expected to continue with iOS 9, which will launch in June at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). An iOS 9 public beta will arrive in mid-summer, with a final release set for the fall.
According to 9to5Mac:
The main goal of the iOS beta program will be a more reliable and widely tested operating system by the time of the wider consumer launch, as Apple has come under fire for lack of quality control in iOS 8. Launching public beta versions of iOS will also reduce the demand for unauthorized sales of beta downloads from developer accounts, which enabled some consumers to test-drive future iOS features.
I also like that the proposed program provides a safeguard where the public isn’t involved in the process until at least two beta versions are released to developers first. This should ensure that most of the more significant early beta nuisances are eliminated prior to a public launch.
Apple is currently testing three iOS 8 betas.
Besides iOS 8.3, the company recently released iOS 8.2 beta 5 to developers. Cupertino is also testing iOS 8.4 internally. The iOS 8.2 update allows the upcoming Apple Watch to talk to iPhone, while iOS 8.4 is rumored to feature Apple’s rebranded Beats streaming music service.
Some of the other stories making news this week:
- IFTTT introduces three new automated task apps, Do Button, Do Camera and Do Note
- Recent hires lend some credence to Apple car rumors
- Samsung finally gets serious about mobile payments and purchases Apple Pay competitor LoopPay
- Apple’s new Photos for Mac application could be hurt by storage costs, or present an opportunity