After months of rumors & speculation, Apple finally forayed into wearables by launching a smart watch called Apple Watch at a press event held at Flint Center in Cupertino, California. (Also readApple launches a TouchID-based mobile wallet service Apple Pay)

The watch features a flexible rectangular retina display laminated to a single crystal of sapphire with circular user interface. However, what’s interesting here is the form factor Apple has chosen: While Apple Watch does feature a touch screen, the focus is mainly on the physical dial button on the right side of the watch called “digital crown”.

Apple Watch

This dial can be used to scroll through lists and messages, zoom into maps and navigate through various apps that appear in form of dots on the home screen. It also acts at as home button. This is quite different from the touchscreen-centric smart watches we’ve seen until now (Pebble Steel is an exception but it lacks a touchscreen). That being said, you still need an iPhone to use this watch, that can be paired through Bluetooth 4.0.

Apple mentions that watch turns on the display when the user raises their wrist and the retina display also features a new technology called ForceTouch which apparently senses the difference between a tap and a press. It also apparently features a taptic engine which alerts users with subtle vibrations on their wrists for notifications.

Watch Faces & Glances: The watch comes with 11 customizable watch faces ranging from traditional analog faces to new faces like dynamic Timelapse face, Solar face and Astronomy face that apparently features an interactive, real-time 3D model of the earth, sun, moon and planets among others.

Users can also swipe up from the watch face for something called Glances which essentially provides information from built in apps or 3rd party apps like calendar appointments, music player, stock prices and current location among others.

Besides this, Apple Watch can also double up a remote for iPhone’s camera, allowing users to view a live preview of what their iPhone sees and then capture the photo, or set the timer on the camera. (Also readAirSnap allows users to take pictures & videos remotely by pairing iOS devices)

WatchKit for Third Party Apps: Apple also introduced WatchKit that will apparently provide tools and APIs for developers to extend their apps to Apple Watch. Developers can also use this to integrate actionable notifications and Glances to their apps. Starting later next year, developers will apparently be able to create fully native apps for Apple Watch.

Fitness Apps: As we had hinted earlier, there is a significant focus on health & fitness segment. Apple Watch features two dedicated fitness related apps: Activity app and Workout app.

Apple Watch Activity app

Activity app measures the movement, exercise, and how often you stand up during the day while workout app can measure calories, time, and distance in real-time. One can also set goals and track specific workouts, such as running, walking, and cycling. All this data can be shared with iOS 8’s health app.

Strangely, the watch also allows users to share their heartbeats to their friends. Although, this can turn out to be quite creepy…

Battery Life? All this being said, there is still a key question that has remained unanswered: Battery life. Apple hasn’t disclosed any information on this front yet, possibly because it is still tweaking under the hood for a better performance. This will be one of the critical factors for users while making a purchase and could potentially make or break the deal.

We believe that unlike mobile phones, watches are something which users will probably not fancy charging on a daily basis. However, most of the existing touchscreen-centric smart watches have struggled with poor battery life until now, with some of the watches running out of battery within couple of hours.

Three collections: Apple Watch will be available in three different collections: Apple Watch that will feature a stainless steel case and a choice of straps, Apple Watch Sport that will feature space gray or silver anodized aluminum case and a sport band and Apple Watch Edition that will feature a 18-karat rose or yellow gold case with a choice of straps. It will also be available in two face sizes – 38 mm and 42 mm.

Apple Watch will be available in the United States in early 2015 starting at $349. It will be compatible with iPhone 5 and later. There is currently no word on its international availability.

P.S. It’s also interesting to note that Apple is now moving away from its iconic ‘i’ branding for its newer products.