Watch this: Apple delivers a smartwatch with function and style

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OK, so now, after weeks -- dammit, months -- of speculation, Apple's Watch is finally on the catwalk and ready for its closeup. Although Apple has always been about elegance, now it's about elegance, fashion and, actions.

It is out to solve that incredible First World issue: the tiresome and exhausting need to remove your phone from your pocket or bag to read its screen, or even -- the humanity -- tell the time. We live like savages.

With the Apple Watch and other smartwatches like it from Samsung, Pebble and Sony, smartwatch notifications are beamed to the device on your wrist from the phone buried in your evening bag, or whatever. This turns an awkward buzz and fumble into a quick glance at a turned wrist. Now, instead of looking like you don't care about what the person across from you is saying when a message comes in, you'll just seem like you need to be somewhere else, right now!

In real life, as I've found with the Pebble watch I currently own, this is actually very handy. You can keep your phone in your pants and still know what is happening in your social web. You can also screen calls, get weather alerts and get traffic airline and hotel alerts based on where you are in the world and when your flight has changed.

Any smartwatch delivers that. The Apple Watch offers two advantages: the Apple app ecosystem and stylishness. Most smart timepieces (save the Moto 360) have all the glam of a 1980s calculator watch, and are often worn by the same folks who probably have one in their desk drawers. Nerd bling. The companies that make them get high fashion the way Jack Russells get savasana. The Samsung Gear? Darling, really.

The Apple Watch is beautiful in its aluminum, steel and gold versions. They've got the industrial design Apple excels at with a high fashion feel they've never done before. And, that comes at a price. The entry-level Watch Sport model will start at $450 Canadian, the gold Watch Edition will be as much as $19,000. Of course the Watch Edition is for the one per cent of the one per cent who made their money by overpricing their brain cells on the black market. Most of us will just will opt for the Sport model and save ourselves enough money to get a basement apartment for a couple of months in Cabbagetown.

The Apple Watch also brings along the iOS ecosystem of thousands of apps. That's because the Watch can't do much if it's not tethered to an iPhone. Plus, many of the iPhone apps turn interaction with apps on a phone into action buttons on your wrist. The Uber app, for example, will allow you to leave your phone in your pocket and order an Uber with just the touch of a single button on the phone's retina-quality glass screen. You can answer a call from your wrist with a button press and then speak directly into the built -in mic, Dick Tracy style. In Starwood Hotels you'll be able to bypass check-in and open your hotel room door with your watch.

This mother-child relationship between the phone and the watch might seem familiar. It's just the way the iPod and then iPhone used to tether with your desktop computer. Remember the freedom of being able to carry your music with you? And think about what the iPhone is now: a wireless, self-sustaining handheld computer. That's where the Watch is going too. Just watch.

Should you get one? Unless you're a rabid Apple fanperson, there's no hurry. Version Two will be along soon enough. And, if you just want the advantage of wrist notifications (along with seven times the battery life), get yourself an under-$100 Pebble or the new colour Pebble Time. Or, if you're a Android fanperson, Android Wear devices are starting to gain ground and styling. Some of the newest from the recent Mobile World Congress have real promise.

Or, you can just keep fumbling for your phone every time it buzzes, like a sorry troglodyte.

Listen to an audio version of this column, read by the author, here.

Wayne MacPhail has been a print and online journalist for 25 years, and is a long-time writer for rabble.ca on technology and the Internet.

Photo: Kārlis Dambrāns/flickr

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