Apple

Apple launches an ultra-thin MacBook and a glorious love-it-or-hate-it smartwatch

Few things are as polarizing as a brand-new Apple product category, and the new Apple Watch is no different.

Apple iWatch

Besides perhaps politics, almost nothing can get comment threads and Twitter feeds rolling like a new product announcement from Apple. Those who love it are derided as fanboys, while those who don't care for whatever it is are simply haters.

The iPod, iPhone and iPad — they all had their skeptics who complained about the price, features, and battery life. And, as it goes, the Apple Watch is getting the same treatment.

Many of the core features (timekeeping, person-to-person communication, fitness) have been known for half a year, but availability and pricing were only disclosed yesterday.

To start, the Apple Watch is very competitive on price at the entry level. Available in two sizes, the Sport version is $350 for the 38mm and $400 for the 40mm, with a fluoroelastomer (basically fancy rubber) band in one of several colors.

Unlike most of Apple's products, spending more money doesn't get you a faster processor, more memory, or better tech specs. Instead, spending more money is for appearances only. The most expensive Apple Watch costs $17,000 but doesn't have any more technical functionality than the base model.

Instead, it's all about fashion. The full list of watches, available on Apple's website, comprises some 38 different SKUs.

Pricing varies, with cost rising to $550 and $600 for the stainless steel models that include an ultra-durable sapphire crystal, plus additional charges for fancier watch bands. Solid 18K gold versions start at $10,000 and rise quickly from there. Many have criticized Apple for these prices, but they are very competitive with other solid gold timepieces. Truthfully, if one doesn't already own several watches in this price bracket, they aren't really the target audience.

During the media event, Apple also demonstrated a number of apps that are in development for the Watch, including one from American Airlines that shows flight status information and another from Starwood that allows wearers to check in to hotel rooms and even open their hotel room door from the Watch.

Some business-focused apps have already been announced, including one from SalesForce. It has Passbook support so wearers can, for instance, store a flight boarding pass on their Watch and even display QR codes to get through TSA checkpoints.

Many more apps, including ones from Instagram, MLB At Bat, OpenTable, Twitter and more will be available on the Apple Watch, with many more coming in the near future, I'm sure. It's likely that the app ecosystem will continue to grow, and we'll see apps for the Watch that couldn't even be imagined right now. I'm looking forward to it.

Aside from the Apple Watch, company executives also introduced a new, ultra-thin, ultra-light MacBook. I get asked by a lot of people which Apple notebook they should buy. For the past several years, I've recommended the 13" MacBook Air as the right computer for 90% of users — especially the type of user who needs to ask which computer they should buy. If you need the high-end, top-of-the-line machine, you usually know it.

However, I won't be recommending the 13" Air anymore. The new MacBook is perfect. Weighing just two pounds, 13.1mm thick, 10 hours of battery life, and sporting a reportedly gorgeous 12" Retina display, this is the machine for almost everyone.

Yes, it's not the fastest thing on the planet (but it's fast enough), and the screen isn't the largest (but large enough) — and some users will complain about the fact that Apple has removed all the USB and HDMI ports in their quest to make it as thin as possible. All these are valid concerns, but really, most folks would rather have a thinner, lighter machine with a couple of optional accessories. You can always add a dongle to connect an external hard drive (Apple sells one), but you can't easily make a computer lighter. Apple made the right choices here.

Available for $1300 with 256 GB of speedy flash storage ($1600 buys you a faster processor and 512 GB of storage), the new MacBook is the ideal laptop for just about everyone. It's available in silver, space gray, and gold, and will begin shipping April 10, 2015.

What did you think of Apple's new products? Let us know your thoughts in the discussion thread below.

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About Jordan Golson

Jordan Golson is an Apple Columnist for TechRepublic. He also writes about technology and automobiles for WIRED and MacRumors. He has worked for Apple Retail twice and has been writing about technology since 2007.

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