Apple hosted Wednesday's product release event one year to the day after it first announced Apple Watch, and the watch got its first round of updates on its first anniversary. There are a few new accessories, two new metal colors, and a partnership with luxury brand Hermès.
Apple began its watch announcements with the splashiest. For the Apple Watch Hermès, Apple partnered with the French luxury brand to create leather straps for the standard stainless steel model and a trio of special watch faces that recall Hermès's traditional watches. Prices range from $1,100 for a single wrap strap to $1,500 for a watch with a full leather cuff, and the straps come in a variety of colors including black, red, tan, and blue. These watches will be limited to select retail stores, will come packaged in Hermès' signature orange color boxes, and go on sale sometime in October.
There are also now rose gold and gold-colored anodized aluminum Apple Watch Sport models, which let customers get a look similar to the $10,000-plus Apple Watch Edition starting at a friendlier $349 price point. These watches will come paired with new colors of fluoroelastomer straps, which add softer, more muted colors, including navy, lavender, stone, and blush, to the black, white, and various neon colors on offer now. Apple has also added new colors of leather bands for the standard Apple Watch, as well as a special Product Red stainless steel Apple Watch paired with a bright red strap (a portion of the proceeds go to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS). Prices still range from $349 to $17,000, and these new models begin shipping Wednesday in 24 countries.
Apple also announced that watchOS 2, the first major update to the Apple Watch's operating system, will be available Sept. 16. The biggest change is that third-party applications will now be able to run natively on the watch itself, instead of being relegated to the iPhone. This will improve performance and will also allow app makers to tap into the watch's sensors and data directly. There are currently more than 10,000 watch apps, and with these new capabilities, such major players as Facebook Messenger and GoPro will be joining the fray.
Developers will also be able to integrate their apps into watch faces as complications, or the little widgets that accompany the time. In addition, the update adds a few new watch faces, deeper integration with Siri, and a new nightstand mode that lets you use the watch as an alarm clock, along with enhancements to core functions such as letting you reply to e-mails and manage larger sets of contacts.
Since the Apple Watch first burst onto the scene in April, smartwatch competition has heated up. Less than two weeks ago, Google announced that Android Wear watches will now work with the iPhone, opening up a lot more options for those in the Apple ecosystem. And just last week Motorola unveiled a stylishly updated Moto 360 smartwatch and Samsung announced the round Gear S2 smartwatch.
Apple has still declined to release any official sales number for the Apple Watch, grouping sales data with that from iPods, Beats headphones, and other smaller products. During Apple's quarterly earnings call on July 21, Chief Eecutive Tim Cook rejected reports that watch sales peaked at launch and had been declining ever since, saying that June was the watch's strongest month.
Update, 3:33 p.m., Sept. 9: The story has been updated to include details about Hermès watch pricing and colors.