Apple Announces Watch Release Date, Pricing

Six months after the first unveiling, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) released new details about its first smartwatch, the Apple Watch, at an event in San Francisco on Monday. The watch will be available to consumers on online or by reservation in Apple’s retail stores, starting April 24. Consumers can pre-order and set up an appointment to try on the device, beginning April 10.

The Apple Watch pricing begins at $349, for the Sports edition, which is made of aluminum. The standard Apple Watch, which is made of stainless steel, begins at $549. The Apple Watch Edition, made of gold, will begin at $10,000.

Recapping some of Apple Watch’s already known features, CEO Tim Cook touted the customizable screens, the messaging capabilities, Apple Pay compatibility, Siri and health tracking. Apple Watch “reminds you if you’ve been sitting too long,” serving as a “comprehensive health and fitness companion,” Cook said.

Supermodel Christy Turlington appeared on stage to discuss how Apple Watch has helped her in her marathon training. She will be doing a weekly blog on Apple’s website to showcase her fitness tracking.

The watch vibrates when a text message is received and users can respond via voice. A built-in speaker and microphone also allows users to receive calls on their watch.

The new revelations came from the introduction of apps, including W Hotels, which allows users to unlock their hotel room from their Apple Watch . The presentation also showcased the way that users with smart homes can unlock their door or open up their garage door remotely.

It was also revealed that the Apple Watch would have an 18-hour battery life, significantly shorter than competitors like Pebble.

This is the first significant new product category for Apple, since the iPad was release five years ago. It is a pivotal moment for Cook, following speculation that Apple would be unable to innovate without Steve Jobs.

While smartwatches have been buzzed about since Pebble’s Kickstarter campaign in 2012, analysts are predicting that Apple will be the first with a chance at widespread adoption. Estimates are varied, but many analysts are expecting that 15 to 20 million units will be sold this year, significantly more than the reported 700,000 for Android Wear (NASDAQ:GOOGL) devices last year.

Some are questioning whether the smartwatch category can garner significant enthusiasm, after lackluster support for Google Glass.  But experts say that consumers are more likely to wear a tech device on their wrist, than on their face.

Fashion is considered to be critical to the success of “wearable” devices, especially watches, which are often considered a status symbol. With dozens of customizable designs, Apple is hoping that the personalized approach will help consumers find a watch with individualized appeal.

Most of the Apple Watch presentation was a recap of what was unveiled in September. “We didn’t see any huge surprises at today's event in regards to the Apple Watch,” Boris Wertz, founding partner at Version One Ventures, said. "Personally, I think the depth and breadth of the app ecosystem is most important for the long-term success of the Apple Watch."

Nihal Mehta, founding partner at Eniac Ventures, said that the biggest drawback is that the iPhone needs to be kept close to the Apple Watch. “You need to carry an iPhone with you within bluetooth range for the watch to be fully functional,” Mehta said, adding the Watch will gain traction when “you can go for a run without your phone, just your watch.”

Apple made several other announcements, beyond Apple Watch, including a new MacBook. Weighing just two pounds, and the thinnest Mac to date, Cook joked, "I can't even see it."

The new Macbook will be available in silver, space gray, and gold. Pricing begins at $1299.

With a focus on health, Apple also announced ResearchKit, which enables the iPhone to help research and analyze health problems such as diabetes or Parkinson’s. Other apps have been developed to manage asthma and heart health.

“Apple will not see your data,” Jeff Williams, Apple senior vice president, said, emphasizing ResearchKit’s privacy.

Cook also temporarily lowered the price for Apple TV from $99 to $69 for purchases made on Monday.  Apple TV will be partnering with HBO Now, which will cost $14.99 and be viewable on Apple devices.

The CEO touted the success of Apple Pay, saying that 700,000 locations now accept the payment service. He also revealed that Apple recently sold its 700 millionth iPhone.

“[The] iPhone is growing stronger than ever,” Cook said. “We sold at a rate of growth of double the industry.”