Apple Reveals the Watch. Now What?

Device Ranges From $349 to $17,000, As Apple Aims to Become Fashion Retailer

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The Apple Watch now has price tags, a sale date, a battery life and a handful of reasons why anyone would want one. Next up: Apple and its agency, TBWA/MAL, have to build demand far beyond what those reasons could achieve on their own.

At a high-profile event in San Francisco in Monday, Apple unmasked details about its new device, its first since the iPad in 2010. There were few surprises. The device included versions of several popular apps, like Facebook and Uber, as well as a new one from Apple for fitness-tracking.

Its iterations will range considerably in price, with the high end cementing Apple's attempt to transition into a luxury and fashion brand. While the (relatively) low-end Sport model starts at $349, the 18-karat gold Edition -- "the most beautiful expression of the Apple Watch," Apple CEO Tim Cook said on stage -- ranges from $10,000 to $17,000.

"The Apple Watch is the most advanced timepiece ever created," Mr. Cook said. "It's a revolutionary new way to connect with others and it's a comprehensive health and fitness companion."

Apple said the Edition and Sport lines would come in 8 different models each, while the mid-range line -- priced from $549 to $1,099 -- would have 20.

On Monday, the company demonstrated a few Watch capabilities for the first time, including opening a hotel door, hailing an Uber cab, making a one-tap purchase with Pay and using Siri, Apple's voice recognition software, to deliver audio texts. There was a cheeky way to share heartbeats with other owners, too, part of a broader collection of "digital touch" features including image exchanges for Watch owners.

Apple also demonstrated a certain focus toward Asia, beginning the event with video of raucous fans at its latest retail opening in China. And the first app Apple showed off was not Facebook but WeChat, the popular Chinese messaging app.

"Any notification that you receive on iPhones you can get on Apple Watch," Mr. Cook said. Thanks to a built-in speaker, the Watch also has calling capabilities if tethered to an iPhone. ("I have been wanting to do this since I was five years old," Mr. Cook enthused. "The day is finally here!")

Apple finally described the device's battery life, too: "a full day" of use, which Mr. Cook quickly clarified meant roughly 18 hours.

After Apple fans, who?
A decent battery life is one of the elements Apple will need to pitch in order to sell the device after the initial curioisity and excitement among the company's fans passes. Analysts expect Apple to quickly ship around 3 million units of the device in its first quarter. Most of that first wave will come from the novelty of the device from the revered brand -- from Apple merely being Apple.

Sales may take some time to ramp up as many potential buyers wait to see the devices on the wrists of early-adopter friends, said Jan Dawson, an analyst with Jackdaw Research, in a research note following the event. "No other technology company has the combination of technology chops and fashion and brand credibility to pull this off."

"Competitors will also be relieved that Apple didn't really surprise anyone with its features," said James McQuivey, a Forrester analyst, in a research note. "But where Apple has clearly blown past the pack is in its emphasis on fashion, at a variety of levels, too, including all the way up to the luxury level."

The company had already begun its early marketing for the device, buying an ostentatious 12 ad pages in Vogue's March issue, second only to the September issue for new fashion lines and advertising. Apple also posted at least seven videos to its site on Monday to elaborate on the Watch's appeals.

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Apple said the connected wristwatch will go on sale on April 24. On April 10, Apple will open up its retail outlets for consumers to see the device and begin accepting pre-orders online.

Mr. Cook said the high-end device would sell "in select stores," but did not specify which ones. Reuters reported that Apple has been in talks with Nordstrom to sell the device.

Phone carriers are still uncertain whether Apple will allow them to sell the Watch, according to one executive familiar with the wireless operators.

During the event, Apple also introduced ResearchKit, a health diagnostic application layer, a new Macbook and an exclusive streaming partnership with HBO.

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