SAN FRANCISCO - The smartwatch category is off to a sluggish start, but Apple hopes to compel shoppers to pay attention to its first wearable with its combination of design, fitness features and apps. Today, the company announced that you'll be able to pre-order the Apple Watch starting April 10 (starting at $349), and it will go on sale April 24.
The event also included plenty of other Apple news, including a new MacBook that's just 2 pounds with a Retina display and an update for Apple TV that includes an HBO Now exclusive.
The Apple Watch will start at $349, but there will be three editions in two sizes with six different band choices. In other words, personalization will be key for this device. That theme also applies to the wide range of watch faces expected, many of which you'll be able to customize. Expect 18 hours of battery life on a charge.
The Apple Watch Sport will start at $349 for the 38mm model and $399 for the 42mm model. The more premium stainless steel Apple Watch will start at $549 and ranges to $1,049 depending on the watch band. The 42 mm version starts at $599. The 18 karat gold Apple Watch Edition is mostly for millionaires, priced from $10,000, available only in select retail stores.
Apple is also placing an emphasis on fitness, with separate activity tracking and workout apps. The overall goal is to get you up and moving more. You'll be able to get your heart rate and also earn badges and awards for your progress. The Apple Watch will even learn from your workout habits and give you encouraging (and hopefully not annoying) prompts, such as new potential goals.
To help test the Apple Watch's fitness capabilities, Apple gave the device to supermodel Christy Turlington Burns. She's finished three marathons, and she recently finished a half marathon while wearing the watch.
The Apple Watch will come with several features and apps built in, including Glances for notifications. If you swipe up from the bottom of the watch you can get all sorts of updates, including your next appointment or the latest stock info. The Apple Watch will let you take calls on your watch, but there's also new ways to communicate.
If you press the side button you can bring up your friends, you can use Digital Touch to sketch on your watch and then it will animate on your friend's watch. You can also tap your watch to get your friend's attention or even share your heartbeat.
The Apple Watch has Siri support for asking all sorts of questions and reminders. There's also Apple Pay for making mobile payments, which Apple demonstrated with a mock terminal. You'll be able to just tap and pay at participating retailers. Apple's Passbook app will let you check in for your flight without whipping out your phone.
But the success of the Apple Watch platform will be driven by developers and what they do with Watch Kit. Apple showed a few third-party Glances (notifications) for the Apple Watch, including ESPN, CNN and Facebook, as well as MLB at Bat.
Apple also demonstrated the WeChat app, complete with cute emoticons, as well as Instagram for looking at your image feed. If you see one you like you can tap on the heart to like it yourself. The Uber app will let you order a car right from your wrist, similar to Lyft for Android Wear. You'll see the license plate number and picture of the driver.
Other apps include The W Hotel app, which will let you unlock your room door from the watch, letting you bypass registration. The Shazam app enables you to identify songs and see lyrics on the watch.
New 12-inch MacBook: 2 Pounds, All-New Keyboard
An update to the MacBook line is long overdue, as other Ultrabooks have surpassed it in terms of design, sharpness and features. And the new 12-inch MacBook looks to up the ante, with very light 2-pound design. It's just 13.1 mm thin, versus 17.3 mm for the old MacBook Air. However, it's pricey at $1,299.
The new Mac has a Retina Display with 2304 x 1440 pixels, as well as an all-new keyboard with a butterfly mechanism. It's 4x more stable than scissor key, according to Apple. Apple has also introduced a new trackpad that lets you click anywhere, and it offers taptic feedback.
The touchpad offers Force Click feedback. So, for example, if you force click an address in an email, a map will pop up.
On the inside, the MacBook is 67 percent smaller than before. It gets a 1.3-GHz Core M processor that consumes 5 watts of power and enables a fanless design. We've seen middling performance from Core M versus Core i5 but we'll have to see how well it performs in the real world. Apple is promising up to 9 hours of battery life, which is good but less than the existing 13-inch Air.
As you'd expect, the new MacBook has 802.11ac wireless along with Bluetooth 4.0. Intriguingly, the MacBook is the first notebook to use USB-C, which supports USB, DisplayPort, Power, HDMI and VGA.
The notebook will come in silver, space gray and gold.
Apple is lowering the price of its set-top box to $69, which will help it better compete with the likes of Chromecast and Roku. More important, Apple has entered an exclusive agreement with HBO to deliver its subscription service, HBO Now. This will give you full access to all of HBO's shows, including Game of Thrones, for a somewhat steep $14.99.
Apple Research Kit
Apple is working with the medical community to give them better tools for research and patient care. For example, Parkinsons patients would be able to test for tremors, as well as better gauge their balance and gait. And Apple is working with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and others with a Share the Journey app to help them better cope with the disease.
Apple stresses that it will not see your data and you decide what will and won't be shared. The company will be making the technology open source so others can contribute to it; Research Kit will be released next month, but the first batch of apps will be made available today.