Although not called the iWatch, the device is the first new product from Apple since the iPad was introduced in 2010, and marks the first new category for Apple since Tim Cook took over from Steve Jobs as CEO of the company three years ago.
There are three options whose screens are filled with the expected apps: Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch Edition, with devices made in his or hers versions. The Apple Watch Edition is the more expensive option, made from 18-karat gold.
Pricing starts at $349 when the smartwatch becomes available early in 2015. The Apple Watch requires the iPhone for most of its functionality.
The smartwatch, which includes Siri, is customizable and comes with a variety of wristbands, including colorful plastic and stainless steel, to reflect different tastes. It’s also designed as a health and fitness device and was touted to be accurate within 50 milliseconds.
The device also features a touchscreen display — which Apple calls a “Digital Crown” — that is made of sapphire glass, the second hardest material on the planet, behind diamond. The screen is activated when the wearer raises his or her wrist.
Calls can only be made when the Apple Watch is tethered to an iPhone.
Texts and short messages can be sent, while the Photos app also is included and maps are accessible.
There is no camera built into the device.
Third party apps can be built using WatchKit, which will take advantage of the battery and processing power of the iPhone when displaying the app on Apple Watch.
Partners developing the first apps include American Airlines, which will enable check ins to flights; Starwood Hotels, that will incorporate hotel key cards as an app to open doors; City Mapper, that will provide mass transit directions, and BMW, to display the charge level of its cars and remind drivers where they parked. Honeywell also will enable thermostats to be controlled in homes.
The company’s new digital pay option Apple Pay is also incorporated into the Apple Watch.
Disney is backing the new Apple Watch. There’s an animated version of the classic Mickey Mouse watch face that was shown in a promo video during the unveiling.
“It is the most personal device we’ve ever created,” Cook said of the Apple Watch.
The device also is the company’s first significant foray into the growing wearable tech market, which Samsung recently entered with its Gear smartwatch. Motorola also has a smartphone rolling into retailers this fall.
Cook called it “the next chapter in Apple’s story. We’ve been working incredibly hard for a long time on an entirely new product, and we believe this product will redefine what people expect from this category.”
For Cook, the Apple Watch represents one of the “amazing” new products he promised analysts and the Apple faithful more than a year ago.
Introduction of the watch was met with a standing ovation inside the Flint Performing Arts Center in Cupertino, Calif., where Apple is headquartered. The presentation, during which it also unveiled larger iPhone 6 handsets, lasted two hours, during which U2 also performed.
The band’s new album “Songs of Innocence” will be available to every iTunes customer in 119 countries and is exclusive through Oct. 13.
Apple invited fashion editors to Tuesday’s launch event, signaling how the company is trying to position to the device to consumers.