Apple Watchers Count Down to Apple Watch

(Tribune News Service) -- Apple is set to raise the curtain Monday on the Apple Watch, a wearable gizmo the company has billed as its next big thing.

The event, announced with the coy clock reference "spring forward," is expected to finally fill in the blanks on its smartwatch, which Apple announced last year and plans to start selling some time in April.

Apple Watch is the company's foray into the emerging wearable tech market, combining web-connecting features of its wildly popular iPhone with those of existing wearables like the fitness-tracking FitBit in a highly customizable, status-symbol design.

The device acts as an iPhone interface, allowing wrist-worn access to messaging, photos, phone calls and data like stock market quotes, as well as Apple's digital payment system Apple Pay.

In a video introducing the watch, Apple design chief Jonathan Ive said the next-generation electrode screen on its sapphire face adds "a new dimension" to the touch screen, sensing the difference between a finger's tap and a press to access different functions in a naturally interactive way. Twisting and pressing its crown serves for further navigation. (It keeps time, too.)

But few details have yet emerged on exactly how all these features work. Details on battery life, critical for a device the company wants people to wear "all day, every day," have been thin.

Information also is scarce on bells and whistles like the ability to use Apple Watch as a viewfinder for the iPhone's camera or a walkie-talkie to communicate with other users.

Apple finally will announce Monday what it intends to charge for the watches. It has already said prices will start at 349 dollars, but could be as high as 10,000 dollars for the luxury 18-karat-gold edition, according to tech reviewer CNET.

Apple has pitched the product as its most "personal" and physically interactive yet, but consumers haven't yet warmed to wearable devices already on the market from Samsung and others.

"They are really going to have a hard time convincing me that I need one, that it will make me replace my current watch, and that I'll wear it and charge it every day," said Brian Tong, CNET's online Apple reviewer.

Market researcher Strategy Analytics, however, said Apple's watch could be a game-changer for the market. It predicted Apple Watch will capture more than half the global smartwatch market in 2015 and bump overall sales 511 per cent to 28.1 million this year.

Even if Apple's smartwatch fails to win the world's hearts and minds, and remains on the sidelines as a luxury status symbol, one customizer is ready.

Germany's Brikk, which already sells gold-plated iPhones, is offering mock-ups of diamond-encrusted Apple Watches for up to 70,000 dollars.

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