Apple Watch coming to Australia on April 24

Apple fans with expensive taste can spend as much as $17,000 on the watch

It's all about the digital crown

It's all about the digital crown

The much-heralded Apple Watch will ship on April 24 with price tags ranging from $499 for the Sports edition all the way up to $14,000 or more for a limited-edition model in 18kt gold, Apple said Monday.

CEO Tim Cook pitched the pricey timepieces at an event in San Francisco, where he aimed to convey that there will be a style of Apple Watch to suit everyone's taste.

"Apple Watch is the most personal device we've ever created. It's not just with you, it's on you," he told the crowd.

There are three basic editions -- the sports model, in silver or "space-grey" aluminium; a standard model, in silver or black stainless steel; and the high-end gold edition. Each comes in two sizes, with a 38mm or 42mm display.

The small version of the standard edition will be priced from $799 all the way up to $1629, Cook said. The huge price range partly reflects the wide choice of straps available, including options in metal, leather and synthetic rubber.

The sports version will be priced from $499 for the small version and from $579 for the larger version, Cook said. It's available with the synthetic rubber strap in a range of colors.

The gold high-roller edition will be available in limited quantities from $14,000 for the small version. Depending on the strap it can reach as high as US$17,000.

The watches can all be pre-ordered from April 10 and they'll be delivered starting April 24, Cook said. They'll be available initially in the U.S., the U.K., China, France, Germany, Japan, Hong Kong, China, Canada and Australia, with other countries to follow as quickly as Apple can manage, he said.

Apple had already said a lot about the watch when it showed it in September. It is, in a lot of ways, like a small, clever interface to your iPhone that you wear on your wrist. But there are also some nifty features unique to the watch.

It will work with the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, of course, but also the 5, 5C and 5S. That's important, because the watch has to be paired with an iPhone for all its features to work.

It's Apple's first new category of product since it launched the iPad five years ago, so there's a lot at stake. Just as the iPad triggered a huge market for tablets, Apple hopes its watch will prove there's a mass market for a smart timepiece.

Key to its appeal are the elegant design and the user interface, which uses clever tricks to make maps, messaging and other apps easy to use to the small screen.

One of those tricks is the winder, or digital crown, which Apple demonstrated again on Monday. Turning it lets you zoom in and out of maps or scroll through messages, and pushing it takes you to a constellation of colorful app icons on the home screen.

Also novel is the "taptic engine," which notifies you of a new message with a tap on the wrist, but also works with other apps, like maps -- when you're walking down the street, one type of tap on the wrist tells you to turn right, another type to turn left.

There are also unique ways to communicate. Digital Touch lets you draw a picture on the screen that appears on a friend's device right away. And if you press two fingers on the screen, the built-in heart rate sensor sends a recording of your heartbeat. Apple calls it an "intimate" way to say hello.

The watch is obviously a timepiece, too, with a huge variety of digital and faux analog displays to choose from. It's also a fitness tracker, with built-in components that measure your activity and pulse rate.

There's no keyboard, but you can dictate messages using voice recognition, or send an audio recording. There's also a clever text analysis engine that reads incoming messages and formulates pre-written replies. So if someone asks if you want "Italian or sushi", the watch prepares replies that you can choose from and send back to answer that question.

We already knew the watch works with Apple Pay, and in September Cook talked about an app from Starwood Hotels that will let you check in and open the door to your hotel room using your Apple Watch. That will be available in all W hotels in the spring, he said at the time.

Another app from BMW will show you a map of where you parked your car, in case you forgot, and an app from Honeywell will let you set the temperature in your home. Others are in the works from Pinterest, Nike, Major League Baseball and Citymapper, Cook said.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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