Apple Tuesday entered the wearable market, unveiling the new Apple Watch at its Apple Live event alongside the much anticipated Apple iPhone 6.
Less than an hour into the event, CEO Tim Cook unveiled the company's first smartwatch. "We believe this product will redesign what people expect from its category," Cook said before unveiling the device to the audience of 2,400 invited members of the media at the Flint Center For Performing Arts in Cupertino. "I am so excited and so proud to share it with you this morning. It is the next chapter in Apple's story."
Notably, this is the first new product line in Cook's tenure as the CEO of Apple, and the company's first brand new product line since the late Steve Jobs announced iPad in 2010.
Pricing for Apple Watch starts at US$349. It will be available early next year, the company said.
The Apple Watch includes a curved, rectangular frame made of stainless steel and has sapphire display. It also comes as a 18-karat gold model, or an aluminum model. The three different variants of watch will be available with six interchangeable straps, and each model will be sold in two different sizes, 38mm or 42mm.
In place of a typical watch crown, Apple has developed a "digital crown" for the Apple Watch, allowing users to zoom or browse through apps and menus.
Apple Pay, the new mobile payment platform the company introduced earlier in the event, will work with Apple Watch, and users will be able to use Touch ID and Near-Face Communication (NFC) radio to pay for items at over 220,000 merchants across the country. Cook says he expects that number to grow. Apple Pay is only available in the US.
The device works as a high-end comprehensive health and fitness app, around HealthKit and the new Activity app.
With the watch's notification software, Smart Replies, users can respond to push notifications from their iPhone, including Tweets, Facebook notifications, iMessages, calls and more.
WatchKit, the AUI for Apple Watch, was released to developers today, but Apple Watch itself won't hit stores until early next year.
"It is so much more [than just a health and fitness device]," he said. "The list of features is a mile long, and as soon as developers get their hands on the developer kit, that list will get even longer."
While other major companies including Samsung, LG and Motorola, have already entered the wearable ring – Samsung currently has six smarwatches on the market – the wearable space has yet to take off, but some Apple partners believe that the iWatch will change that, saying it will "set the market."
"[The Apple Watch] closes the loop of Apple's mobility platform vision," said Raul De Arriz, national government sales manager for Small Dog Electronics, Waitsfield, Vt., one of the top Apple specialists in the country. "It will have a large impact on the wearable market next year, and will affect other Apple mobile products because people will like a wearable that they can use with other Apple products because of the connectivity features."
Cook made a point of mentioning that the Apple Watch does not run on a condensed version of iOS but rather on an iOS-based interface that is completely redesign from the operating system seen on the iPad or iPhone.
"We thought not only of the function but the way it looks," Cook said.
The Apple Watch requires the iPhone and is supported by the iPhone 5 and up, including the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus devices unveiled earlier Tuesday.