Apple to fill in the blanks Monday on Watch prices, availability and more

'Double-pump' introduction of Apple Watch puts it in VIP category

Apple livestream info

Apple will live-stream its "Spring forward" event on Monday, when it's expected to tout the Apple Watch and reveal its pricing and on-sale date.

The to-do will take place at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, a frequent Apple venue, most recently for the October 2013 unveiling of the iPad Air.

Analysts anticipate that Apple will expand on the Watch's introduction last fall, when it showed off the device and began beating the promotional drum for the embryonic category.

The "double-pump" introduction -- the "one more thing" portion of the Sept. 9, 2014 presentation, and then next week's return to the Watch -- is very unusual for Apple.

It has done it before -- sort of -- but only for the most important products, touting something twice before sales begin, with the second round piggybacked on an already-slated event. In 2007, the iPhone's second stint on stage was at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference, for example. But that repeat appearance was just nine minutes long.

Apple's reversed the order for the Watch, first riding the iPhone 6's coattails -- but for a long 47 minutes -- then giving the device its own dedicated event.

"The timing was such that they wanted to introduce it last year," noted Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research. "But there were many details that weren't finalized [at that time]. Apple wants to get the messaging right, or more accurately, make sure that the media has the essential information for the first splash."

Among the omissions last year was a full disclosure on pricing -- CEO Tim Cook only set the bottom-end Sport model's price at $349 -- for the line, which also includes the stainless steel Watch and 18-karat gold Edition models.

Apple will spell out prices for the three models, perhaps with different prices for the two sizes -- 38mm and 42mm -- and the cost of their accessory bands. The price list will likely be complex, what with 10 configurations for the Sport, 18 for the Watch and at least 6 for the Edition, and the on-screen matrix may tax the capabilities of Apple's Keynote gurus.

Speculation about the price of the Edition -- the most expensive model -- picked up steam this week, with seemingly every Apple-oriented analyst or pundit chiming in with their bets. The reaction to that speculation will crest on Monday, but early indications are that considerable "ink" will be spilled on the I-can't-believe-Apple's-charging-X-dollars refrain.

"The Edition 'controversy' is playing right into Apple's hands," tweeted Mark Tegethoff in a reply to independent analyst Ben Thompson of Stratechery. "All of a sudden a $350 item is being thought of as 'cheap.'"

For his part, Thompson had a flash of déjà vu. "Funny how many Edition critics are starting to sound like PC folks criticizing 'expensive' Macs w/ same specs," Thompson tweeted, referring to the objections others expressed about a high or very-high price for the gold Apple Watch. "Like UX [user experience], luxury is a feature."

Long-time Apple watchers may sense a different kind of familiarity: Pre-announcement rumors of the iPad trended high -- many bet around $1,000 -- which got the company raves after then-CEO Steve Jobs revealed a $499 entry-level price, saying, "When we set out to develop the iPad ... [we had] an aggressive price goal, because we want to put this in the hands of a lot of people."

That same kind of spin could result Monday.

Also on Apple's anticipated agenda: More demonstrations of the first-party apps for the Watch, as well as some select third-party apps; an explanation of its battery life and charging time; and its availability.

Because Apple typically kicks off new product sales on Fridays - and because Cook has already pegged April - one possible on-sales date is April 2, the first Friday of the month.

Apple's webcast will start at 10 a.m. PT (1 p.m. ET), and as usual, will be limited to those running Safari on OS X or iOS, or who own an Apple TV. In this instance, however, the viewing restrictions make some sense, as the Apple Watch will require an iPhone 5 or later.

Apple Watch line-up Apple

Apple has already spilled the price of the entry-level Watch Sport model -- it will either start at or cost $349 -- but will likely reveal a full price sheet Monday that also covers the mid-tier Watch and the top-end Edition lines. 


Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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