Apple Watch release date, price and features

Apple Watch release date is April 24, pre-orders have begun

Apple Watch release date news and rumours

Apple Watch is now on sale with the first pre-orders arriving next week, on Friday, April 24 - you can set your friend's inferior Android Wear smartwatch to that release date if there are no shipping delays.

The first Apple Watch sales projections say it sold more at launch through pre-orders than Android Wear watches did in in all of 2014. New orders have been pushed back as far as July.

This means two things: you shouldn't expect Apple Watch in physical stores until the summer, and we have plenty of time to tell you every detail about what's been hiding up Tim Cook's sleeve.

It's an iPhone-compatible smartwatch officially dubbed Apple Watch, shedding the fabled iWatch moniker, as the company focuses on its first chic wearable over geeky tech.

To that lavish point, the Apple Watch price ranges from $349 (£299, AU$499) for the entry-level Sport model to $17,000 (£13,500, AU$24,000) for the top-tier 18-karat gold editions.

Apple Watch apps let you read email, summon Siri, receive calls and track fitness goals. Facebook, WeChat and Twitter notifications can also be beamed your wrist without pulling out your smartphone.

But is this really the first smartwatch that matters, like Cook says? Does its 18-hour battery life hold up? Is it water resistant? We finally have those answers days before the Apple Watch launch.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? An iOS 8.2-friendly watch that plays nice with your iPhone
  • When is it out? Next week, April 24. Pre-orders began April 10
  • What will it cost? $349 (£299, AU$499) to $17,000 (£13,500, AU$24,000)

Apple Watch release date

The wait is almost over for the Apple Watch release date, which is officially set for April 24. Pre-orders began last week, and you can try it on at the Apple Store during 15-minute appointments.

Apple Watch apps
Apple Watch is officially launching on April 24 in nine countries

Apple is requiring appointments to demo the smartwatch and make an in-store purchase, so reserve a time in advance. This should eliminate sleep-deprived diehards who camp out for new Apple products.

It'll be available in nine countries: US, UK, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong and Japan. More countries get the Apple Watch at later date. Tim Cook promised.

In one week, our Apple Watch vs Android Wear comparison can really get underway. Apple would certainly be winning if hype-building video tours were part of this best smartwatch debate.

Apple Watch price

We finally have an answer to the question: "How much will the Apple Watch cost?" The answer: More than we were hoping to pay in some cases.

Apple Watch release date and price
Three models with very different pricing depending on your taste, budget

Only the aluminum Sport edition "starts at $349 (£299)" and that's for the smaller 38mm version. The 42mm size is slightly more at $399 (£339).

The shinier stainless steel "Watch" collection starts at $549 (£479) and goes up to to $1099 (£949), depending on the Apple Watch bands and size configuration.

The gold Watch Edition's price ranges from $10,000 (£8,000) to $17,000 (£13,500, AU$24,000) and are in limited supply at select Apple Stores. It does come with fancy VIP treatment and a charging stand.

These prices don't seem to be a problem, though. Apple Watch sales in one day are estimated to have outstripped Android Wear watch sales in all of 2014.

Optional add-ons to that price including interchangeable Apple Watch bands and AppleCare Protection Plans, $49 (£49, AU$79), $69 (£69, AU$109) and $1,500 (£$1,500, AU$2,300).

More designs may arrive with Apple Watch 2 in a year or so. Many critics holding out hope it will include a round watch face and significantly cheaper price to compete with an inevitable Moto 360 2.0.

Apple Watch
Maybe because it takes NINE hours to make this all-metal band

Apple Watch release date, price and features

Why Apple Watch costs so much?

It's not just the notorious Apple tax pushing the price tag to $349 and well beyond, it's the components involved. For example, the all-metal Link Bracelet has 100 components and takes an insane nine hours to cut.

Apple also recruited high-profile people throughout the watch and biometrics industries who have wound up on its Apple Watch team. That talent comes at a price.

Then there's a hidden cost. While a subsidized iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are cheaper upfront in the US, stores make up the difference with contract kickbacks. Not so with a smartwatch. Stores need a cut too.

For the sake of comparison, Android Wear's initial watches were the Samsung Gear Live at $200 (£170, AU$250) and LG G Watch at $230 (£160, AU$250). The more stylish Moto 360 was at $249 (£199, AU$329) before its recent price drop and LG Watch Urbane is set to be even more expensive.

Apple is clearly aiming for luxury given the sapphire glass-protected display, an imposing digital crown, two sizes and even the 18k gold edition.

What does Apple Watch actually do?

Apple's first wearable gadget beams messages, Facebook updates and simplified apps to our wrists, eliminating the all-too-common need to take out our devices to constantly check notifications.

There are more than a dozen ways to interact with the watch, from receiving glanceable notifications, to feeling "taptic" feedback, to calling upon Siri, according to the developers' WatchKit software.

Apple Watch can also work without an iPhone for select apps, including Apple Pay, Passbook flight check-ins, listening to music during a run and tracking fitness metrics. Oh, and for telling the time accurately too.

The 8GB of storage with restrictions limit the amount of photos and music that can be stored directly on the smartwatch, but it's double the space of 4GB Android Wear watches. Most content streams from the iPhone anyway.

Apple Watch
Apple Watch release date

It's going to become especially convenient to pocket the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and even bigger 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus in your jeans, or to always stow the thin, but still 9.7-inch iPad Air 2 in a bag.

Is that phone call from a telemarketer not worth your time or an emergency from a loved one? Apple Watch makes mundane notifications easy to dismiss while keeping you in the loop with important alerts.