The public will have its first chance to see, touch and buy the Apple Watch on Friday, as Apple stores in the U.S. and eight markets abroad start previews and online orders commence.
Prices start at $349, but can go as high as $17,000 for a luxury edition in gold. Apple store employees will show you the range of options, including different watch cases, bands and sizes. Reservations are recommended.
But you won’t be able to walk out with a watch. Watches will be shipped, starting April 24, with no in-store pickup option. The same applies even after the 24th, at least for the foreseeable future.
Although Samsung, Motorola, Sony and other companies already have been selling smartwatches, none has been a hit beyond a small group of tech devotees. The market will be watching to see if Apple’s device changes the game.
Apple Watch requires an iPhone 5 or later with at least iOS 8.2. But iOS 8.3 is recommended. Released Wednesday, that update offers more than 300 new emojis including different skin tones and depictions of families with two moms or two dads. And no surprise, there’s an Apple Watch as a character now. (Friends who haven’t updated their iPhones yet will see substitute emojis, though).
The Apple Watch isn’t the only gadget available this week. Here are five other new devices and services targeting your wallet.
▪ MacBook: Apple’s new laptop, simply called MacBook, debuts Friday. It’s the company’s lightest and thinnest laptop so far, making the ultra-thin MacBook Air appear bulky by comparison. Apple borrowed many design techniques from the iPad, including eliminating the fan.
The new MacBook comes in silver, gold or gray – the first time there has been a color choice since Apple ditched plastic for metal on its laptops. The base model is $1,299. You get double the storage and a faster processor for $1,599.
▪ New android phones: Samsung’s Galaxy S6 phones and the HTC One M9 make their general U.S. debut in retail stores. (Online orders have been accepted for a few weeks). Samsung swapped its plastic back cover for more stylish metal and glass to better compete with the iPhone. It also improved the camera and software interface. HTC also improved its camera and has added home-screen personalization based on location. Prices vary by carrier. No-contract versions generally start at about $650.
▪ HBO online: In time for the return of Game of Thrones this Sunday, HBO launched its stand-alone streaming service, HBO Now, priced at $15 a month. Initially, it’s available only to owners of an Apple TV, iPhone or iPad, or to Cablevision’s Internet-access subscribers. HBO Now offers the same content as HBO Go, the companion app to HBO’s cable channels. The difference is you don’t need a cable or satellite TV subscription.
You could also pay $15 a month to watch HBO shows online through Dish’s Sling TV service. That’s on top of Sling TV’s $20 monthly fee for nearly two dozen other cable channels, including ESPN and CNN. Sling TV made HBO available Thursday.
▪ CBS streaming service: CBS' $6-a-month streaming service, All Access, is now available on Roku – the first streaming TV device for the network. The subscription offers live feeds of CBS stations in some markets – 14 with CBS-owned stations, plus 56 represented by affiliates under deals announced Thursday. All Access also offers a bigger library of on-demand content than what’s available for free.
Meanwhile, the Roku 3 player now has a new remote control with a voice search button that customers can use to see what’s available across multiple streaming services such as Netflix. Another feature tracks when a movie you’re interested in becomes available for streaming or gets a price cut.
▪ Live TV on XBox: Attention cord-cutters and cord-nevers – you'll be able to watch free live local TV stations like CBS, Fox, NBC and PBS through Microsoft’s Xbox One. You'll need an $80 dongle that connects your digital TV antenna to the game console’s USB port. Shows will show up in the Xbox’s TV guide and be integrated into the console’s dual-screen “Snap” mode so users can play games and watch TV at the same time. With the Hauppage WinTV-955Q dongle, gamers can also stream the local feed to a tablet computer and pause live shows. The feature is rolling out now to Xbox One Preview members in the U.S. and Canada, and will be available to all Xbox gamers there over the next few months.