CUPERTINO, Calif. — Apple unveiled its long-anticipated smartwatch Tuesday, introducing a device that aims to put many of the functions of a smartphone onto a smaller screen that’s never more than an arm’s length from the wearer’s eyes.
The Apple Watch, the company’s first completely new product in four years and its first wearable device, is also Apple’s most ambitious expansion since CEO Tim Cook replaced Steve Jobs three years ago.
The watch made its debut alongside a service that seeks to turn Apple mobile devices into a payment system that will eliminate the need for consumers to bring cash or plastic cards to the checkout stand.
Apple Inc. also used the occasion to present the next generation of its iPhone — two larger models that reflect the company’s attempt to catch up with rivals that have been winning over fans with bigger screens that enhance videos and game playing.
The bigger iPhones are expected to unleash pent-up demand among Apple zealots who have been pining for a larger screen, virtually assuring the new models will be a hot commodity this fall and through the crucial holiday shopping season.
Although the iPhone figures to be Apple’s main moneymaker for the foreseeable future, the new smartwatch was the marquee attraction of Tuesday’s show.
The Cupertino company held Tuesday’s coming-out party in the same Silicon Valley auditorium where Jobs unveiled the Macintosh computer 30 years ago.
Just as the Mac convinced more people to buy PCs for the first time, Apple is convinced that its new watch will become a must-have accessory for the masses after it goes on sale early next year.
The device also may turn into a proxy for how well Apple is faring under Cook. Apple has not entered a new market since Jobs died in October 2011, raising questions whether the company’s innovative powers have been waning under Cook.
Apple is a late arrival to the still-nascent market for wearable technology. Several other companies already sell smartwatches that have been greeted with widespread indifference.
But Apple has a reputation for igniting dormant markets after the company shifted the direction of digital technology with the iPod, iPhone and iPad. Other MP3 music players, smartphones and tablet computers were first to market, but the devices didn’t enthrall consumers until Apple imbued them with its magic touch.
Here’s what unfolded at Tuesday’s event: