Apple event preview: Apple Watch, Apple Watch, maybe a MacBook

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On Monday, Apple is holding a special event starting at 10 a.m. PT. Gigaom will be there to liveblog, and you can stream the video online from a Mac or iOS device.

Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t provide an agenda for its special events, so we had to come up with one.

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Apple Watch price and availability

If Apple wants us to buy these smartwatches it’s been playing up the past five months, it’s going to have to tell us how much they cost and when Apple fans can start lining up. Apple Watch will go on sale in April, so this event will be Apple’s best chance to convince the public its worth the price.

We know the least expensive Apple Watch will start at $349. But there are three separate Apple Watch lines: “Watch,” “Watch Sport,” and “Watch Edition.” Watch Edition is made out of 18-karat gold. And each watch has optional bands sold separately. So there’s a lot of range for different prices.

Speculation has centered on the Watch Sport being $349, with the stainless steel Watch coming in somewhere between $500 and $1000. The Watch Edition is the hardest to pinpoint, with guesses starting around $1,000 and going up to $10,000 or more.

Apple Watch. Photo by Tom Krazit/Gigaom

You might even be able to pre-order an Apple Watch. We’ll learn on Monday.

Apple Watch apps

Apple has been holding secretive sessions with third-party developers in what sounds like a internet-free bunker in Apple’s headquarters, according to reports from Bloomberg and 9to5Mac. Developers reportedly can’t bring in anything but a hard drive and can’t take anything out of the room, but in return, they have been able to fine-tune their apps on real Apple Watch prototype hardware.

The Bloomberg report named BMW, Facebook, Starwood Hotels and United Airlines as companies participating in the secret lab sessions, but 9to5Mac put the number at “hundreds of iOS developers.”  CEO Tim Cook has said Apple Watch will be able to start a car, and Starwood wants to use Apple Watch as a hotel room key, so to show off those features, Apple will probably pull a few of its partners up on stage.

Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces Apple Pay with the Apple Watch.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces Apple Pay with the Apple Watch. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

9to5Mac pointed to Electronic Arts, Uber, Dropbox, and Match.com as participants in secretive Apple Watch trials. Apple will also mention ApplePay and explain how it works on the watch and how many partners it’s signed up. Apple could also pull one of its HomeKit partners to explain how Apple Watch works in a smart home.

Apple’s also has at least two of its own apps, Fitness and Workout, that it will need to explain to the world, in addition to improvements in the Health app.

Jony Ive in a white box

One major question about Apple Watch is what’s underneath the hood. Apple has said the S1, a “system in package,” is powering the smartwatch. I don’t expect Apple to go too much into specs on Monday — maybe it will reveal the Apple Watch has 8GB of onboard storage — but we’ll certainly get a little more clarity than we had before.

Apple Watch Internals

More likely is that Apple will be making the case that even in the absence of a “killer app” or compelling reason to purchase an Apple Watch, there are enough uses and it’s a good enough timepiece that you want it anyway. That discussion will likely focus on features and functions, like its low-power mode and “heart rate glance,” a way to check heart rate on the watch quickly.

Most likely, Apple design guru Jony Ive will deliver that part of that story, through a video, since he doesn’t like public speaking. And as is Ive’s wont, that video will probably take place in a white box.

Here’s Ive’s video from a white box from last September, when he introduced the Apple Watch:

iOS update

The new iPhone 6 is displayed during an Apple special event.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The new iPhone 6 is displayed during an Apple special event. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

It’s been almost confirmed that Apple Watch will require a companion iOS app for changing settings and controlling the watch. Since no such app is currently installed on iPhones, the next iOS update, 8.2, will likely have support for pairing with an Apple Watch, or the companion app could be accessible from the iTunes App Store.

Since Apple will have to push an update to Apple Watch users, it might give some stage time to other tweaks in iOS 8.2. However, the major iOS update will likely be revealed this June, at Apple’s developer’s conference.

One more thing?

If there’s a surprise Apple product announcement at Monday’s event, it’s unlikely to be the long-rumored bigger iPad or a new Apple TV.

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Based on recent rumors, there’s a chance that Apple’s radically redesigned 12-inch MacBook might be a topic of discussion on Monday. The device is tipped to use the new USB Type-C port, and could be even thinner than the current MacBook Air. It’s not a sure thing, but if you’re in the market for a new laptop, perhaps you should wait until after Monday’s announcements.

At the very least, a new MacBook would be a better surprise than a free U2 album.

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