Apple Watch Is The New Icon

Apple announces its third fiscal quarter earnings results at 7am on Wednesday (AEST). It’s the quarter of Apple Watch sales. Investors, commentators and analysts will be crawling through the figures looking for evidence of whether Apple has another hit on its hands. Unfortunately, they almost certainly won’t find it.


 

The public will have its first chance to see, touch and buy the Apple Watch today 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 watch cases, bands and sizes. Reservations are recommended.

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 now.

Samsung, Motorola, Sony and other companies have been selling smartwatches, but none has been a hit beyond a small group of tech devotees. The market will be watching to see whether 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 will see substitute emojis.)

The Apple Watch isn’t the only gadget available this week. Here are five other new devices and services targeting your wallet.

°Apple’s new laptop, simply called MacBook, debuts today. 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.

°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 around $650.

°In time for the return of “Game of Thrones” on Sunday, HBO launched its standalone 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’ $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 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.

°Attention cord-cutters and cord-nevers — you’ll be able to watch free live local TV stations such as 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.

°OnLive, which streams high-end video games over an Internet connection (like a Netflix for games), is shutting down April 30 after Sony Corp.’s purchase of “important parts” of the company. The service had promise but never gained much usage.

Sony purchased OnLive’s rival, Gaikai, in 2012 and lets PlayStation owners stream games either for a monthly flat fee or through individual rentals.

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