Apple Store goes down before Apple Watch event

The Apple Store is officially down, which can mean only one thing: the Apple Watch event is just hours away.

Apple took down its digital storefront on Monday in preparation for its press event at 10 a.m. PT. The event is expected to be headlined by Apple’s upcoming smartwatch, the Apple Watch, and include final details on pricing and availability.

Apple shuts down its store before each major event that it hosts. As before, a message on the company’s Apple Store page says that it’s “busy updating the Apple Store.” The marketplace usually returns soon after an event is over, with new products and other details.

Catch CNET’s live blog of the Apple Watch event here. Preshow starts at 9 a.m. PT.

This time around, Apple is believed to be adding Apple Watch details to its store. The company is also rumored to be launching new entrants in its MacBook line, which, if true, will also show up on the Apple Store when it comes back online later Monday.

Regardless, it’s the Apple Watch that will play the most important role at Apple’s event.

The Apple Watch marks Apple’s first new product category since the “magical” iPad in 2010. It’s also the first new push by the company under CEO Tim Cook’s tenure. Cook had promised for over a year that Apple would introduce “amazing” new products and enter “exciting new product categories” in 2014.

Cook, introducing the Apple Watch in September before more than 2,000 people, called the smartwatch a “breakthrough” product. He described it as a “comprehensive” health and fitness device, walkie-talkie and remote control for the Apple TV streaming-box.

Apple went further, creating what Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty calls a “Swiss Army Knife” sort of wearable. Apple has included a near field communication, or NFC, chip in the watch to enable mobile payments. It has placed a haptic feedback engine in the device so that it vibrates when receiving an alert or a direction in a program like Maps. Apple has also included a digital touch feature to allow two people to communicate quickly through taps, drawings, and by sharing their heartbeats.

The company has placed a big emphasis on design. While at first glance it resembles Samsung’s Gear smartwatches and other wearables already on the market, Apple is providing a multitude of ways a wearer can customize it. Apple will offer a range of bands in various materials — including leather and metal — so consumers can tailor the product to their style. And there likely will be bands from third-party vendors in the future, as well.

The Apple Watch comes in two sizes — 42mm or 38mm — and three designs — the aluminum-cased Apple Watch Sport, stainless-steel-cased Apple Watch and the 18-karat-gold-cased Apple Watch Edition. The aluminum comes with silver or space gray options, while the stainless steel comes in its namesake color or a space black version. The gold watch is available in 18-karat yellow gold or 18-karat rose gold. There also are a variety of bands that can be swapped, including a Milanese loop of metal mesh with magnets, a leather band that auto-attaches, a segmented metal link band, a classic leather watch band, a leather loop band and a more plasticized sport band in bright colors.

The entry-level device, the aluminum and glass Apple Watch Sport with plastic band, starts at $349. Apple hasn’t yet revealed pricing for its mid-range and high-end watches, but industry watchers believe the 18-karat-gold Apple Watch Edition could climb to price levels associated with fine jewelry, such as $5,000 or above.

The devices must be paired with an iPhone and are compatible with the iPhone 5, 5C, 5S, 6, and 6 Plus. Earlier iPhones are excluded, as are other phone platforms like Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows operating systems.

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