Apple unveiled its long-anticipated smartwatch Tuesday, introducing a device that transplants the features of an iPhone onto a smaller screen that’s never more than an arm’s length away.

 

Dubbed the Apple Watch, the gadget marks the technology trend-setter’s attempt to usher in an era of wearable computing and lift its sales with another revolutionary product.

 

The watch’s debut also heralds a turning point in Tim Cook’s three-year reign as Apple CEO. Although the company has thrived under Cook’s leadership, it had only released upgrades to the iPhone, iPad and other products hatched before his predecessor, Steve Jobs, died in October 2011. The lack of totally new devices raised questions about whether Apple had run out of ideas without the visionary Jobs.

 

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. Other MP3 music players, smartphones and tablet computers were first to market, but the devices did not enthrall consumers until Apple imbued them with its magic touch.

 

The smartwatch “might not only be a game changer for Apple, but for the entire industry,” say analysts Daniel Ives. “A lot of major technology players around the globe are taking notes on what Apple is trying to do here.”

 

It will take months to gauge the popularity of the Apple Watch. The $349 device won’t go on sale until early next year.

 

Cook hailed it as the most “personal device we have ever created.”

 

The watch will tie into a new payment system designed to enable people to store all their credit card information in a digital locker so merchandise can be bought with a tap on a sensor at a checkout stand or a press of the button.

 

The watch must be used with one of the iPhone models released in the past two years – the 5, 5S, 5C or the latest versions scheduled to go on sale September 19th in the U.S. and nine other countries.