High stakes: What Apple must reveal at its watch event

Will the Apple Watch be a game-changer?
Will the Apple Watch be a game-changer?

As Apple prepares to launch its first wearable device on Monday, the bar has never been higher for the company.

Fans and investors are bracing for what they hope is the next game-changing Apple product. And even other wearable companies are optimistic that the Apple Watch will help drive business for the entire industry.

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"The expectation is so high. People remember the really successful products that Apple launched, the iPod, iPhone and iPad. And the expectation is the watch will be like the iPad and the iPhone, a really big hit," said Ian Fogg, a tech analyst at IHS.

But whether or not the Apple Watch becomes the company's next home run really hinges on the tech giant's ability to convince consumers they really need a smartwatch, industry experts say.

"Apple has to make the case why many different kinds of people need to go and spend hundreds of dollars on a smartwatch. If they do that the Apple Watch will be a success. If they don't the whole market may suffer," Fogg said.

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What Apple needs to say about its Watch

While Apple shared details about the device at its iPhone event in September, there are still some big questions that it must address on Monday if the company wants to win consumers.

Pricing information, battery life and where and exactly when the smartwatch will be sold are all details Apple is expected to share at the event. But the company's bigger focus will likely be on highlighting third-party applications that will be on the device.

Apple's WatchKit, which is the software development kit (SDK) developers use to build apps for the watch platform, became available to developers in November. With a few months of build out, it's now time to see what the best developers have been able to create for the device.

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"I would expect that since the developers have had access to the SDK for awhile, part of the value of having an event would be to show what developers are already going to do with it. Because that was something that was largely left to the imagination at the original announcement in September," said James McQuivey, a technology analyst at Forrester.

Like the iPhone and the iPad, a lot of the value of the Apple Watch is expected to stem from apps available from third-party developers. So it makes sense that Apple will want to showcase the most impressive of the bunch.

Health and fitness apps as well as communication-focused apps will likely get a lot of attention, said McQuivey.

According to a 9to5Mac report on Friday, one new feature that will be on the device is a heart rate monitor called Heart Rate Glance. The report also cited sources as saying the battery life would last up to five hours with heavy app usage and about a full day with mixed use. It had originally been reported that the battery life could be as low as 2.5 hours with heavy app usage.

Another key nugget Apple will reveal is how many markets the device will initially be sold in, analysts said.

"I have a hunch they are going to take it to as many markets as possible as quickly as possible," said McQuivey.

Fogg of IHS said it seems likely Apple will launch the smartwatch in at least more than one country simultaneously, most likely the U.S. and Europe.

Other hardware Apple may reveal

Apple Watch Monday, but what else?
Apple Watch Monday, but what else?

And while the watch will be the primary product the company outlines at the event, it's also possible Apple could make some other product announcements.

"It would be extremely surprising if they didn't announce an update for the Mac line with a new processor," Fogg said.

Apple may also announce expansion of its Apple Pay service in Europe, he said. Currently, the mobile payment system is limited to the U.S. market.

One surprise piece of hardware Apple could also reveal is a new headphone device, said Forrester's McQuivey.

"They could reveal a single ear bud that becomes a companion to the watch so you don't have to hold up your wrist to speak into the watch, but also so that the watch can speak back to you," he said.

Right now, the watch can't talk back to users unless they also pull out their iPhones, he said.

The watch's unveiling may also maximize Apple's purchase of Beats Music and Electronics for $3 billion last year.

"Personally, the timing of buying Beats around the time the watch was finally coming together suggests to me there's a connection there," McQuivey said. "It will certainly happen within the next year, but if it comes Monday Apple could really be surprising us with how rapidly it's moving forward."