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Will the Apple Watch Catch On?

The Apple Watch
The Apple Watch (Image credit: Apple livestream, screengrab)

Apple's newest product — the souped-up timepiece called the Apple Watch — is bound to become a cultural phenomenon that millions of people will buy, according to marketing experts not affiliated with the company.

As long as people don't already feel inundated with devices, the experts say.

"It's got the Apple name and mystique behind it," said Scott Thorne, a marketing professor at Southeast Missouri State University in Jefferson City.

Still, the device isn't exactly revolutionary, Thorne said.

"I'm not sure if it will be quite the game-changer that, say, the iPhone was, because it's really hard to capture the proverbial lightning in the bottle twice," Thorne told Live Science. [Top 10 Disruptive Technologies]

New device

The Apple Watch, which goes on sale April 10 and starts at $349, comes with a host of features, from step counting to remote payment to email-at-a-glance.

The device isn't the first smartwatch to come on the market. Samsung, LG, Pebble, Asus and other manufacturers already produce smartwatches, most of which cost far less than even the lowest-priced Apple Watch, and these other devices have failed to catch on.

But Apple has a history of coming up with the "definitive" versions of products that its competitors have been producing for a while, Thorne said.

The new device can do most of the things that the iPhone can do. For example, it can monitor your exercise, allow you to check your email and provide you access to Siri (Apple's personal assistant that lets users speak certain commands to their phone aloud).

The Apple watch also has a number of other thoughtful touches. Users will be able to automatically pay for food, check-in to a hotel, and even open their hotel room's door by simply waving a wrist. The device will feature "glances," or relevant nuggets of information on the home screen that people might need at the moment and not want to go scrolling to find.

New benefits?

When people check their phones nowadays, "they don't just look at their phone, they drop down the rabbit hole that is their phone, their concentration just seems to flow into the phone," said Grant McCracken, a cultural anthropologist and the author of "Culturematic" (Harvard Business Review Press, 2012).

Because the Apple Watch provides most of the functions of a smartphone, a major draw of the device will be that it provides people with an unobtrusive way to check essentials like email without taking a person out of their social moment, McCracken said.

The interface for fitness tracking is also useful, because the tracking is done simply and automatically, and doesn't require people to manually input tons of data, McCracken said.

The watch will also offer users the ability to join medical clinical trials, through apps made with Apple's ResearchKit platform. This could be very valuable for both users and researchers, who will have the benefit of incredibly detailed data from millions of users, Thorne said.

But many of the watch's other features, such as the ability to send squiggly pictures to loved ones, are unlikely to make people feel like the watch is a must-have, Thorne said.

Wrist liberation

People are already inundated with devices, from fitness trackers to tablets and smartphones, Thorne said. So some may opt not to buy the watch because they feel overloaded with their existing devices, especially since the watch doesn't replace the need for an iPhone, Thorne added.

What's more, many people have grown used to having their wrists free of watches.

"A lot of people have enjoyed their moment of wristwatch liberation," McCracken told Live Science.

However, the fact that the watch has Apple's cachet and is likely to be exquisitely crafted, it might motivate people to get "re-banded," McCracken said.

Follow Tia Ghose on Twitter and Google+. Follow LiveScience @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Originally published on Live Science.

Tia Ghose

Tia is the assistant managing editor and was previously a senior writer for Live Science. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, and other outlets. She holds a master's in bioengineering from the University of Washington, a graduate certificate in science writing from UC Santa Cruz and a bachelor's in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. Tia was part of a team at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that published the Empty Cradles series on preterm births, which won multiple awards, including the 2012 Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.