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Apple Watch goes on show in UK

The Apple Watch has gone on show to customers in the UK for the first time, as pre-orders for the smartwatch began this morning.

Visitors to Apple retail stores will be able to preview and then try on the Watch - by appointment - before pre-ordering one of the three-Watch collection, which starts at £299 but goes up to more than £13,000. The smartwatch goes on sale on April 24.

Analysts had suggested that the technology giant could sell up to 20 million units in 2015, and shortly after the pre-orders began online at 8am on Friday, shipping dates were already being pushed back due to demand. Customers visiting the online Apple Store are already being quoted delivery dates in June.

Angela Ahrendts, Apple's head of retail and online stores, said: "We are excited to welcome customers and introduce them to Apple Watch, our most personal device yet. Based on the tremendous interest from people visiting our stores, as well as the number of customers who have gone to the Apple Online Store to mark their favourite Apple Watch ahead of availability, we expect that strong customer demand will exceed our supply at launch.

"To provide the best experience and selection to as many customers as we can, we will be taking orders for Apple Watch exclusively online during the initial launch period."

This marks a noticeable change in approach from the iPhone maker, which is famous for the long queues outside its stores when new products arrive. The new strategy was already taking hold this morning as only a handful of customers were queuing outside the firm's Covent Garden store before it opened.

Customers will be able to order a Watch while in a store but this will be done through an Apple store employee and via the company's internal online store. The 18-carat gold alloy Apple Watch Edition will only be available to try on in selected Apple stores. This premium version of the device starts at £8,000. Special appointments and try-on sessions for the gold Watch take place in a private room, off the floor of the store.

A special Apple Watch Store has also opened within Selfridges on Oxford Street.

The Cupertino company's first wearable device comes with a Digital Touch feature that enables users to send vibrations to other Watch wearers, as well as transmit their heartbeat to another user also via vibrations. The Watch also tracks movement and contains Apple's voice-based assistant, Siri, as well as Apple Pay, so it can be used to make contactless payments.

The new device will face stiff competition from existing and upcoming products on the market, including a premium smartwatch announced by Swiss brand Tag Heuer last month.

Technology rival Samsung also already has several smartwatches on the market, and the crowd-funded Pebble Time smartwatch has recently become the most heavily backed item ever on crowd-sourcing website Kickstarter.

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