NEW YORK — Buying an Apple Watch won't be as simple as walking into an Apple store and handing over your credit card.
The smartwatch is Apple's first new product category in five years and comes in 54 configurations — more than any other Apple gadget. So starting Friday, Apple stores will have staff trained to help you choose. You'll then have to place your order for shipping starting April 24. Even after that date, there's no walking in and walking out with a watch.
Of course, you can bypass all this by ordering online.
No smartwatch has gotten as much attention as the Apple Watch, given Apple's devoted fan base and the company's knack for designing products consumers can't live without. By insisting on customers ordering ahead of time, Apple says it can "provide the best experience and selection to as many customers as we can."
Prices range from $349 to $17,000 depending on the watch case, band and size. A standard model with the cheapest band costs $549 for the 38-millimeter model and $599 for the 42-millimeter version, as measured on the watch face from top to bottom.
Here's what you need to know about buying one.
If you know the specific configuration you want, you're best off ordering it online, starting at 12:01 a.m. PDT Friday (3:01 a.m. EDT). They will start to ship on April 24. Popular models might not be available right away if you're not among the first to order. Your watch will get shipped to you. There won't be an in-store pick-up option.
Besides the United States, the watch is available to customers in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan and the United Kingdom.
VISITING A STORE
Starting Friday, Apple Store staff will be able to help you choose from the array of options. Apple recommends that you make a reservation to see a sales representative. Apple will start taking reservations through its website at 12:01 a.m. PDT Friday as well. Appointments will be in 15-minute increments, though you can take more time at the store if needed. You might be able to walk in and try one out, but initially there will likely be a long wait.
Once you choose, you'll still need to place the order online, though you can do that at a Web terminal inside the store. Again, your only option is to have the watch shipped, at least for the foreseeable future.
For the most part, watches will be available for viewing when stores open Friday, so many overseas stores will actually show the watch before orders are accepted. Apple's 24-hour store on New York's Fifth Avenue will close temporarily to set up the displays; it will reopen at 9 a.m. Friday.
Only some stores will carry the 18-karat gold luxury models known as Edition. When you make the try-on reservation, you'll have to specify whether you're looking for these models or the cheaper ones. Specialists will handle these luxury appointments. If you're just interested in seeing them, all stores will have them available for viewing in glass cases.
BEYOND APPLE STORES
You won't be able to visit Best Buy or your wireless carrier. Apple will handle most of the sales directly. However, the watch will be available to try on at Galeries Lafayette in Paris, Isetan in Tokyo, Selfridges in London and some Apple resellers in China and Japan starting Friday. Once the watch goes on sale on April 24, it will be available in additional retail outlets, such as select department stores and boutiques, including Maxfield in Los Angeles. It's not known whether those stores will have similar requirements to order ahead of time.
GETTING YOUR WATCH
If you need help, you can come back to the store for staff to walk you through the setup and answer any other questions. Assistance will also be offered online. You'll need an iPhone 5 or later with at least iOS 8.2, which was released in March. The latest, iOS 8.3, is recommended.
The watch will come with a standard one-year warranty for hardware and 90 days of free telephone support. Extended coverage is available through AppleCare, but prices haven't been announced.
CHANGE YOUR MIND?
The general 14-day return policy is expected to apply, but expect some restrictions on the luxury models. Until you know for sure, don't count on "borrowing" a $17,000 watch for a weekend party and expecting a full refund.