Apple Watch already wins prestigious design award

Before it's even on the market, the watch wins gold in the 2015 iF Design Awards. The next challenge will be to see if it can win the battle for consumers' hearts and dollars.

The Apple Watch has already won an award. James Martin/CNET

The Apple Watch isn't even for sale, yet it's already won a major award.

The upcoming smartwatch has been lauded by winning gold in the 2015 iF Design Awards. Given out every year since 1954 by the Germany-based iF International Forum Design, the awards -- gold in particular -- are considered prestigious honors in the design community as judges must pick the top products from among 2,000 entries and a variety of categories.

The Apple Watch won't be available to consumers until April, but Apple is expected to reveal more details about the device, including a specific launch date, at an event scheduled for Monday. Spearheaded by Apple designer Jony Ive, the watch will come in three varieties with a range of bands available. The entry-level Sport model will start at $349, while the top-of-the-line Apple Watch Edition could sell for $4,999 and higher, according to predictions from Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster.

The Apple Watch will be part smartwatch and part fitness and activity tracker, a combination the company is counting on to bring in buyers. But by offering the watch in a luxury edition, Apple is also presenting it as a piece of fine jewelry to further distinguish it from rival products.

It will be entering a crowded field of wearables clamoring for a place on consumers' wrists, the latest round of which were unveiled at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona this week. Among the crop of smartwatches were the Android-powered Huawei Watch, which brings a classic round watch shape to a set of devices that's been dominated by boxier designs, and the Pebble Time Steel , whose sensor-based bands and metallic construction up the ante on the plastic Pebble Time announced just a week earlier.

Other companies already in the smartphone fray include Samsung, Microsoft, Motorola, Sony and LG.

One advantage that Android-based smartwatches could have over the Apple Watch is that by and large they are less expensive. But to date, smartwatches have yet to really capture consumers' enthusiasm or much in the way of their dollars. Some limiting factors -- they often rely heavily on being a complement to a mobile phone, and typically have much shorter battery life than traditional watches.

So how can a product that's not even out yet win an award? Well, the judges at the International Forum Design were able to get their hands on the Apple Watch and test it out. With design in mind, the award may be based more on form than functionality, but the two aspects do work together. So the watch's features clearly factor into the decision as well, according to the International Forum Design:

Apple Watch features revolutionary new technologies, a pioneering interface, and a design that honors the rich tradition of watchmaking. Apple Watch's design and interface were created specifically for a smaller device. The Digital Crown is an innovative way to navigate, the display features Force Touch, which senses the difference between a tap and a press, and the Taptic Engine enables a new vocabulary of notifications you can both hear and feel. The beautifully designed and durable Apple Watch enclosures are crafted from custom alloys of polished or space black stainless steel, space gray or silver anodized aluminum, and 18-karat gold.

The Apple Watch was one of two gold winners in this year's telecommunications category, sharing the honors with the Smartisan T1 Mobile phone. This is hardly the first time Apple has been honored by the iF International Forum Design, according to CultofMac. Since 1985, the company has won 125 awards, including 44 gold awards.

A statement by the jury sums up why the Apple Watch earned one of this year's Gold awards:

The idea of combining classic materials such as leather and metal with state-of-the-art technology to create a very individual fashion accessory has resulted in a delightful product offering a holistic user experience. The Apple Watch scores highly for each design detail and is an altogether extraordinary piece of design. For us, it is already an icon.

For more details on the Apple Watch, tune into CNET's live blog and show starting at 9 a.m. PT Monday.


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