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Apple's iWatch may not ship until 2015, report says

The long-awaited wearable from Apple could make an appearance at its Sept. 9 event, but it likely won't hit the market until early next year, Recode says.

CEO Time Cook, seen here at an Apple store on iPhone launch day last year, has promised "amazing" and "exciting" new product categories this year. James Martin/CNET

You may have to wait a little longer for that Apple iWatch.

The long-awaited wearable won't be "shipping any time soon," Recode reported Friday. The publication, citing unnamed sources, said the device likely will hit the market in early 2015, which means Apple will miss the key holiday selling season.

It also would represent a big gap between the time Apple announces the device -- likely at the iPhone 6 launch Sept. 9 -- and when it starts selling the wearable. But it wouldn't be the first time Apple has unveiled something long before it ships it. The first iPhone was announced in January 2007 but didn't ship until June, and the first iPad was unveiled in January 2010 but didn't hit the market until April.

Apple declined to comment.

Recode set off a flurry in the media earlier this week when it reported Apple would show off a wearable next month during the launch of its newest iPhone. Apple on Thursday sent out invites to an event on Sept. 9 -- widely expected to be the iPhone 6 debut -- though it provided few details, offering only the statement "Wish we could say more."

The event will come a year after Apple introduced the iPhone 5S and 5C and a week after arch rival Samsung is set to unveil its Galaxy Note 4 phone-tablet hybrid, or phablet. Apple has added a new iPhone every year since former CEO Steve Jobs introduced the smartphone line in 2007, and new iPhones have been unveiled in the fall since 2011.

Many market watchers expect Apple to introduce two new iPhone 6 models with display sizes of 4.7 and 5.5 inches, though some recent reports speculate one device could be released at a later date. Analysts expect the iPhone 6 to be one of the largest product launches in Apple's history -- both in terms of device screen size and total sales. The company reportedly has asked manufacturing partners to produce about 30 percent to 40 percent more iPhones by the end of this year than it ordered for its initial run of last year's iPhone 5S and 5C.

For Apple, having a successful iPhone 6 launch is vital. Apple hosts only one phone event a year, and it generates more than half its revenue from its smartphone line. The iPhone serves as the linchpin to Apple's overall growth, particularly as the market awaits the widely speculated iWatch and as the iPad struggles against lower-cost rivals and larger phones.

It's also key for Apple to show off a wearable that wows consumers. CEO Tim Cook has promised new product categories this year. Eddy Cue, head of iTunes and the man behind Apple's $3 billion acquisition of headphone and streaming-music service provider Beats, upped the pressure by boasting in late May that the consumer electronics giant is working on its " best product pipeline in 25 years."

While many companies are getting into wearables, it's unclear just how much consumers want the devices. Some analysts expect the wearables market to soar over the next few years, but others are already forecasting its demise. Market research IDC projects that from the end of this year to 2018, wearable shipments will increase nearly sixfold to 111.9 million. Forrester Research, however, predicts that by 2016 the functionality of smartwatches and fitness bands will be absorbed by other devices such as smartphones and sensor-laden headphones.

Apple will have to find a way to make a device that's seamless and that gives some benefit over carrying a smartphone on its own. Other companies focusing on wearables, such as Samsung and LG, haven't yet figured out the magic combination, analysts and reviewers say. The two Korean companies unveiled new smartwatches earlier this week, with Samsung showing off its sixth device in the past year.

Ben Fox Rubin contributed to this report.

Updated at 9:30 a.m. PT with additional background information