It’s likely that Apple Watch sales won’t match expectations right away even though it might be hugely successful. There’s too much anticipation, and that can be a dangerous thing, though it’s likely that the initial publicity will attract early adopters. It’s also likely there will be an Apple media event late next month, or early in April, to herald its arrival, and perhaps introduce some other Apple gear.
What other Apple gear? Well, there are reports of a 12-inch MacBook Air with Retina display and/or possibly a 12.9-inch iPad, dubbed Pro, or perhaps both. A brand new MacBook Air, however, wouldn’t warrant special event status unless the release just happened to coincide with one.
Now there are unconfirmed claims of alleged missing features, including blood pressure and stress sensors, because they didn’t work reliably, particularly with hairy wrists or dry wrists. So we really don’t know the full bill of particulars yet. No doubt Apple is saving something for the launch event.
If you want to buy one, prepare to save quickly. $349 for the Sport version with the anodized aluminum case. But that’s just for starters. There so-called “standard” version, with the stainless steel case and the sapphire crystal face, may cost up to a few hundred more, which takes it into iPhone territory. Well, at least for an unlocked iPhone.
But the real money is all about the “Edition” with 18-karat gold. I’ve seen suggestions ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 and perhaps higher. And I haven’t considered the cost of buying a few of those replaceable watch bands, but I expect they will vary. You’ll also be able to choose a 38mm case or a 42mm case, depending on the size of your wrists and your fashion sensibilities. Aside from a fully equipped Mac Pro, Apple Watch will be the most expensive Apple gadget currently available.
It’s all about appearance, however. The guts of the watch will be the same regardless, so it all depends on what sort of fashion statement, if any, you care to make. But in this respect, Apple Watch is very different from the competition, because other companies are marketing them as fitness devices, wearables, or smartwatches, not as a piece of jewelry. By bringing in fashion executives and reaching out to the fashion industry, Apple is looking for a market not considered by the competition.
To be sure, that’s a good thing. Smartwatch sales have been downright pathetic. The biggest selling single model is the Pebble, starting at $99, which is decidedly bare bones compared to an Apple Watch. The company claims one million sold since 2013, which is great for a startup, but would be extremely poor for Apple. So if Apple sells just a few million Apple Watches during the first quarter, they will already be way ahead of the game compared to other companies. The bar for success is not terribly high — at least no yet.
With version 1.0, Apple Watch is mostly an accessory for a recent iPhone. It will mate with a Bluetooth connection, meaning you have to keep your iPhone close at hand, or most of what it does vanishes in the breeze. Apps will also be hosted on the iPhone, but you will be able to manage phone calls on an Apple Watch, since it has a mic and a speaker.
In large part, this will be a fitness device. If some sensors were omitted from the final production, perhaps they will show up in version 2.0. Or maybe Apple will expect you to shave the hair from your wrists.
But this raises another question, a real big one. With a smartphone, it’s common to upgrade every couple of years. A personal computer may stick around for five years or more. The replacement cycle for tablets isn’t certain, though falling iPad sales may indicate that a lot of you are keeping them around far longer than anyone expected.
On the other hand, a wristwatch is expected to last for many years. My $75 Guess chronograph has been in regular use for over a decade, only requiring cheap battery swaps to keep running. Unfortunately, it does appear you’ll be expected to charge your Apple Watch daily, which may be an inconvenience if you expect to be away from a charger, such as taking a long camping trip without access to a generator. Apple is limited with the state of current battery technology, although one hopes the expected media event will reveal a longer charge duration than is currently expected.
As the first version of a product that, in the most expensive form, people will be expected to keep for a long time, does Apple have any plans for future proofing? What about just being able to replace the core computing module at a reduced price, say $150-200 exchange? That way you’d be assured your Apple watch will stay current. As it is, the first version will seem downright primitive in a couple of years, particularly if Apple manages to make them powerful enough to perform most functions without being tethered to an iPhone. That has to be the inevitable game plan for Apple.
Someone who just paid $5,000 for one isn’t going to appreciate planned obsolescence. Apple is playing a brand new ball game here, so how do they plan to keep those well-heeled customers happy?
Meanwhile, Apple’s critics will tout the latest smartwatch du jour as a potential Apple Watch killer. None of those competing products, however, appear to be in the same market space as Apple Watch.