Apple expects strong demand in smartwatch consumer debut
(Reuters) – Apple Inc expects tremendous interest for its new smartwatch and demand to outstrip supply as consumers get an up-close look on Friday at CEO Tim Cook’s first major product.
The Apple Watch, which also marks the Cupertino, California company’s debut in a fledgling wearable technology market, will be available for pre-order online and to try out in stores – but not take home.
On April 24, consumers will be able to buy it online or by reservation at retail locations including high-end fashion boutiques in Paris, London and Tokyo.
Based on recent customer interest at its stores, Apple expects demand for the watch, which allows users to check email, listen to music and make phone calls when paired with an iPhone, to exceed availability at launch, it said on Thursday.
Reviewers this week praised the watch, which also helps users monitor their health and exercise, as “beautiful” and “stylish” but gave it poor marks for relatively low battery life and slow-loading apps.
For women, the various sizes and wrist bands make this smartwatch more pleasing than earlier versions from Samsung Electronics and others, said Kantar World Panel market analyst Carolina Milanesi, who has been wearing the watch for a few days.
“Is it for everybody? No, but I don’t think any wearables are yet,” she said.
Still, Apple’s watch is widely expected to outsell those by Samsung, Sony and Fitbit, that have attracted modest interest from consumers. It will likely account for 55 percent of global smartwatch shipments this year, according to Societe Generale.
The Apple Watch sport starts at $349 and the standard version of the watch starts at $549. High-end “Edition” watches with 18-karat gold alloys are priced from $10,000 and go as high as $17,000.
Underscoring its strategy to market the watch as a fashion accessory, Apple is selling it through a handful of high-end stores including Selfridges in London, Galeries Lafayette in Paris and Tokyo’s Isetan department store.
JMP analyst Alex Gauna said he and others on Wall Street would be at stores this weekend to gauge consumers’ reactions to the watches.
Sales estimates for 2015 vary widely. Piper Jaffray predicts 8 million units will be sold and Global Securities Research forecasts 40 million. By comparison, Apple sold nearly 200 million iPhones last year.
Apple shares closed 0.76 percent higher at $126.56 on Thursday. (Additional reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr)