Excitement and confusion as Apple Watch release draws near

Consumer awareness for the launch of the Apple smartwatch is high, but there is confusion over what a smartwatch can do, new research from GfK shows.

Expectations of the price point are also some way out, the research shows.

Almost one half (46 per cent) are aware of the Apple smartwatch launch, which is a high figure.This is an impressive number for a new product launch and reflects Apple’s dominance in the consumer tech category. Here is what the research shows:

  • Overall, 19 per cent are extremely or very interested in the launch, 20 per cent are fairly interested.
  • The age group 25-34 is most likely to be extremely or very interested (36 per cent).
  • Some 56 per cent of current smartphone owners are extremely or very interested, compared to 12 per cent of non-owners.
  • 61 per cent of those intending to buy are extremely or very interested, vs. 17 per cent of non-owners.
  • 27 per cent of Apple fans are extremely or very interested in the launch, as are 29 per cent of owners of other Apple devices.
  • One in ten people plan to buy a smartwatch in the next six months

At 12 per cent, intention to purchase any smartwatch ranks sixth after a smartphone, tablet, laptop, games console and smart TV. However, one third (32 per cent) of people that already own a smartwatch intend to buy one, compared to 11 per cent of non-owners – showing that once someone has a smartwatch, they recognise the benefits of the device.

At 26 per cent, 25-34 year olds are the most likely to say they intend to purchase a smartwatch compared to 16 per cent of 16-24 year olds, 16 per cent of 35-44 year olds and 12per cent of 45-54 year olds.

Some 57 per cent of prospective purchasers are waiting until the launch of the Apple Watch before deciding which smartwatch or fitness brand to buy.

In Q1 2015, sales volume of smartwatches fell 21 per cent compared to the same time last year. By comparison, the sales volume of wearable tech overall increased in the same period – up 52 per cent and growing 22 per cent in value year on year.

Health and fitness trackers are driving the wearables category, up 327 per cent in volume and 356 per cent in value since Q1 2014.

Cost expectations

Price may well be a sticking point for Apple, the research shows.

The majority (73 per cent) of people interested in the launch of the Apple watch say they are prepared to spend up to £299, the price of the small sports version of the smartwatch. 17 per cent are prepared to spend between £300-£399, and one in ten (10 per cent) are prepared to pay £400 or more – closer to the £479 price tag of the basic standard Apple smartwatch.

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If they had to make a choice between them, two thirds (65 per cent) would select features and functionality over the design of the smartwatch. That’s not to say the look of the Apple Smartwatch won’t be important – 74 per cent of people say the way it looks and feels on their wrist is either “very important” or “important”.

Older respondents have most interest in features – versus almost half (46 per cent) of 16-24 year olds and of 25-34 year olds (45 per cent) for whom design is more important. Being able to customise the design appeals to 84 per cent of 16-24 year olds.

Features over looks

Accessing maps at 68 per cent, reading emails and texts at 61 per cent, and controlling appliances, lighting and TV in the home (55 per cent) are the three most popular functions at the moment, but with Apple and other players in the category working hard to explain the benefits of smartwatches, other functions may well be seen as appealing post-launch.

There are mixed feelings associated with owning a smartwatch. The most positive feelings are around controlling appliances – 48 per cent say they’d feel “in control” and “efficient” when using a watch in this context. There are two notable concerns, four in ten (41 per cent) say they would feel “silly” using a watch to make phone calls and 21 per cent would feel “vulnerable” paying for things using their watch.

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