“The most advanced timepiece ever created.” This is how CEO Tim Cook described the Apple Watch at his firm’s official launch event yesterday.
However, will the device’s flashy exterior and high-tech internals be enough to ignite the wearable market? Will it even be enough to tempt consumers to pay the £299 for the basic edition, let alone the £8,000 for the 22-carat gold model? These are the questions that Apple execs will surely be pondering, even with the launch event being well-received for the most part.
There are many hurdles that Apple will have to overcome if its first foray into the wearable market is a successful one and we’ve listed a few of them below.
At $349, or £299 in the UK, even the basic Apple Watch Sport comes in at the higher end of the smartwatch market. In comparison, a Pebble smartwatch can be purchased for less than £100 and Sony’s Smartwatch 3 is available for £150.
Of course, Apple has never had a problem convincing consumers to pay a little extra for its premium products, but the Apple Watch pricing may even have die-hard fans scratching their heads. At the launch event, Tim Cook did not indicate that the various Apple Watch models differed in terms of specs, which may make the increases in price difficult to swallow.
The mid-range stainless steel edition of the Apple Watch, for example, will cost between $549 and $1,099 (£365 - £700). James Moar of Juniper Research suggested that the price hike appears to be little more than a cash grab.
"When there were estimates of $700 or $800 for the basic stainless steel versions, I would have expected more than just a difference in materials," he told the BBC. "The fact Apple hasn't done that is why there is no justification for a higher price."
Too much choice?
Yesterday, Tim Cook also proclaimed the Apple Watch to be, “the most personal device we’ve ever created,” and in order to achieve this personal connection, Apple has had to a cater to as wide an audience as possible.
The Apple website lists 38 different varieties of its newest product currently available, but this could make it difficult for Apple to market the device effectively. Is it a serious timepiece or a high-tech gadget? Is it a piece of luxury jewellery (as the gold version would suggest) or an entry-level wearable?
If Apple can appeal to everyone, then its smartwatch could see huge sales figures, but there is also a risk that it will be perceived as a jack of all trades, master of none.
A wearable problem
Wearables are supposedly the next big thing and I’m sure they’ll see significant growth this year, partly fuelled by the Apple Watch launch.
The long-term problem facing wearables, however, is that they are just not as essential as a smartphone, or perhaps even a tablet. Wearables, for the most part, require a smartphone in order to function. In the case of the Apple Watch this issue is compounded by the fact that it is only compatible with an iPhone 5 and up. Of course, there are a lot of iPhone users out there, but there are even more Android users. According to research firm IDC, Android has an 80 per cent share of users globally, meaning the Apple Watch is severely limiting its market.
For many consumers, a wearable gadget is yet another device to carry around and remember to charge, and unless the Apple Watch has a killer-app, they may view it as unnecessary.
The Cupertino-based firm expects to sell 5-6 million Apple Watch devices during the launch period, despite the rest of the wearable market combined shipping just 4.6 million units in 2014. Is this simply an unbelievable act of hubris – the pride before the fall? Perhaps, but history has shown that if there is one company capable of convincing consumers to buy a product that they don’t need, then it’s Apple.