Note: This is an update to a report we first published in January.
It has been nearly five months since the Apple Watch was first unveiled at a splashy media event on the De Anza College campus in Cupertino, California. Since then, much remains unknown about the highly anticipated wearable device, which Apple CEO Tim Cook now says will launch in April.
What we know
It’s going to be huge. Last month, Evercore’s Rob Cihra told investors that he expects the Apple Watch to add 4 percent to Cupertino’s calendar 2015 revenue, and will account for 36 percent of the company’s growth over 2014. The analyst’s “conservative” forecast is for Apple Watch shipments to total 18.5 million units this year, and 22.9 million more in 2016.
In December, UBS said that Apple Watch sales could top 24 million units in 2015, and rise to 67.6 million by fiscal year 2018.
In November, Morgan Stanley projected that one in 10 current iPhone owners would be buying an Apple Watch. This would translate into first year sales of around 30 million units for Apple’s upcoming wearable device.
Price: In September, Apple announced that the entry-level Watch would cost $349 in the U.S. That number is no longer mentioned on the Apple website, suggesting that most of the 18 Apple Watch varieties will be priced much higher than that starting price.
For the gold versions, he noted: “I feel that somewhere in the $5,000 range or a bit more is where Apple will end up pricing the 18k gold versions of the Apple Watch. This factors in the price of the material, the prestige, as well as Apple wanting to be competitive with traditional gold watches.”
You need an iPhone: An Android Wear watch won’t work without an Android-based smartphone. The Apple Watch must be paired with an iPhone 5 or later.
Three product models, two sizes: The Apple Watch will be available in “three distinctive collections.” These include the Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport, and Apple Watch Edition. Yes, even after four months, these naming conventions are confusing.
Here’s how Apple describes them:
The Apple Watch collection features highly polished stainless steel and space black stainless steel cases. The display is protected by sapphire crystal. And there’s a choice of three different leather bands, a link bracelet, a Milanese loop, and a band made from high-performance fluoroelastomer.
The Sport collection cases are made from lightweight anodized aluminum in silver and space gray. The display is protected by strengthened Ion-X glass. And the matching fluoroelastomer band comes in five different colors.
The Edition collection features six uniquely elegant expressions of Apple Watch. Each has a watch case crafted from 18-karat gold that our metallurgists have developed to be up to twice as hard as standard gold. The display is protected by polished sapphire crystal. And an exquisitely designed band provides a striking complement.
The Apple Watch will be available in two sizes: 38mm and 42mm.
What we don’t know
Price: The Apple Watch has made only one appearance outside of Cupertino. In late September, French fashion retailer Colette featured the wearable device at its gallery at the rue Saint-Honoré in Paris. It wasn’t an accident that Apple selected Colette for this “one day only experience.”
Cupertino wants to disrupt the watch industry. To do so, they plan to take on the Omegas and Tag Heuers of the world. This means adding precious metals to some Apple Watch Edition models, which will translate into high prices. While we may not see a $10,000 Apple Watch, a few varieties priced at beyond $5,000 is likely. (See above)
Location: Apple retail stores will probably sell most Apple Watch models. However, we can’t imagine seeing the local Best Buy store selling $5,000 Apple Watch Edition models. Conversely, a company like Tourneau probably won’t be offering an entry-level Sport edition, but will offer some of the more expensive models.
Recently, 9to5Mac reported that Apple will be using safes to hold the gold Apple Watch Edition, which is the most expensive in the Apple Watch range that also includes stainless steel and aluminum models.
“The safes will likely be used to carry both to-be-sold inventory as well as to store demo units from the show floor overnight,” the site notes. “The custom-designed safes will be outfitted with Apple Watch MagSafe chargers in order to keep the demo units charged up and ready to go for the next day of business.”
Upgrade options: Rolex and Panerai watches are made to be worn … and passed down to new generations. A 3-year-old Apple Watch? Probably not, thanks to technology advances.
Even one percenters might have a problem spending nearly $10,000 on a watch that could become obsolete in a few years. We continue to predict that Apple will announce a buyback program for Apple Watch Edition owners so that they can swap out expensive bands and cases when a next-generation Watch is unveiled.
Adams agrees, stating “This would make customers interesting (sic) in a gold Apple Watch feel more comfortable because their initial investment isn’t just in the watch itself, but also the gold material.”
When we may know
The missing pieces on the Apple Watch could fall into place as early as Tuesday, Feb. 24. That is the day Apple may hold another Apple Watch event. Stay tuned.
It’s 2015, the year the Apple Watch is finally released. Until that happens, however, Apple has a number of questions to answer about its wearable device. Hopefully, we’ll be hearing some answers in the coming weeks.