Five months have passed since Apple first unveiled the Apple Watch and yesterday’s March 8th 2015 keynote presentation showed very little in the way of new features for the Apple Watch. We pretty much knew all there was to know about the Apple Watch collection… except for the price. The internet wasn’t short of wild speculation before the event however, one of the more prominent Apple writers, John Gruber laid out his guesses just before the announcement. He was off on some, but his reasoning was sound. Firstly though let’s have a look at some tidbits of information that were revealed yesterday before reviewing the collection and whether you should buy one.
One of the mysteries surrounding the Apple Watch was concerning the battery life and Tim Cook revealed that it would have around about 18 hours of mixed use. Nobody will know until its released if this is an accurate figure or not, but my guess is that 18 hours of mixed use is probably stretching it. Normally Apple love to quote how many hours of music it can play and how many hours of phone calls it can take. Obviously the Apple Watch is a completely new product and may not be used in the same way as a phone or an iPod, but its interesting that they painted a grey area over this. In any case, if you mix Apple Watch use with iPhone use, I’d expect a good solid day of use without running out of battery which is the most important thing. The Apple Watch actually goes into battery saving mode in the last 10% of battery so that notifications and bluetooth are turned off so that its still useful as a watch. A good move.
It was also announced that the Apple Watch would be available for preorder and for browsing at stores on April 10th and that it would actually be available for sale on April 24th. At this point in time, only the typical ‘first class’ countries have been announced such as United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Japan, Hong Kong, Australia and China. Singapore interestingly have been left out after being in the first round of countries for the iPhone 6 release.
Apple Watch Sport
The starting price of the Apple Watch was revealed at the previous keynote which was $349 (all prices US), and as most pundits predicted, this belonged to the Apple Watch Sport collection with its aluminium body and ion-X strengthened glass and sport band. This was the price of the 38mm watch, with the 42mm costing $399.
At $349 this is a pretty reasonable entry point given the cost of the rest of the collection. If you’re eager to try one out but don’t want to plonk down the big bucks, then by all means get the Sport model which by all intents and purposes have the same functions and features as its dearer cousins.
The Apple Watch Sport also comes in a nice all black model with black sport band so if you think the Apple Watch Black Stainless Steel with Stainless Steel links is too expensive at $1049, save yourself the $700. I bet by the time you get home, you’ll be in love with the Watch Sport.
The Apple Watch is where Apple’s accounting team rears its head. I won’t list all the prices for all the different bands, you can find that information here in this news article. Suffice to say the Apple Watch collection ranges from $549-$1049 for the 38mm model and $599-$1099 for the 42mm model. The interesting thing to note is that the watch body is the same, its the bands that reflect the various pricing. With over $500 difference between the cheapest and the dearest (bands), have Apple got the pricing right?
One thing that Apple continually tries to push in its products is that the quality and design is a cut above the rest of the tech crowd. Look at the all aluminium bodies found in their MacBooks, iPhones, iPods, iPads, the additional ‘gold’ colour for iPhones and now Macs. Everything Apple seems to do is to separate themselves from the likes of Samsung and Sony. With the Apple Watch, its Apple’s attempt to seriously move into the desirable good crowd like Gucci, LV, Armani. Take the following with a grain of salt because I’m hardly a luxury good expert, but whenever I’ve shopped at these stores, the experience isn’t so much about the price, but how badly you want the product and how much you can pay. Any rationale on pricing desirable goods purely on function go out the window. An LV handbag is what, $3000/$5000 for the black? How is the black colour worth an extra $2000? It ‘does’ the same thing as that $50 handbag in that boutique shop down the road. And yet LV remains well and truly alive. Even with global financial crises, natural disasters, there’s money in the economy that’s waiting to be spent.
And so it is with the Apple Watch collection, which starts at $549 for the 38mm Sport band version, the classic buckle with a leather strap is $649, the modern buckle which is actually a two piece magnetic strap is $749 and the creme de la creme is the stainless steel link band at $949 (black $1049). The question that any rational person would raise would be whether the leather strap is actually $100 more than the Sport band, whether the magnets in the modern buckle cost yet another $100 and whether the link bands cost MORE than the Watch Sport itself and about the price of the Apple Watch. The answer is obviously a resounding no. As any luxury good shopper will tell you, price and reason are mutually exclusive. Apple even gave fans five whole months to have their heart set on a particular watch and band model without prices attached ensuring that they eek out $100 or $200 more from every person buying the one they truly want. In the past techies grumbled about the $100 increase over extra (16/32gb) memory upgrade, and now with the Apple Watch they’ve been dragged kicking and screaming into the real world where function is not relevant in pricing. Basically for the Apple Watch collection, if you want a particular model/band, fork up the extra money.
Apple Watch Edition
So what of the Apple Watch Edition, for normal plebs like myself, its going to be an interesting experiment into how the wealthy view their money over functionality. Do they care that something like this that ‘might’ be obsolete in a few years or do they enjoy throwing money into the wind? There’s no way of knowing, but there’s every chance of it catching fire like the iPhone. After all, if your mates all have the Apple Watch Edition, how can you NOT buy one. It’s only $10,000 and there’s a couple of hundred million dollars sitting in the bank account, right?
The Apple Watch Edition is also going to reveal how wealthy people value other luxury watches. Do they buy Rolex, Omega, Phillipe Patek because its exceptionally crafted, a great forward going investment, and something that can last a long time and be handed down to future generations. Or do they buy these Apple Watch Edition watches because its the latest thing and they need that smart watch functionality but the regular Apple Watch is too cheap.
If i have to put my money either way, I will say its probably going to fail (for this coming year at least) but if it does, we will probably never know how badly. Essentially its the same watch body inside. When one buys a luxury watch, the $10,000 watch itself is different to the $300 watch, but here Apple Watch functions in exactly the same way, bar a few carats of bling. Secondly these luxury models have taken a long time to build their heritage and prestige and while there’s no doubt Apple is the number 1 brand in the world right now, even wealthy people may sit out this round. Either way even if its sells a bare minimum 10,000 of them, thats $100m in the coffers.
Longevity of the Apple Watch
Its important to note the overall concept of the Apple Watch and this can give you an indication of how long one can expect their Apple Watch to last before retiring it out to pastures. As Apple have said its for quick notifications, glances and small amounts of information to be digested. Its to stop you from pulling out your phone in a meeting and staring at it all day. Above all its about convenience. So don’t expect to play the latest games on the device or write a PhD on the watch. With the Apple Watch just about every piece of hardware that’s found in the iPhone has been pulled to 1) reduce the size and make it watch friendly and 2) I believe give the Watch extra longevity that’s not available with the iPhone.
With the iPhone it starts to get a bit long in the tooth after 2 years, and after 3 years, its really time for a new phone. But I believe with the Apple Watch, the concept of just receiving notifications and short messages will make your watch last much longer. For example, I don’t expect the Watch to increase much in terms of CPU or Ram as it piggybacks off the iPhone which does the hard work. All it needs is a bit of processing power to translate the message, bluetooth for communication and display to view the information. If anything hopefully the battery will get better, but by and large, the Gen 1 Watch experience will be similar to the Gen 4 Watch experience. Therefore barring any dead batteries, the Apple Watch Edition will ‘last’ longer than people think. The only peeve I have is that from the Apple presentation it still looks like one needs to carry the iPhone even during fitness.
If you’re a fan like me, get the Apple Watch. The pricing at the lower end is pretty fair, $349 for a watch sport or $549 for a apple watch with black sport band. The extra $200 at least goes towards better glass and a better body, though the watch sport seems fine if you are going to upgrade in a few years anyway. The bands are expensive and in my opinion not worth it right now. If you have a spare $500-600 put it on your mortgage or feed your family for two weeks or buy your wife an Apple Watch too.