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Three big questions before the Apple Watch event

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Apple is holding a press event on March 9, presumably to show off and start orders for the Apple Watch it introduced back in September. I’m all but certain here on the event topic based on the previously stated April shipment date for Apple’s first smartwatch; launching it in March for pre-orders with an April delivery simply makes sense to me.

Apple Watch Event

I’ll be attending and live-blogging the event. Until then, I’m still trying to sort out answers to a several key questions about the device itself. My colleague Kif Leswing posed six open questions after Tim Cook first showed us the Apple Watch. Several of those still apply, and I have a few others after seeing the Watch for myself last year and because I’ve been using smartwatches for the past few years.

How much will the different variants cost?

Obviously, all will be revealed when the product officially launches. We know that the point of entry is $349 for the Apple Watch in stainless steel and sapphire crystal. But what about the Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch Edition models?

As someone who tends to buy smartwatches for an active lifestyle — I own a Motorola MotoACTV and a Sony Smartwatch 3; both are focused on exercise and sport with their own GPS radio — I’m going to go against the grain here and suggest that the Apple Watch Sport model will cost less than $349.

Apple Watch launch event

Why? It forgoes stainless steel for aluminum, uses strengthened Ion-X glass instead of expensive sapphire and comes with a simple fluoroelastomer band instead of one made with pricey metal or leather.

If I recall correctly in September, Cook said the starting price of the Apple Watch edition (not Apple Watch Sport) would be $349. Many assume this is the lowest price for the entire line. But if the watch is made with less expensive materials — the band and case, for example — I’m thinking the Sport model may have a lower price, part of an under-promise and over-delivery strategy that could surprise and surpass expectations.

My guess on cost is $279 or $299. If I misheard Cook, then of course, all bets are off but even Apple’s official press release from September omits the word “Sport” from the pricing: “Apple Watch will be available in early 2015 starting at $349 (US).”  It could be confusion over semantics but as I read it — and recall from the September event — the price applied to the standard smartwatch edition.

Apple Watch

As far as the Apple Watch Edition for the luxury crowd, I can only wonder. I’ve read several well-written thoughts in the past week suggesting that the rose gold model could cost as much as $10,000. That might well be right considering the cost of luxury watches. I’ve spent nearly $1,000 on a mechanical, stainless steel analog watch in the past but similar models made with precious metals could easily inflate the price by a factor of ten.

What’s the killer app or compelling reason to purchase an Apple Watch?

Let me preface this by saying that, even if the Apple Watch only does what Cook showed off in September, I’m sure Apple will sell millions this year. But let’s take a deeper dive, because I didn’t leave September’s Apple Watch introduction event feeling as if this was a must-have product.

We saw glanceable notifications from an iPhone. That’s nice, but as I said last week, those are simply “table stakes” for this market. So is the time, of course. Favoriting a picture on your iPhone pushes the image to your Apple Watch. I’m not too jazzed about that; most people would rather see or show that picture on the larger screen of the iPhone they’re going to have with them. Tapping out little doodles or showing my heartbeat on someone else’s Apple Watch isn’t a market mover, either. I can’t help but think there’s more functionality we haven’t heard about yet.

Apple Watch

What feature(s) is going to get people to shell out money for a watch that’s a companion to their phone?

Siri is built into the Apple Watch; an upgrade to Siri with more contextual, proactive information would go a long way here. You can control an Apple TV with Apple Watch, just as you can with an iOS device. Most everything we’ve seen so far on the watch replicates what you can do with the iPhone; my take is that Apple has saved a few big features that will make people say, “I have to have that.”

How long is this thing supposed to last?

I don’t mean how long will it last on a charge; Cook already said we’ll likely be charging the Apple Watch nightly. More importantly, how long will the technology last and work with future software updates? Apple is pretty good at supporting a few cycles’ worth of legacy devices. So if you buy an Apple Watch in 2015, I suspect you won’t start “missing out” on advanced features until 2018.

Apple Watch

That’s a reasonable expectation if you’re spending $350 or so; if you want to upgrade in three years, it’s not going to break the bank. For those with more expensive Apple Watch editions, though, it’s a different story. Apple’s S1 system board and chip appear modular in design, but I’d want to know if the innards could be swapped from a watch costing thousands of dollars before I committed to the purchase.

Perhaps if you have that kind of money to spend on a watch, you don’t care as much about the upgrade path. I can’t speak to that because I don’t have that kind of cash. Even the less expensive models raise the question, though, because as chip cycles continue, components get smaller and we can fit more sensors in devices.

Not long to wait for answers

Those are my three biggest questions now and we have only 10 days or so before we find out the answers. In the meantime, since September, we’ve learned that fully native apps will come later to the Apple Watch, just as they did with the original iPhone. Tim Cook recently mentioned showering with an Apple Watch, so some level of water resistance is plausible. And as noted previously, the Apple Watch will ship in April to the first customers who find the timepiece a compelling purchase.

26 Responses to “Three big questions before the Apple Watch event”

  1. Jonathan Stoner

    The thing about a watch is, its a visible status symbol.

    A guy with a 10k Rolex or a 5k Tag Heuer doesnt have a neccesarily better watch than a Casio G-shock. All a Rolex does is tells the time (not very well either) and is very strong. So functionally its nowhere near a G-shock which is also very strong.

    But its out there on his wrist “iCan”.

    Peoples phones and tablets etc aren’t in public view, but a watch is.

    I have to admit, Im not confident about this Apple watch being a smash hit.
    But watches arent about functionality, theyre about status.

  2. What I’m seeing for leaked prices sucks!!
    and (they match)

    Even Apple fans would HATE that.

    My issues:

    Paying extra for the 42mm as apposed to the lower priced 38mm (with the exception of the gold watches this is lame at best) The Aluminum and stainless steel shouldn’t have different prices between the 38mm and 42mm.

    You will notice that the Milanese Loop and the Stainless Steel link watch bands can only be bought IF you buy the Watch with it! So if you want one of each you would need to buy TWO Watches.

    All bands are not for everyone! You cannot get a “Modern Leather Strap” unless you buy a 38mm Watch. Likewise the “Leather Loop” bands you can only use on a 42mm Watch.

    In order to get the *space grey stainless steel* Watch you must buy the Steel Link band version that costs $999.00

    Price. $999.00 for a stainless Steel watch is too high! Apple or otherwise.
    I have been a Apple person for a long time. I know they cost more than other brands and I’m fine with that, However, this device is over priced.

    I would have expected that the 38mm/42mm (gold excluded) would be the same price and that the bands would all be interchangeable as we were led to believe in every single Watch add to date.

    Lastly the prices. $350 for aluminum and $500 for stainless steel. What happens next year when you have a new model of the Watch

  3. Yeah, I really think you misheard Tim Cook or are imagining things. There is no way that the starting price if the Apple Watch Edition is $349. But it would be wonderful if that were so. But we’re talking pricing by Apple not Crazy Eddie.

    • He’s not talking about the edition, he’s speaking of the Apple Watch starting at $349. which is set between the apple watch sport and apple watch edition. The apple watch edition is supposedly starting at $5,000

  4. Asok Smith

    I have some more “next big thing” ideas for Apple to add to the iWatch accessory line:

    1. The iCuffLink.

    2. The iSuspenders.

    3. The iWingTipBrogans.

    4. The iFedoraSnapBrimHat.

    5. The iBuggyWhip.

    6. The iRotaryTelephone.

    7. The i33RPMVinylRecord.

    8. The i8TrackTape.

    9. The iTieTack.

    10. The iBlackAndWhiteTV.

    11. The iConsoleRadio.

    12. The iCassetteTape.

  5. exhibit44

    Apple succeeds when it gets people to pay a premium for something they can get elsewhere for less. It’s quite a miracle that they keep pulling this off. Jewelry is a natural extension for them, but it’s gonna have to be amazing enough to get people to leave their phone at home. And Apple knows that they have be careful cannibalizing their other revenue streams.

    • It’s not a miracle. You just don’t know what you’re talking about when true user-friendly design includes a wide spectrun of questions answered.

      Your analysis is more like Bill Gates thinking that Times Roman resolved all communications questions.

  6. Of course not. No one thinks that. Which part of “surely you will pay more” confused you? The question, again, is how much more will the fancier bands cost? It could be quite a lot more.

    I do think it is at least conceivable that some sport/band combinations may cost more than the base stainless with plastic band.

  7. Or question 4 – How many iSheep are going to line up to be fleeced with this new “must have” Apple product.

    This iWatch thing is going create people more annoying than someone who just bought their first Rolex watch and has to show it everyone around them.

  8. The really interesting thing for me is NFC. If you want to use Apple Pay and have an iPhone < 6 or don't want to drag out your phone to pay a bill, this could be worthwhile.

    I'll admit, I'm looking at the $349 price tag and saying, "Meh…maybe I'll wait for version 2.0."

  9. You misheard. I’m sure the Sport is the one that is $349. I would not be surprised if the stainless steel with sapphire crystal is $700-$1200 depending on the band. Go to the mall and ask to see a Movado or Tissot watch. Look at the price tag. There is no way the stainless steel is $349.

    • Completely agree. A bit naive of the writer to think that Apple wouldn’t announce the lowest entry price for a forthcoming product. However, comparison with analog watches is not relevant either – this is a small computer produced in huge volume, not a crafted device with (still) significant human assembly costs. The raw cost of steel vs aluminium vs plastic is irrelevant. Now gold, that is another matter ……….

    • I ‘m sure $349 will not be the base price for the stainless, but I don’t think a Movado is necessarily a fair comparison. I have a pretty nice Victorinox chronograph that’s stainless and sapphire, and it only cost me like $450.

  10. Nicholas Paredes

    The pricing is confusing. I would suspect $349 is not out of the question for a starting price. If the Apple Watch price started at under $300, they will sell quite a few.

    I’m also hoping that the stainless with the Milanese is not more than $499. I’m not really willing to go over that price without some real value in the use case. Gold was never my thing in watches.

  11. Actually … the $349 price is the price of the Sport edition, not the stainless edition. The question is what the stainless ($799 has been thrown out there) and edition models ($5K-$20K have been suggested) will cost.

    • Hmmm. You may be right. But at the event the Apple Watch (not Apple Watch Sport) edition was on screen behind Cook and then the slide switched to the “starting at $349” bit. Where does it say the Sport edition is $349? Not in Apple’s PR, either…. it’s a bit confusing and could just be semantics as I said but if you have something that shows the Sport edition tied to the $349, I’d love to see it. Thanks!

      • For what its worth, I’ve been thinking exactly the same thing. What I heard was a promise of the pricing for Apple Watch, not Apple Watch Sport, starting at $350. Apple’s site presents the collections in that order–Watch, Sport, Edition. The Watch is the basic model, the other two are modifications of it.

        My related question about cost is how much will the various bands cost. I’m hoping you are right and that it will be possible to get the Apple Watch for $350. But if you want the Milanese Loop, surely you will need to pay more. A big question for me is, how much more?

          • Joseph Calabrese

            I suspect and I could be wrong that the watches will not come with any band out of the box. I say this for two reasons.

            1. No other apple product comes with an accesory. iPhones don’t come with a case but Apple is more than happy to sell you one of theirs.

            2. With so many options and choices for bands they would have to package it with all those choices. Some may say the rubber band comes standard but again see my point number 1.

            I think the rubber bands will be 14.99 or 19.99, Then go up from there. 39.99 or 49.99 for the leathers, and 79.99 to 99.99 for the metal ones.

          • Joseph Calabrese

            I suspect and I could be wrong that the watches will not come with any band out of the box. I say this for two reasons.

            1. No other apple product comes with an accessory. iPhones don’t come with a case but Apple is more than happy to sell you one of theirs.

            2. With so many options and choices for bands they would have to package it with all those choices. Some may say the rubber band comes standard but again see my point number 1.

            I think the rubber bands will be 14.99 or 19.99, Then go up from there. 39.99 or 49.99 for the leathers, and 79.99 to 99.99 for the metal ones.

          • Apple’s value as a company world wide is number 1.

            There is a reason for this. It’s not simply the product, there is the support as well. When my Samsung had an issue they sent it out and 2 weeks later it was returned fixed, good as new. I later went to an iPhone, when I had an issue they replaced it right there.

            I bought the new surface pro 3. This was my choice for a tablet. It was having connectivity issues, i read this is common. I went into the Windows store and the kid there connected up to the stores network, he said “there’s no issue, it’s working fine” He did not grasp the concept of intermittent, I had to get a manage to have them replace my surface. For my laptop I have a macbook pro, I was having a backup issue with that, I got one on one attention until my issue was resolved to my satisfaction. (and the issue was my error to boot).

            So you don’t like Apple, I have no issues with that. You think the Apple Watch is ugly or whatever that’s totally cool, however trolling the thread on a post about Apple w/ blanket uninformed statements is weird. (yes, I know fan boys are also notorious for doing this too.) That being said you’re acting like an anti apple fan-boy

            AS for smart watches, ALL of ones on the market now have 1/2 of the features that apple watch is bring to the table out of the gates, not including the developers making apps this minute from the early release API.

            Again, I’ll back up my statement with facts, here are the comparisons:
            (The reason the cost less, they do less)

            Apple Watch vs. Galaxy Gear

            Apple Watch vs. Sony Steel vs. Moto 360

            Apple Watch vs. Pebble Time