The Apple Watch was finally released for sale worldwide today, although the long queues typically seen outside its stores whenever a new product arrives were notably absent.
Apple Watch buyers will not walk out of an Apple Store with the new wearable today, as the company is directing people to order online instead. The move marks a U-turn in Apple’s approach and should prevent the long lines of customers who famously gather for iPhone and iPad launches.
However, buyers can purchase the smartwatch for immediate use from a handful of upscale boutiques and departments stores in major cities such as Berlin, Los Angeles, Tokyo and London which have certain designs in stock to sell to customers with a prior appointment, while the tech giant is pushing the Apple Watch as a fashion piece as well as a smart device.
Adrian Joffe, Dover Street Market’s chief executive, told the New York Times that its London branch would have 570 watches, although not the solid-gold Watch Edition, which remains on back order.
The Watch Sport is the cheapest model at £299, followed by the mid-range Watch for £479 and the Watch Edition that costs over £8,500 and is made of a solid-gold alloy developed by Apple to be twice as hard as the gold typically used in watches and jewellery.
Apple also launched the smartwatch’s own bespoke App Store with more than 3,000 apps in it - far more than other wearables have had at their launch and already rivalling the Android Wear platform in terms of size.
The watch, which comes in three styles, was first announced by Apple chief Tim Cook in September and was the company’s first new product line since the death of Steve Jobs in 2011.
Customers have been making appointments to try on the watch in Apple Stores for the past two weeks, but then having to pre-order their chosen model online. Since pre-orders began, some industry experts have forecast that Apple has sold more than two million watches and believe it will prove to be as popular as previous major launches.
Stuart Miles, technology expert and founder of website Pocket-lint.com, said: “I think the watch will follow the same lines of success as the iPad did five years ago. It's an intriguing device that has enough wow factor to pull people in.”
However, he said the change in buying process and the online backlog already reported could put some people off. The Apple Store is reporting delivery dates of June for Apple Watches ordered now, although the firm said that some customers will get their Watch earlier.
“The biggest problem Apple looks to be facing is not if people will buy one, it's whether they are going to be happy to wait until they can get one,” Miles said.
Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s head of retail and online stores, said: “Based on the tremendous interest from people visiting our stores, as well as the number of customers who have gone to the Apple Online Store to mark their favourite Apple Watch ahead of availability, we expect that strong customer demand will exceed our supply at launch."
However, it’s not all rosy for Apple, as a survey by national charity Ability Net revealed today that although most consumers can see the potential health benefits of wearable devices such as the Apple Watch and other similar gadgets, they are unlikely to use them because of fears about who will access their data.
Almost 80 per cent of people would be happy sharing personal health data with doctors and 60 per cent with the NHS, but only 10 per cent would be happy sharing it with private health companies and a mere two per cent with private companies who collect and share the data as part of these new services.
One survey respondent said: “I would want to know that it was for my benefit - or for general health research - and not for private companies to try to sell me something.”