Apple Watch Gets Mixed Reactions From IT Analysts

When the Watch was announced in September, Apple held back on details. Now that more details are out, it remains to be seen how consumers will take to the Watch.

Apple Watch, smartwatches, wearables

The Apple Watch got its big long-awaited debut on March 9, with a showy unveiling by Apple that revealed many details and features that were left out of the product's initial announcement back in September 2014.

Now, consumers know more about the pricing for the three Apple Watch models, from the $349 Sport model all the way up to the $17,000, top-level upscale luxury Apple Watch Edition version, as well as more about their specifications, capabilities and components.

So, now that preorders for Apple Watches will begin on April 10 in the United States, with availability starting April 24, how will consumers react and what kind of reception will the new devices get?

That depends, say several IT analysts who spoke with eWEEK about the Apple Watch and its future.

Consumers want three things from their mobile devices—interactivity, connectivity and the ability to consume content, said Dan Maycock, a mobile analyst with Transform. "Apple is really trying to push all three of those things on a really small screen on one device [with the Watch] so it will be interesting to see if they can pull it off," he said. "It can be the greatest watch in the world, but it's still a tiny screen."

For Apple, however, the idea of launching the pricey luxury versions at the same time isn't an outrageous idea, added Maycock, because there are plenty of consumers who don't blink at all at high asking prices for status symbol watches. "I think that luxury never has had a basis in reality in terms of what something is really worth," said Maycock. "I don't think it's crazy for people to drop $5,000 on a watch. It's a fashion accessory."

Maycock said he expects that all three models will be a hit for Apple. "And people will line up around the block to buy one, just like they did with the Apple iPhones and other mobile devices. But it's going to be the greatest test today around the viability of the smartwatch space and how far Apple can really push the envelope in that category."

One thing to watch for, said Maycock, is whether watch collectors will welcome Apple Watches into their collections, because they are not exactly like traditional collectible timepieces. "It's not gaudy or overly technical," he said of the Watch. "It doesn't entirely look like a gadget on its surface. But will watch aficionados welcome them into their collections? I think that's the hope. We'll see if people embrace it or not."

Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT, told eWEEK: "Apple's slow-drip PR strategy during the past few months helped ensure that there were very few surprises during the launch." But he said that won't prevent the product from having huge appeal when they become available in Apple stores in April. "Apple may be the only smartphone maker with a customer fan base that is dedicated to the point of looneyness. For many of those people, the Apple Watch will be a must-have accessory."

Buyers will have to decide if the cache of being an Apple device is enough for them to pay a premium to buy an Apple Watch, which is priced higher than many competing smartwatches, said King. "Apple's product doesn't do much more or much differently than any other smartwatch, and its battery life is markedly poorer than some other smartwatches," he said. "The company's biggest differentiator is its app developer community, but it's too soon to tell if they'll help make or break the Apple Watch."

At the same time, though, the higher prices for Apple's device won't likely deter the company's millions of hard-core buyers and product fans, he said.

"Smartwatches as a class of devices haven't really been flying off the shelves, and I don't see much of anything in the Apple Watch that will move the segment forward as a whole," said King. "Unless the company and its developer community can help evolve the Apple Watch into a must-have device, I expect it will be remembered as a profitable yet short-lived showpiece."