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Apple Watch goes on sale in low-key launch at select boutiques

Posted by: Admin | Posted on: April 24th, 2015 | 0 Comments


TOKYO (Reuters) – A small group of Japanese tech-addicts lined up in Tokyo to become the first consumers to buy the Apple Watch from selected stores on Friday, but there was no sign of the frenzy that usually accompanies Apple Inc product rollouts.

So far, buyers can get the device from only a handful of upscale boutiques and department stores. They include The Corner in Berlin, Colette in Paris, Maxfield in Los Angeles and Dover Street Market in Tokyo and London – which Apple courted to help present the watch as a fashion item rather than just another techie gizmo.

Paired with an iPhone, the watch allows users to check email, listen to music and make phone calls. It also tracks their health – for instance by monitoring heartbeats.

The gadget, which has a tiny screen, cannot be collected from Apple’s own stores yet. For the past two weeks, the company has been directing people to order online instead, drastically curtailing the long lines of devotees who typically flock to iPhone launches.

About 50 people lined up to buy the watch at electronic store Bic Camera in Tokyo’s Ginza district plus around 20 at a shop of mobile carrier SoftBank Corp.

“I buy one or two Apple products every time they release something new,” Chiu Long, a 40-year-old IT worker from Taiwan, told Reuters while waiting at Bic Camera. “I like to run, so the heart rate reader is progress.”

Reviewers have said smartwatch could make life easier for people on the move, but gave it poor marks for battery life and slow-loading apps.

In Berlin more than 100 stood in line at designer boutique The Corner on Friday morning. First to walk out with an Apple Watch Sport was Alex Anikin from Russia, who waited overnight in a line outside the store. “We came first at 11 yesterday, so (we have been waiting) 22 hours approximately,” he told Reuters.

Technology lovers and investors keen to find out the components of the watch were left frustrated, with a tough resin coating protecting the core computing module from immediate scrutiny.

Gadget repair firm iFixit, which has successfully prised open other Apple products on their launch day to reveal their components, said the U.S. company also appeared to be promoting its brand on the watch’s inner workings, complicating detailed analysis of the parts’ origins from underlying parts suppliers.

GAUGING DEMAND

The lack of queues at Apple stores will make it hard to judge popular demand for the watch, which comes in 38 variations with U.S. prices ranging from $349 for the Sport version to $10,000 and more for the gold Edition.

Prices are higher elsewhere; they range from 399 euros to 18,000 euros ($432-$19,490) in Germany, and 299 to 13,500 pounds ($452-$20,415) in Britain.

A survey of 1,000 British consumers earlier this month by GfK, a market research firm, found 12 percent planned to buy a smartwatch in the next six months. But nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of those said they were ready to pay no more than 299 pounds – the cost of the most basic version.

Samsung Electronics, Sony Corp and LG Electronics have all released their own smartwatches, many of them powered by software developed by Internet company Google Inc.

Apple has not released any numbers since it began taking orders on April 10, although many buyers were told their watches would not arrive for a month or more as the initial supply appeared to dry up.

Wall Street estimates of Apple Watch sales vary widely. FBR Capital Markets analyst Daniel Ives raised his estimate for 2015 this week to 20 million from 17 million, based in part on online order backlogs.

This guesswork was backed up by sources on the ground in Taiwan, where many of the components that go into the Apple Watch are made. They told Reuters that Apple aims to ship at least 20 million this year.

More than 3,000 apps are initially available for the Apple Watch, according to the company. These are software programs specially designed to work in the confines of the watch’s tiny screen.

Germany’s Porsche (VOWG_p.DE) said it is the first carmaker to connect its vehicles to the Apple Watch, allowing drivers to control the car’s ventilation remotely, ensure doors are locked and find it in a parking lot.

Apple itself said on Wednesday that some customers will get watches faster than promised. “Our team is working to fill orders as quickly as possible based on the available supply and the order in which they were received,” Apple said in a statement.

(Additional reporting by Bill Rigby in San Francisco, Issei Kato in Toyko Rosanna Philpott in Berlin, Pascale Antonie in Paris and Melanie Burton in Melbourne; Writing by Eric Auchard in Frankfurt; Editing by Rachel Armstrong and David Stamp)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/iLzRnjAst18/story01.htm

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