Last week Apple only demonstrated a portion of Apple Watch’s functionality, gave a vague shipping date of only “early 2015”, and announced only a $349 “starting price” that I believe has grossly misinformed the expectations of many people for the prices of the steel and gold models.
I agree. I can’t tell you how many people have asked me how much I think the high end Apple Watch is going to cost. When my response is that I would guess it will be “thousands, not hundreds of dollars” they tend to gasp.
By only announcing the pricing floor, Apple is setting a certain expectation. And that expectation, rightly or wrongly, is that the high end Apple Watches will be within hundreds of dollars of the cheapest variety (as is the case with the majority of their other product lines). Like Gruber, I do not believe that will be the case here.
I think we’ll look back and laugh at the time that people were outraged when the rumor was that the device may be $400. Apple, as usual, was thinking differently.
One other point from Gruber:
But Apple Watch is not just a piece of jewelry, and it’s not a mechanical device. It’s a computer. And all computers have lifespans measured in just a handful of years before obsolescence. If you buy a $6,000 mechanical watch and take care of it, you can expect it to outlive you and become a family heirloom. Paying even $1,000, let alone a multiple of that, for a premium Apple Watch seems like folly if it’s going to be obviated by faster, sleeker, longer-lasting versions in just a few years. And I don’t see how it won’t be replaced by faster, sleeker, longer-lasting versions, because that’s how all computer technology goes. Apple Watch is not a tech product, but technology is what distinguishes it — and computer technology gets old fast. A Rolex purchased in 2007 is every bit as good today as it was then. (Arguably even better, given some of Rolex’s questionable design decisions of the last decade.) An iPhone purchased in 2007 is 85 times slower in CPU performance than an iPhone 6, and I don’t even want to think about how much slower EDGE is than LTE networking.
This is the biggest question mark about the high end Apple Watch, in my opinion. With all their products, Apple is on a regular hardware update cycle — and quite often, that’s yearly. Given the computer aspects of the device, you’d have to assume the same is going to be true for the Apple Watch. But who on Earth is going to pay $5,000 a year?
It’s possible that this is a new way for the super rich to show off their wealth: by upgrading their gold Apple Watches yearly. Or it’s possible, as Gruber briefly mentions, that they’ll be able to take their watches to an Apple Store and have the innards swapped out for new components, while the outside remains the same (perhaps just polished in store).
Either way, it sure seems like Apple doesn’t care much about the notion that a watch is something most people only buy once or twice in their lives. Before the iPhone, people also didn’t upgrade their phones each year (I had my pre-iPhone device, a Motorola Razr, for almost three years before I got the iPhone — imagine that upgrade cycle now). This is different, of course. But I wouldn’t write off something Apple is doing simply because it’s different. That’s often when they do their best work.
This is not your great-grandfather’s watch.