Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) is going to start selling its Apple Watch in the spring of 2015, according to an internal company communication leaked to 9to5Mac. The report, citing an unnamed source's transcript of a video message sent by Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts, said the launch will come after the Chinese New Year and in the spring, which is a little later than some had expected.
Apple's smart watch
According to the message, Ahrendts, Apple's senior vice president of retail and online stores, told retail employees they need to be prepared for upcoming holiday shopping seasons and that "we're going into the holidays, we'll go into Chinese New Year, and then we've got a new watch launch coming in the spring."
Apple representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The watch launch could come in late March, which is technically the spring but still in the first quarter of 2015, or it might be later. Apple has only said the Apple Watch will go on sale in "early" 2015.
The report also added that, according to unnamed sources, Apple executives are already planning retail strategies for the Apple Watch. Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly told staff members at a company meeting last month that retail employees will be trained to help customers actually try on the Apple Watch, including changing sizes and bands.
The entry-level Apple Watch will retail at $349, which is more expensive than some smart watches on the market but not exorbitantly so. However, Apple has not disclosed pricing for the more expensive models. The gadget has a square face with a sapphire screen and touchscreen display. The watch will come in two different screen sizes, roughly 1.5 and 1.65 inches, with multiple variations possible in terms of straps and casings.
Jony Ive, Apple's senior vice president of design, said he believes with "every bone in his body" that the Apple Watch will help establish a new category of computing devices. Ive, speaking last week at an event at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art where he accepted an award, said creating a smart watch proved more challenging than the iPhone because of the way society think about watches. He said creating a wearable device raises new expectations from consumers. "As soon as something is worn, we have expectations of choice," he said. Only in prison, he joked, does everyone wear the same thing.
The Apple Watch is primarily based around health and fitness tracking. The watch uses an accelerometer, a built-in heart rate sensor, GPS and Wi-Fi from the iPhone to provide a comprehensive picture of a user's daily health and fitness activity. Users can turn the "digital crown" on the side of the Apple Watch to zoom in and out on a map or scroll through a list, and can also press the crown to go back to the home screen. Additionally, apps on the watch are grouped into what Apple calls "neighborhoods," letting users tap to zoom into a neighborhood and then spin the dial to cycle through that group of apps.
The watch supports Siri, Apple's digital personal assistant, and users can dictate to the watch to reply to messages. Apple has not disclosed how long the watch's battery will last, but Cook said last week that Apple thinks "people are going to use it so much that you're going to wind up charging it daily. Overnight."
Although Apple has high hopes for the Apple Watch, the market for wearables is still tiny compared to the smartphone market. In a report released in August, research firm CCS Insight predicted that shipments of smart wearables will grow from 9.7 million in 2013 to 135 million by 2018, at a compound annual growth rate of 69 percent. In contrast, CCS Insight expects 1.28 billion smartphones to be sold in all of 2014.
Apple's competitors have been busy rolling out their own wearable devices. Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics and Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Motorola Mobility all recently unveiled smart watches of their own running Google's Android Wear software.
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