Wed, Mar 11, 2015 - Page 15 News List

Apple debuts US$17,000 smartwatch

KILLER APP?The long-awaited device could see 10 million sales this year, one analyst said, while another doubted that it would have broad-spectrum appeal


Apple Inc chief executive Tim Cook speaks during an Apple Inc event in San Francisco on Monday.

Photo: Bloomberg

Apple Inc launched its long-awaited watch on Monday, including yellow or rose gold models with sapphire faces costing up to US$17,000, but some investors questioned whether chief executive Tim Cook’s first product in a new category would be a breakaway hit.

Apple’s first new device since Cook became chief executive is to be available for order on April 10 and in stores on April 24, including boutiques in Paris, London and Tokyo.

In a nod to both fashion and technology, Cook shared the stage with model Christy Turlington Burns, who said she used the watch to train for a marathon, and Apple engineers who showed how to send drawings, pictures and even heartbeats with the device.

However, Apple shares barely budged. Investors and analysts agreed that Apple would sell millions to fans, but questioned whether it had a “killer app” that would engage a broader audience.

Apple in September last year gave a sneak peek of the watch which included many features shown on Monday.

“I think there is a niche market for these kind of Apple tech people who love Apple and will buy anything they come out with, but I just do not know if it is going to be the power product that everyone is looking for,” said Daniel Morgan, senior portfolio manager at Synovus Trust Company in Atlanta, Georgia, who described Wall Street as “scratching its head.”

Members of the style establishment, in Paris for shows from the glittering likes of Chanel, Givenchy and Hermes mostly said they see the watch as a gadget, not this season’s must-have accessory.

The Apple Watch Sport is to start at US$349 for the smaller, 38mm model. The standard version of the watch is to start at US$549 and the high-end Edition watch is to be priced from US$10,000, said Cook, who loved the Dick Tracy ability to hold telephone calls by watch.

“I have been wanting to do this since I was five years old,” Cook said.

The different models reflect different materials. A US$17,000 Edition has a 38mm case made from a customized version of 18-karat rose gold, which is especially hard, along with a sapphire display. It comes with a magnetic charging case.

A US$349 Sport model the same size has an aluminum case, a sport band and magnetic charging cable. It lacks a case.

All the watches share digital faces that can look like traditional timepieces, show the heartbeat of a friend and display photos and interfaces for apps.

The Edition price tag — which is inexpensive compared with a Patek Philippe Nautilus at just over US$42,000 — inspired plenty of jibes on social media, including many who questioned whether it would become outdated and compared the price to a car’s.

“Wonder what kind of gas mileage it gets,” Twitter user Christopher Caruso asked.

Many made clear they want it.

“My birthday is gonna rock this year... :-) #applewatch,” Jay Runquist wrote.

“Apple’s been very good at personalizing its products,” said Angelo Zino, an analyst at S&P Capital IQ, who said the “intimacy” of the watch was appealing. He estimated 10 million in sales this year.

In the presentation, Cook described the watch handling many functions currently associated with the iPhone, which tethers wirelessly to the watch and connects it to the Internet.

The watch will track exercise and remind wearers of events with a tap on the wrist.

Cook also laid out other product successes and launched a new MacBook notebook computer that starts at US$1,299 and weighs less than 1kg.

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