As expected, Apple took the wraps off its smartwatch on Monday, giving the faithful an idea of how much the thing is going to cost and when it’s going to be available. With this new information, the Apple Watch makes less sense than ever.
It’s going to be an expensive proposition when it lands on Apr. 24. The cheapest version is the aluminum Sport model, which starts at $449 (Canadian). That ramps up to a starting price of $699 for the stainless steel version, with the 18-karat gold model starting at $13,000. Anyone wanting fancier bands is going to cough up even more.
As with most Apple products, the watches are priced as premium goods, or as luxury items in the case of the higher-end devices.
On one level, this makes sense. Less costly smartwatches from other manufacturers have so far failed to catch on with the mainstream for reasons that have been well documented here and elsewhere. In a nutshell, they can’t perform many tasks that phones don’t already handle, they’re ugly and they require constant charging.
There isn’t much evidence that the category is more than a small niche, in which case Apple’s pricing is smart. If the company isn’t going to sell a lot of watches, it may as well make healthy profits from the small number it does move to the faithful, who will buy anything featuring an Apple logo.
The watches make little sense beyond the fanboys, though, because of their natural obsolescence. With various hands-on reports already finding problems with the Apple Watch, such as that it’s complicated to use, inevitable redesigns and iterations are coming.
Apple refreshes most of its products and operating systems on an annual basis, and there’s no reason to expect the watches will be different. As anyone who owns an older iPhone can attest to, it won’t be long before that formerly sleek and fast-moving wristwatch starts to hang and crawl like some sort of digital tortoise. So much for that big investment.
Of course, iPhones also suffer from this update problem – where newer software is simply too demanding for older hardware – but iPhones generally don’t cost most buyers all that much because of carrier subsidies. The Apple Watch, on the other hand (no pun intended), carries no such discount.
Other manufacturers’ smartwatches also face the obsolescence dilemma, but they aren’t selling their devices at sky-high prices. The Moto 360, for example, is only $279 in Canada. Many buyers probably won’t care when it conks out in a few years.
Unlike a non-smartwatch, the expensive Apple Watch going to be so much junk in no time, and that’s going to carry a social stigma. Luxury watches generally paint their wearers as conspicuous consumers, but an expensive watch that degrades quickly is going to mark its owner as a conspicuous consumer who really isn’t that wise about their money.
In that light, it’s hard to really call this a “smart” watch, isn’t it?
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