The time has arrived for what is likely to be one of the most ridiculous, yet thrilling to watch, coverage spectacles in recent memory -- the testing of the Apple Watch.
Preorders of the Apple Watch are scheduled to start Friday. Customers who have been teased with online video demos of the watch and cryptic magazine marketing will be allowed to venture into an Apple (AAPL) store and test the product firsthand. They can order the watch right there in person for delivery or pickup on April 24. For the more common saps, the Apple Watch will then be available online or by reservation in Apple stores starting April 24.
Why is this Friday going to be absurd? One, because it's Apple, and its products attract fanatics who intend to use them and others just trying to buy and sell the devices abroad at quintuple the markup. But secondarily, the visuals on the screen will be analyzed by Apple investors for reads into interest for a product that is technically non-essential, yet has lofty sales targets by Wall Street. Yes, you read that correctly -- well-trained investors will be watching television and assessing whether to stay long Apple shares, which have risen a cool 15% year to date.
The thinking goes like this: Strong crowds testing out the Apple Watch signal hearty initial pre-orders, and a press release led by CEO @Tim_Cook next Monday on how strong pre-orders were over the weekend. Should investors get that information, it would confirm preliminarily that healthy sales estimates for the device are not only justified, but perhaps too tame.
Welcome to Appleville, a crazy town indeed. Here are six things I will be assessing while in the Apple stores on Friday and the ensuing weekend to gauge if the consumer products company (it's not a tech company anymore, is it?) has created a suitable platform for long-term growth. And don't laugh here at some of the things -- this is no ordinary device to be reviewed by tech geek blogs, and analysis goes well beyond the normal checklist.
1. Are there enough employees on the floor to answer the influx of questions in a timely manner? In spite of the Apple Watch "how to" videos, I still have no clue how to use the thing. It's important Apple employees allay any concerns on day one of testing.
2. How long are people staying at the table testing the Apple Watch? Longer stays signal a higher propensity to pre-order, and an Apple press release next week. Shorter stays signal consumers may see no need to buy an Apple Watch right now, if at all.
3. What watch models are being tested. Apple is likely hoping it has made a strong case to buy a pricier, midlevel Apple Watch rather than a cheaper sport edition. Ideally, I want to see consumers testing out the $500-plus Apple Watch -- higher-price-point items sold, the better.
4. Personally, I intend to ask people how many straps they plan to purchase. More straps would signal a commitment to using the Apple Watch's apps (and paying for those apps off the App Store) each day.
5. What are consumers leaving with from the Apple store? Apple is not dumb, knowing full well a testing session for a smartwatch could lead to sales of Beats headphones or an upgrade to the latest suite of iPhones. I am curious on whether consumers come for the test and depart with an unplanned purchase after chatting with an Apple retail store employee.
6. What is the wear and tear on the watches by Sunday? From Friday until Sunday, Apple stores theoretically will be experiencing higher-than-normal traffic to the watch stations. People will be touching the Apple Watch, lifting it and treating it like a play toy because, hey, it's just a demo version. I am interested in the wear to the screen, dial and straps from this immense activity -- consumers may be deterred by haggard-looking watches sitting on tables. Why? They don't want to spend $500 on a watch only to see it messed up a mere three months down the line via normal daily activity. Personal anecdote ¿ my stainless-steel watchstrap often gets scratched up due to rubbing on the desk while I am typing. Furthermore, my watch face fogs up in the car following rainstorms -- not sure I want streaks on my Apple Watch screen given the tasks I am relying on it to perform.
In Appleville, the littlest of details matter.
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