Apple has shown off the Apple Watch at a special event now on two occasions: first after the iPhone 6 last September, then after the new 12-inch MacBook last week. We know how the Apple Watch will look, how much it will cost, when we can buy it and for how much. Many developers are ready to ship apps for the Apple Watch, and we’re already seeing an accessory market for Apple’s wearable.
Since last week’s event, I’ve been thinking about why Apple might have chosen to have its second Apple Watch unveiling more than a month before people can actually buy the device. My conclusion? It’s complicated, but mostly necessary considering the complexity of actually buying the right watch.
Apple’s motivation is to ensure that you have an iPhone 5 or later before next month, and that you have the answer to a number of questions including how many millimeters your wrist measures if you plan to pre-order before trying on an Apple Watch. And because we know how major iPhone launches go with getting the exact model you want, pre-ordering will be the first opportunity to secure the Apple Watch of your choice or risk waiting even longer.
Why So Early?
If for no other reason, Apple needed to do something to keep the hype going between September 9th (when it first unveiled the watch) and April 24th (when the watch will be available) That’s 227 days, and 227 days feels infinite in the tech cycle.
On the other hand, holding the last big event before the watch goes on sale to the public so far in advance runs the risk of potentially losing momentum before even the pre-order date. More likely, though, is that the scale of interest in the Apple Watch has gotten so high that the worst that could happen is the watch becomes a smaller part of the conversation again before completely stealing our attention once again.
For Apple, it’s primetime to get the word out that Apple Watch is coming.
iOS 8.2 and Apple Watch app
How does the Apple Watch continue to be a part of the conversation over the next few weeks? In part, iOS 8.2 and the Apple Watch app. Apple needed to ship iOS 8.2 far ahead of the watch since it’s required for pairing to an iPhone. We now have this non-functional Apple Watch app on our iPhones, though, and the watch is still weeks away. That’s 46 days, to be exact, between iOS 8.2 adding it to our homescreens and the first day we can actually pair it with an Apple Watch. The Apple Watch app will be even more important once the product goes on sale and people can actually buy the device and put the app to use.
Early 2015 to Late April
When the Apple Watch was shown off last September, Tim Cook first said that it would be available in early 2015. Cook later specified that the watch development was on track for release in April standing by the description of early 2015.
Apple products tend to go on sale on Fridays, so I suspected an April 24th release based on being the last possible Friday in that month. The early March event, however, made me second guess that assumption thinking that maybe Apple would surprise and delight with an even earlier ship date, possibly in March.
Given the amount of information we learned last week — and more so the number of decisions you need to make before buying an Apple Watch — the extended period between last week’s event and next month’s launch makes a lot more sense to me.
Get Your Affairs in Order
Aside from the usual decisions you have to make like how you will pay and where you plan to buy, the Apple Watch requires a whole list of other decisions unique to the watch unlike any other Apple product.
There are the obvious decisions like which casing — aluminum, steel, or gold — you plan to buy, then you have to choose between various band materials and colors. There’s also the choice between 38mm and 42mm cases (the Apple Store app makes this easier).
The tricky part comes in when you look at specific band sizes. Unless you’re buying the Apple Watch Sport which includes both available band size options, expect to need to decide between particular band sizes.
For example, the leather loop band for the 42mm Apple Watch is offered in Medium for 150-185mm wrists and Large for 180-210mm wrists. The modern buckle for the 38mm Apple Watch has even more options: Small for 135-150mm, Medium for 145-165mm, and 160-180mm wrists.
I don’t know the size of my wrist in millimeters without measuring, and I bet I’m not alone. Picking up a soft measuring tape before pre-orders on April 10th is high on my to-do list. Between learning band sizes and the upcoming pre-order date, Apple has offered 32 days and a helpful band sizing chart to prepare.
Pre-order or Anything Goes
Of course, the Apple Watch will be available to preview at Apple Stores for two whole weeks before anyone can actually take it home. This period will be useful for deciding which band fits best, but we have no idea how soon each Apple Watch will sell out during pre-orders so I wouldn’t recommend relying on this method. Among our readers, the space gray aluminum model and space black steel model are especially popular.
While that two week pre-order period also seems lengthy, it’s not unprecedented. The first iPad, for example, had a three week pre-order period. Nevertheless, if you have your heart set on a specific Apple Watch style, I would take advantage of online pre-orders as early as possible or risk waiting or picking another option altogether.
Apple Watch Logistical Nightmare
We see this more and more lately with iPhone launches. As Apple offers more carrier options (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile) and colors (space gray, silver, gold) in addition to storage options (16GB, 64GB, 128GB), it becomes more difficult around launch time to actually find the specific configuration you want in stock.
The Apple Watch will be the same way, only 100 times worse. Rather than choosing between carriers, colors, storage, and screen size, you have material, material color, case size, band, band size, and band color.
For example, you show up for a $399 42mm Apple Watch Sport in silver/white or space gray/black, but the only options are silver/green, pink, or blue, possibly even in 38mm. Repeat this scenario a dozen times and you see why pre-ordering as soon as possible will be critical to getting the Apple Watch at launch that you want.
All the more reason to get your affairs in order sooner than later and take advantage of the stretch of time between the Apple Watch events and the Apple Watch launch. While Apple will have a new Reserve and Preview system at its retail stores to accompany the launch, the new system will really only be useful if inventory for each Apple Watch style is up to demand.
The Apple Watch launch is a logistical complexity for both Apple and customers. While the extended period between the event and the launch may seem empty, it’s really time to make some important decisions if you expect to have the Apple Watch on day one.
For Apple, the company is putting together all the right pieces to pull off a massive launch. For developers, it’s crunch time to get WatchKit apps ready to the Apple Watch App Store. For customers, though, it’s time to find the answer to a number of questions before buying the Apple Watch.
If you’re planning on buying an Apple Watch at launch, do you know where, which style, and even which band size? Let us know which Apple Watch in our mega poll, and share your thoughts in the comments below.