Apple Watch looks awesome… but it’s too expensive for Asia
Today, Apple finally announced its long-speculated smart watch offering, the Apple Watch. The device looks fantastic. A square design with customizable straps, Apple Watch has a user-friendly interface for accessing standard apps, tracking your health, using the new Apple Pay wireless payment system, and, of course, telling time. With three options to choose from, Watch, Sport, and Edition, there should be something for everyone.
Will Asia embrace the new technology when it is released in early next year though? Apple clearly put an enormous amount of research and development into its watch. The starting price of US$349 (HK$2,704.9) is enough indication. At that price, it might have some takers, seeing as how Samsung’s Gear S is expected to retail at about US$385.
Apple Watch requires an iPhone to operate, making its real price much, much higher. The newly announced iPhones, the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus, start retailing at US$199 and US$299, respectively. Those prices assume a two-year mobile subscription plan.
New users without an iPhone have to shell out a minimum of US$550 in order to get an Apple Watch. The Gear S, on the other hand, does not require the purchase of a Samsung phone to operate. To be released in October, Samsung’s smartwatch is able to make phone calls independently.
But Apple’s ecosystem is an undeniable strength. The way it locks consumers into the virtuous cycle of iPod, iPhone, Mac, App Store, iTunes Store, and Apple TV is enviable. Even so, the Apple Watch may represent one step too far.
When the iPhone was released, it was similarly derided as being a plaything of the rich. Its early US$499 price tag was very offsetting. Though it was the first of its kind and that sort of uniqueness has value, Apple had to quickly reset its price structure. The next generation iPhone settled into the more familiar price of US$199.
Apple Watch is not the first of its kind. Once user reviews start coming out we will know if the tech and the user experience are everything Apple promises but, for now, it is just one more option in a crowded wearables world inhabited by Samsung, Xiaomi, Casio, Sony, and others.
Who is going to choose that option anyway? Korea is Samsung territory. Japanese consumers have the country’s GDP performing at financial crisis levels. Singapore and Hong Kong have purchasing power but not population. And that minimum US$550 price tag is very unlikely to find a receptive audience in Southeast Asian countries with developing economies.
With cheap, reliable competitors like Samsung and Xiaomi, Apple does not have a stranglehold on Asian consumers. The Apple Watch, despite its technological promises, is unlikely to have the same impact on the tech giant the same way the iPhone did.
This article was originally published by Tech in Asia and was edited and republished with permission.