Apple stores in Asia give would-be buyers a chance to see and try out the new Apple Watch before placing advance orders. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT - NO REPORTER NARRATION Consumers in Australia flocked to Apple Inc's retail store in Sydney on Friday (April 10) to get the world's first up-close look at CEO Tim Cook's first new major product, which the tech giant expects will be its next runaway hit. There were similar scenes in Tokyo, Beijing and Hong Kong. The Apple Watch, which also marks the Cupertino, California company's debut in a fledgling wearable technology market, was available for pre-order online and to try out in stores - but not take home. On April 24, consumers will be able to buy it online or by reservation at retail locations including high-end fashion boutiques in Paris, London and Tokyo, part of Apple's strategy of positioning the wearable computer as a must-have accessory. On Friday morning, Apple's flagship Australian retail store in Sydney's financial district was packed with those hoping to take a peek at the device, although just around 20 die-hard fans queued out front, modest by the standards of a major Apple launch. Based on recent customer interest at its stores, Apple expects demand for the watch, which allows users to check email, listen to music and make phone calls when paired with an iPhone, to exceed availability at launch, it said on Thursday (April 9). Reviewers this week praised the watch, which also helps users monitor their health and exercise, as "beautiful" and "stylish" but gave it poor marks for relatively low battery life and slow-loading apps. Still, Apple's watch is widely expected to outsell those by Samsung, Sony and Fitbit, that have attracted modest interest from consumers. It will likely account for 55 percent of global smartwatch shipments this year, according to Societe Generale. The Apple Watch sport starts at $349 and the standard version of the watch starts at $549. High-end "Edition" watches with 18-carat gold alloys are priced from $10,000 and go as high as $17,000. Underscoring its marketing strategy, Apple is selling it through a handful of high-end stores including Selfridges in London, Galeries Lafayette in Paris and Tokyo's Isetan department store. Still, experts said that Apple's offering was unlikely to displace the market-share of higher end luxury brand watch makers. Sales estimates for 2015 vary widely. Piper Jaffray predicts 8 million units will be sold and Global Securities Research forecasts 40 million. By comparison, Apple sold nearly 200 million iPhones last year.