3 Apple Watch Rumors: From Release Dates to Prices

LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images

LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images

Now that the long wait for the new larger-screen iPhone models and the Touch ID-enabled iPad models is over, many mobile industry watchers are turning their attention to the California-based company’s next big product release: the Apple Watch. While rumors about Apple’s smartwatch were circulating long before the company finally confirmed the device at the iPhone media event in September, the Apple Watch rumor mill has recently become even more active, now that Apple has wrapped up its annual fall product refresh cycle. Here are three major Apple Watch rumors currently making the rounds.

Apple Watch Valentine’s Day release date rumors revived

While Apple was happy to show off the Apple Watch’s sleek design and unique interface features at its September media event, it declined to provide a definite release date. Instead, Apple only stated that the device would be available in “early 2015.” Not surprisingly, this vagueness has led to a great deal of speculation about when Apple might release its smartwatch.

Soon after Apple’s September media event, insider sources cited by The Information, reported that ongoing Watch software development issues meant that Apple would be “lucky to ship it by Valentine’s Day.” More evidence for a post-Valentine’s Day release date appeared to show up earlier this month in a video message from Apple SVP of retail and online stores Angela Ahrendts. “We’re going into the holidays, we’ll go into Chinese New Year, and then we’ve got a new watch launch coming in the spring,” Ahrendts told Apple Store employees, according to 9to5Mac. Since Chinese New Year falls on February 19 in 2015 and spring traditionally doesn’t begin until March 20, Ahrendts’ comments seemed to suggest that the Apple Watch would be launched in late March at the earliest.

However, the rumors of a Valentine’s Day (February 14) release date for the Apple Watch were revived in a recent report from French Apple news site IGen.fr. According to unnamed insider sources cited by IGen, a Valentine’s Day launch is still in the works, despite Ahrendts’ statement. While it’s unknown who IGen’s sources are, it should be noted that the Apple Watch made an exclusive appearance at Parisian fashion boutique Colette earlier this year, so it’s possible that IGen acquired this information from a contact connected to that event.

Source: Apple.com

Source: Apple.com

Apple Watch will be pricey

Another unknown aspect of the Apple Watch that has been the subject of much speculation is price. While Apple revealed that Watch prices will start at $349, there are multiple size and band options across three separate collections. Presumably the entry-level $349 price applies to a model in the Apple Watch Sport collection, since those models do not feature the more costly sapphire-covered displays that the other collections offer.

Price estimates for the models in the Apple Watch and the Apple Watch Edition collections have varied widely. Jewelry and watch experts consulted by TechCrunch estimated that the chassis for the 18-karat gold Apple Watch Edition collection models likely cost about $600 to produce and that the final retail price could run as high as $1,200. On the other hand, Forbes consulted retailers who estimated that the mid-tier Apple Watch collection models would sell for about $1,000, while the premium Apple Watch Edition collection models could sell for anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000.

The most recent Apple Watch price rumors come courtesy of IGen’s unnamed sources. According to IGen, the stainless steel Apple Watch collection models will start at $500, while the gold Apple Watch Edition collection models will retail between $4,000 and $5,000. While it’s impossible to know which of these high-end Apple Watch model price estimates is the most accurate, it should be noted that the entry-level $349 price provided by Apple is already higher than most other smartwatches on the market.

Source: SmartwatchGroup.com

Source: SmartwatchGroup.com

Apple Watch will greatly expand the smartwatch industry

Besides the speculation about its release date and price, some of the biggest rumors surrounding the Apple Watch are about how many units Apple will sell. At the low end of the spectrum is Wells Fargo analyst Maynard Um, who has predicted that Apple will ship approximately 6 million Apple Watch units in fiscal 2015, according to Investor’s Business Daily. At the high end of the spectrum is Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Brian White, who believes that the company will sell between 37 million to 41 million units within the first year of availability. White bases his high sales estimate on the assumption that around 20% of iPhone owners will purchase an Apple Watch. Demand for the Apple Watch “will surprise the skeptics next year,” wrote the analyst in a research note seen by Investor’s Business Daily.

It should be noted that even the low estimate provided by Um will almost double the size of this year’s smartwatch market. According to market research and consulting firm Smartwatch Group, the smartwatch industry shipped 3.1 million units and generated of $700 million in revenue in 2013, a tenfold increase over 2012. However, based on the Apple Watch sales estimates provided by various analysts, the smartwatch industry will see even more explosive growth in 2015.

Follow Nathanael on Twitter @ArnoldEtan_WSCS

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