Apple’s iWatch Arrival: Will It Be Sooner or Later?

Source: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Source: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Unless you’ve been hiding under the proverbial rock for the last two years, it’s probably safe to assume that you’ve heard a few rumors about Apple’s expected entry into the wearable tech market. Although supply chain rumors of an Apple smartwatch have been around since at least 2012, speculation about the so-called “iWatch” reached a fever pitch this year after major media outlets like Reuters and The Wall Street Journal began citing unnamed sources who claimed that the device would arrive this fall.

Or will it? The latest supply chain rumors suggest that Apple may delay launching the device due to various production difficulties. Apple, which has built its reputation on creating products that seamlessly integrate hardware and software, is reportedly struggling to achieve its high standards in the smaller wearable format. Earlier this week, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo issued a research note obtained by 9to5Mac that stated, “Apple’s (US) first attempt at a wearable device, represents a much higher level of difficulty for the company as regards component and system design, manufacturing and integration between hardware and software.”

For those reasons, Kuo predicted that Apple’s iWatch launch might be pushed into next year. Kuo’s prediction was bolstered a few days later when “upstream component suppliers” cited by China’s Economic Daily News via GforGames claimed that iWatch shipments would likely top out at a million units per month. According to the sources, this also makes it unlikely that Apple would launch its wearable tech device before the end of the year, unless the company opted for a limited release in December. 



Kuo’s research note and the report from Economic Daily News were disappointing news for many Apple fans who were hoping that the iWatch was part of the batch of new products that Tim Cook has repeatedly promised would be arriving in 2014. Kuo is believed to have reliable connections to Apple’s supply chain and he has previously acquired details about other unreleased Apple products. However, despite Kuo’s prediction, there may still be hope for Apple fans who were hoping to see an iWatch under the Christmas tree this year. Apple’s well-known ability to rapidly assemble and ship new products to market makes it difficult — even for supply chain insiders — to accurately predict when a new device will hit store shelves. Despite his connections in Apple’s supply chain, Kuo has previously been wrong about the launch dates for other Apple devices.

One analyst who believes Kuo is wrong about the launch date for the iWatch is PTT Research analyst Matt Margolis, who is well known for his research on Apple sapphire manufacturing partner GT Advanced Technologies. Sapphire is an extremely hard and scratch-resistant material that some industry observers have predicted will be used as a display covering for Apple’s iPhone and iWatch. In a recent interview on TechNewsToday, Margolis noted that he had uncovered documents in which Apple and GT Advanced Technologies requested expanded approval for “additional components for use in production and additional finished goods that will be manufactured at the facility, which will benefit the City of Mesa and the entire State of Arizona.”

One of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) numbers used in the application revealed that one of the “additional components” fell into the “articles of jewelry” category. As noted by Margolis, this category would likely include a device like the iWatch. A previous document uncovered by Margolis mentioned “an aggressive go-live timeline of August 2014.” Based on this information, Margolis believes that GT Advanced Technologies’ Mesa, Arizona facility will begin shipping iWatch sapphire covers in August. Citing Apple’s notoriously efficient operational capabilities, Margolis said he expected the iWatch to go on sale by mid-November, well ahead of Kuo’s predicted release date.

“Given Apple’s ‘just-in-time’ inventory process, it really doesn’t make sense for this vendor — GT Advanced Technologies — to be growing sapphire, cutting it, and then storing it for a long period of time,” Margolis told TechNewsToday. “Apple really wants this stuff on hand when they need it…when they ship this stuff out it’s going to be going right onto the devices.”

It’s not clear why there is such a large discrepancy between the two analysts’ predicted iWatch release dates. However, it should be noted that Margolis’s prediction is based on publicly available regulatory filings from Apple and GT Advanced Technologies, while Kuo’s prediction is based on information he obtained from his unnamed contacts in Apple’s overseas supply chain.

While most of us won’t know which analysts’ prediction is correct until later this year, Apple fans who have been eagerly awaiting the Cupertino-based company’s first wearable tech product are undoubtedly rooting for Margolis.

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