When Apple announced at its “Spring Forward” event this week that the Apple Watch Edition will cost at least $10,000, there were some pained gasps from the audience, according to reporters. The Edition, the high-end version of Apple’s new wristwatch, is aimed at the luxury market, and the most expensive version goes for $17,000, making it one of the most expensive consumer products Apple has ever released.
What do you get in a timepiece that costs about as much as a Toyota Corolla?
The Apple Watch Edition’s case is made from 18-karat rose gold or yellow gold, and comes with a band that’s either leather or synthetic rubber. The back of the case is a durable ceramic, and the watch itself has the same interface and software as the other models in the Apple Watch line.
The Apple Watch Edition is the most expensive smart watch on the market right now by far, but it’s actually a pretty affordable entry in the luxury watch market. The Edition costs about the same as a Rolex Cellini or an IWC Portofino, and far less than a Rolex Submariner Date or a Patek Philippe Calatrava. But those watches are famous for holding their value, and wealthy watch collectors know they can sell their high-end pieces for close to what they paid for them, or hand them down as heirlooms. An Apple Watch isn’t likely to be the same, since a portion of its worth comes from its software capability, which will diminish when Apple stops offering updates. Within several years, an Apple Watch won’t be able to keep up with the newest software, just as an iPhone 4 today can’t run the latest version of iOS.
Software updates are less of a problem for the Apple Watch Sport, which runs from $349 to $399, depending on how it’s configured. Most people are willing to pay a few hundred dollars every two or three years to upgrade their smart phones, and it’s likely to be a similar story with the Apple Watch Sport. As new editions with new features are released, people will likely be willing to ditch their original models to upgrade.
At $349, the Apple Watch Sport is priced a bit above competing Android smart watches such as the Moto 360 and the LG G Watch R, and costs almost double what the Pebble Time smart watch will cost when it’s released. It’s a bit lighter and slimmer than the competition, and includes nifty features such as support for wireless payments. The Apple Watch Sport boasts 18 hours of battery life, which isn’t quite as good as that of the Moto 360 (more than 24 hours) or the G Watch R (up to 48 hours). The Pebble Time, which has an e-paper display that draws less juice, will be able to last up to a week on a charge.
Should you buy an Apple Watch? The product doesn’t include many of the features that Apple had hoped to include, such as a skin conductivity sensor and a blood pressure monitor, but first versions of Apple products often lack features that are added in subsequent releases. The original iPad didn’t have a camera on the front or the back, and the first iPhone didn’t support 3G data networks. So there’s a good chance that the Apple Watch may eventually evolve into the fashionable health-monitoring device that Apple envisioned all along.