We are now just one week away from the official launch of the Apple Watch, and by most accounts it seems that Apple has another hit product on its hands. In fact, some analysts are suggesting that the company has already sold more than 2.3 million units, which would make it far and away the best selling smartwatch to date. But the preorder process hasn’t gone as smoothly as we’ve seen in the past, and a surprising lack of supply has pushed delivery dates back into June. There is no denying that Apple has made some stumbles with the rollout of their new wearable, as the Apple Watch Launch has felt unlike any product release we’ve seen from Cupertino in sometime. Which begs the question, just how did Apple manage to underestimate demand so dramatically?
The Apple Watch has felt like a unique product – at least in terms of launches – almost from the start. The company announced the device last September, giving us a vague “early 2015” release date in the process. For months Apple remained silent about its plans, allowing rumors and speculation to circulate through the tech media. Several potential release dates came and went, and it wasn’t until Tim Cook took the stage for Apple’s “Spring Forward” event last month that we finally received official word on when we could get our hands on the Watch. Preorders would begin on April 10, the device would ship to customers and stores on April 24.
Everything seemed normal with that process, as we’ve seen it numerous times in the past with the iPhone, iPad, and other highly anticipated products from Apple. The first sign that something was amiss came when Angela Ahrendts – the head of Apple’s retail division – began instructing retail employees to direct customers to order the Watch online rather than trying to pick one up in their local Apple store. Traditionally, there have been long line outside those outlets when Apple released a new device in the past, and Ahrendts claimed that customers would no longer need to wait for hours in hopes of obtaining their shiny new gadget.
Things got worse last week when Apple began accepting preorders. The available stock was sold out within a couple of hours, and most customers soon discovered that they wouldn’t receive their Watch until late May or even June. They were no longer waiting in line outside of an Apple store, but were still left waiting for the device none the less.
Still, long wait times aren’t anything new for Apple products. Certain models of the iPhone have been backordered for weeks in the past as well. But things got even worse yesterday when it was revealed that the Watch wouldn’t be available for purchase in stores until June either, leaving even more customers out in the cold.
Apple seemed to acknowledge this issue when it took the bold step to remove the April 24 release date from the Apple Watch website. Previously it had boldly proclaimed the date that the device would become available, but now it simply says “The Watch is coming,” once again. That’s the same text that had been on the site for months leading up to the “Spring Forward” event.
Ahrendts herself seemed to acknowledge the mistakes of the Watch launch as well. She sent another memo to the Apple retail staff earlier in the week essentially admitting it was a mistake to move all of the sales online. She also promised to go back to the way things were done in the past – lines and all. But the damage is already done at this point, the Apple Watch launch has already been blemished.
One has to wonder just how Apple managed to misjudge the demand for their new product so drastically. It seems likely that either the company didn’t produce enough Watches, or simply couldn’t produce enough of them. There have been rumors of assembly problems that prevented mass production from ramping up as rapidly as they’d like, and that now seems likely to have been the case. Those kinds of issues are not uncommon with a new product, and are generally worked out over time. But in this case it seems that it has had a severe impact on the number of units produced, which is not helping Apple’s cause any.
Perhaps it is best to look at the April 24 date as more of a “soft” launch rather than a full one. At this point, the real launch date seems to be coming in June, which is when Apple hopes to have solved all of its production woes and have caught up on the backlog of preorders. Still, it is impossible to not feel a bit disappointed in the Apple Watch experience so far. Reviews tell us that it is a great device, but that doesn’t really matter when you can’t get your hands on one.
Given time, this will of course all blow over, and Apple will have a steady stream of Apple Watches for everyone who wants to buy one. But for now, it seems like they have made a major misstep with the rollout process, and have left many customers with a bad taste in their mouth as a result.