Apple has Totally Botched the Apple Watch Launch


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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.

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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.

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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.


Kraig Becker

Kraig Becker is a freelance writer based out of Nashville, TN. His two passions are technology and travel, which are also the two things he most likes to write about. An avid Apple fan, he bought his first Mac back in 1990, and has and has been using the company's computers, and other devices, ever since.

15 Comments

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    1. Adam: It’s hard to deny that this hasn’t gone well for Apple. They have clearly has problems with the rollout of the Watch, even though they announced it more than six months ago, and have been plotting its release for awhile. It may have been better for them to delay the launch until June if it meant they would have more supply on hand.

      And Angela Ahrendts herself has admitted that this hasn’t gone according to plan. When you remove the release date from your website, it says something about the launch.

    2. Complete nonsense. You’ll always have more supply if you wait longer. Freezing the market, getting 2+ million sales in a matter of minutes, and still having massive pent-up demand that will extend into wider store and online availability is not a bad thing.

      You are claiming the Watch won’t really be released in June, but by June there will be more Apple Watches in the wild than all other smart watches sold over the last year and a half. That’s one strange June launch.

  1. “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.”

    I’m not disappointed at all and I will probably by 2 or 3 this year for my family.

    This article is vapid link bait at best. Kraig, if you wanted one so bad why didn’t you order one as soon as it became available–millions did and will be getting their apple watches.

    This is hardly the first nor will it be the last great Apple product with constrained supply. With a new product like this I usually like to wait until they are shipping in volume and any unforeseen issues become apparent. So I chose not to order the moment they became available.

  2. This epic fail has a 2 word reason: Angela Ahrendts. From the onset I couldn’t imagine a Burberry experience was in any way translatable to the Apple universe. If Steve Jobs would have hired her in the first place, she’d surely be in the unemployment line now. I can just see him going ape shyt on her in his office as security was assembling her stuff. This was a disaster. What company on planet Earth wouldn’t kill for the PR generated by long lines outside of their retail stores? The Apple employees were unevenly trained with some imparting incorrect information. How do you spell “hot mess.”

  3. “Which begs the question, just how did Apple manage to underestimate demand so dramatically? ”

    Kraig, it was estimated that Apple will have a supply of over 2 Million Apple Watches shipping out to customers on April 24th. That is an incredible achievement, and Apple’s suppliers are scrambling to produce additional Apple Watches as quickly as possible.

    You seem to be under the impression that Apple Watches are conjured up instantly, magically in any number imaginable…

    The reality is that the hardware and software that goes into the Apple Watch was probably only finalized a month or two ago, and that is when production started. Producing over 2 Million of this very complex product in such a short amount of time is a feat that would probably not be able to be matched by any other company.

    This means that somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 Apple Watches are being produced each and every day (including weekends)! That is a startling amount for the production ofANY technological product.

    Not only is there a very complex assembly process for the Apple Watch, but after assembly EVERY Apple Watch goes through software installation, testing of both the hardware and software, packaging, and distribution for shipping.

    The amount of this first generation Apple Watch pre-sold on the first weekend was MUCH MORE than the number of first generation iPhones sold on its first weekend of pre-sales. In fact, the first generation of the iPhone sold about 5 Million in its first full year of sales… The Apple Watch will probably EXCEED that number in just its first MONTH of sales!

    On this planet, and in this reality, it would be pure fantasy to think that Apple could have produced many millions more Apple Watches in such a short time.

    This is NOT the first time that there has been a huge demand for an Apple product that outstripped any reasonable expectation for having enough supply to meet the demand on launch.

    Remember the same thing happened with the launch of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. It too sold out quickly on the first weekend of pre-sales. Then (as now) some people went on about Apple “dropping the ball”… Which we now know that they DIDN’T, because they ended up selling a staggering 75 Million iPhones in just the first 3 months!

    What we have is Apple, as previously, working to supply a demand that was anticipated, and (given the short lead times, and complexity of production) is being met in a timely manner.

    For anyone to think that this is some sort of “failure” by Apple, is just ludicrous… Unless you believe that it would have been better to create a product that very few people would want to by, just so that there would be no backorders…

    The Android Wear watches have actually achieved THAT “success”.

    (?° ??°)

    1. Agreed that no other smartwatch has come close to this, and none will for a very long time.

      I have yet to see the estimates of Apple shipping 2 million units on April 24. I have however, seen analysts say that 2.3 million units have been preordered. That is the quote that I linked to above. There is a huge difference between shipped and preordered. That would mean they are on track to ship that many by June.

      In the piece, I acknowledge that there have been rumors of production issues. Even still, Apple seems to have grossly underestimated demand, or simply didn’t order enough to begin with. As I mentioned, this feels more like a soft launch, with the actual one taking place in June, when the Watch will actually be available to everyone. The fact that you an’t walk into an Apple Store next week and buy one speaks volumes.

    2. Kraig Becker: “I have yet to see the estimates of Apple shipping 2 million units on April 24.”

      In a note to investors from KGI Securities “estimate production of Apple Watch around 2.3mn units in March-May”.

      “In the piece, I acknowledge that there have been rumors of production issues.”

      None of those rumours have been verified… And similar rumours were presented when the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus first went on sale, and THOSE rumours turned out to be FALSE.

      “The fact that you an’t walk into an Apple Store next week and buy one speaks volumes.”

      Yes. It speaks volumes about Apple being FAIR, and fulfilling all pre-orders BEFORE letting anyone walk into a store to jump-the-line while people who pre-ordered are waiting for their deliveries.

    3. You’ll note that they estimate production of Apple Watch to be 2.3 million units in the March to May timeframe. That’s two months, and a huge difference between shipping that many on April 24.

      Still, we’re splitting hairs though. I’ll just say that this launch doesn’t feel at all like Apple’s other new product introductions. The fact that they have removed the date of release from the website says a lot too in my opinion.

    4. Kraig Becker: “You’ll note that they estimate production of Apple Watch to be 2.3 million units in the March to May timeframe. That’s two months, and a huge difference between shipping that many on April 24.”

      Considering that production began some time in March, and deliveries begin April 24th (just one week before the start of May), it would be a logical assumption that MOST of that 2.3 Million units would start shipping immediately on April 24th.

      “I’ll just say that this launch doesn’t feel at all like Apple’s other new product introductions. The fact that they have removed the date of release from the website says a lot too in my opinion.”

      We ALREADY know the “date of release”… April 24th!

      On that date, hundreds of thousands of the first pre-orders will be fulfilled. We can expect LOTS of people writing on the Web about receiving their Apple Watches.

      Not everyone in the world is going to get their Apple Watch right on April 24th, but we already knew that WELL IN ADVANCE.

      If it “doesn’t feel at all like Apple’s other new product introductions” to you, then you have a very short memory.

      Just Google “iphone 6s supply constraints”. It took MONTHS of production until Apple was able to catch up to demand.

      The big difference this time is that Apple made it clear that they DIDN’T want long line-ups of people outside their stores for the Apple Watch. They wisely told the public in advanced that until demand is met, ordering will be online ONLY.

      This was a VERY smart move!

      No more would people have to camp out for days in front of Apple Stores.
      No more would some people in the long lines get a product, while those behind them would walk away with nothing.
      No more would people complain that some stores had product for sale, while others did not.

      Ordering the Apple Watch online levels the playing field for everyone, and camping gear isn’t required.

    5. It is called managing customer expectations which they did a very poor job of doing

  4. What if… Apple knew they couldn’t deliver volume by 24th Aptil when the date was disclosed in the Springforward event. With Tim Cook having set the date for an ‘early 15’ release, Apple clearly could not push the date much further. Solution? Web only preorders, push availability into Summer a few minutes after opening for preorders making the world think it’s sold millions. Cunning plan.

  5. Apple absolutely loves to have long lines of people lined up outside of their stores excited and eager to pick up their new Apple device. They absolutely love that. Have you missed all of those promotional videos, with crowds excitedly, joyously, counting down the moments until the opening of the doors of Apple Stores around the world? Apple botched this one. They simply failed to have sufficient quantities of the watch on hand for the announced date. Apple did not deliver what Tim Cook promised. Not even close. Most models were not available to be shipped April 24 from the very start. Shipping dates for all of the sport models slipped into May or later within seconds.I stayed up until 3am to order my watch on April 10. It’s not scheduled to ship until June. June. I promise you Apple would not want to feature the “happy” faces of loyal Apple customers that night.

    Was Apple surprised by the demand? No. They knew what was coming. They just failed to deliver on what was promised, in a way I can never recall happening in Appple’s history.