Why Apple Watch takes Apple into uncharted waters

Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces the Apple Watch March 9, 2015.

Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces the Apple Watch March 9, 2015.  (REUTERS/Robert Galbraith)

The eagerly anticipated launch of Apple Watch on Monday saw Apple unveil its first new product category since 2010, when the tech giant unleashed the iPad. The jury, however, is still out on whether the smartwatch will be the latest in a long line of Apple successes.

For one thing, there are already some big differences between the Apple Watch and some of the tech giant’s home runs. While Apple reinvented the gadget landscape with its iPod, iPhone, and iPad, the Apple Watch is a take on an existing technology, which is already familiar to consumers, albeit in a less high-tech form.

The device’s design also feels like a departure from the sleek aesthetic associated with iPhones and iPads. The high-end Apple Watch Edition, in particular, appears to be taking the Cupertino, Calif.-based firm into the uncharted waters of ‘bling.’

The watch’s battery life may also prove a turn-off for many consumers. Speaking during the launch event in San Francisco on Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook explained that during a typical day, users can expect 18-hour battery life.

It remains to be seen how quickly consumers adopt Apple Watch, according to IBISWorld Technology Analyst Sarah Kahn, who notes that skeptics may be wary of the 18-hour battery life estimate. “Additionally, the very idea of wearing a watch that must be recharged on a daily basis may alienate some consumers,” she wrote, in a note released on Monday.

Kahn also sees a lot of crossover between the smartwatch and Apple’s phenomenally successful iPhone, potentially limiting its appeal to consumers. “Almost all activities can be done with an iPhone, rendering the watch a completely discretionary gadget, highly dependable on disposable income, price and recent expenditures,” she wrote. “Many Apple consumers have recently purchased an expensive new iPhone or may be tempted to buy the new Macbook, holding off on purchasing the new discretionary device.”

Apple Watch comes in three versions – the entry level Apple Watch Sport, the mid-tier Apple Watch, and Apple Watch Edition, a high-end version of the technology built using 18-karat rose or yellow gold. The watch, which offers 11 different faces, is available in two sizes – 38 mm and 42 mm.

Pricing for the device starts at $349 for a 38 mm Apple Watch Sport. Apple Watch Edition is priced from $10,000, and will be available in "limited quantities," according to Apple.

While there are certainly plenty of Apple Watch skeptics, others expect great things from the smartwatch.

FBR Capital Markets Analyst Daniel Ives believes that with Apple Watch, Apple looks set to lead the nascent wearable technology market.

“With the Apple brand/unmatched consumer base now behind it, we think the wearables category now potentially has a ‘silver bullet’ product which can start to move consumers toward this new avenue of technology growth,” he wrote, in a note released on Monday.

Cantor Fitzgerald Analyst Brian White also expects Apple Watch to take the gadget world by storm, predicting that the device will become Apple’s bestselling new product in its first 12 months on the market.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers