You can have a hands-on (or wrist-on) experience with the Apple Watch when it arrives in Apple Stores in April, but that doesn’t mean you can play around with one all day.
Starting April 10, each customer will have up to 15 minutes to check out and try on the Apple Watch at an Apple Store, 9to5Mac said Wednesday, citing “sources briefed on the upcoming changes.” Each store will set up 10 or more “try-on” stations for this purpose with a steady flow of customers expected to want to try out Apple’s new smartwatch.
The Apple Watch is the company’s first foray into the smartwatch arena, so there’s a lot riding on how much consumer demand it can generate. Apple has been touting the watch as a smartwatch and fitness monitor as well as a fashion item that emphasizes design and style more than technology. A watch is also a very personal device, one that you would likely wear most of the time and show off as a fashion statement. As such, the experience and impression that potential buyers have in the store will be important factors in convincing them to buy the product.
Apple’s watch will be available in three different varieties — the entry-level Sport version, the midlevel Apple Watch and the more expensive, luxury Apple Watch Edition. The Sport version starts at $349, the Apple Watch at $549 and the Apple Watch Edition at $10,000.
Customers shouldn’t need to schedule appointments to try out the watch as Apple Stores are expected to have enough supply to show to people who just walk in, 9to5Mac’s sources said. But Apple is also reportedly considering an option to set up try-on appointments by notifying customers of availability via text message alerts.
Apparently you won’t have any alone time with the watch — store employees will guide you through the experience. People who want to purchase the Apple Watch will be able to set up an appointment to pick one up on its April 24 launch date, the sources added.
To better assist customers, Apple will set up four zones in each store, according to the sources. At one zone, store employees will help customers try on the entry level Apple Watch Sport edition and the stainless steel Apple Watch. The second zone will be devoted to sales, both for people who know which watch they want and those who are on the fence.
At the third zone, store employees will answer questions about the watch. And the fourth zone will be devoted to customers interested in the gold Apple Watch Edition. That model will be available in limited numbers at select Apple Stores and will be demoed by “expert” Apple store employees trained in selling the high-end model.
The Apple Watch does face challenges in a marketplace where it will be competing with smartwatches, health and fitness monitors and traditional watches. Apple’s in-store approach should help trigger consumer interest. But just how many sales can the watch capture? Analysts and research firms have been busy speculating.
Strategy Analytics predicts shipments of 15.4 million Apple Watch units in 2015. In February, research firm CCS Insight forecast 20 million in unit sales this year. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster has been more bearish, eyeing only 8 million in unit sales for 2015. Wall Street is eyeing sales of 12 million to 15 million.
A spokesman for Apple declined CNET’s request for comment.