Apple Watch not yet setting Chinese pulses racing

Tue Mar 10, 2015 8:59am EDT
 
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By Paul Carsten and Gerry Shih

BEIJING (Reuters) - Apple Inc (AAPL.O: Quote) had China front and center at the San Francisco launch of its smart Apple Watch, trumpeting a new store in Hangzhou city and demo-ing hit Chinese messaging app WeChat.

Also, the new Apple Watch will go on sale in China on April 24, the same day as the United States - unlike the iPhone 6, which hit Chinese stores almost a month after the U.S.

But even in this Apple-crazed country - the second-biggest iPhone market after the U.S. - it seems too early to say whether the curved wristpieces from Cupertino will command that must-have cachet for millions of middle-upper-class Chinese.

Beyond the is-it-fashion-or-is-it-gadget argument, the Apple Watch carries a hefty price tag in China. The cheapest Sport model will sell at a little below 3,000 yuan ($479), including tax, versus $349 in the United States, while the top-end luxury Edition will set buyers back more than 145,000 yuan ($23,157), against $17,000 in the U.S.

That's a lot to pay for a luxury digital product that could be swiftly outdated if Apple does what it does with its smartphones, and brings out a new version each year.

There may be other practical drawbacks, too, for Chinese users - from the screen size to the lack of any 'killer app'.

"It's almost impossible to send WeChat messages when staring at such a small screen," said Huang Hongwen, 46, a freelancer in Shanghai. "I'd rather buy a traditional luxury watch at the same price," she said of the luxury Edition.

Also, Chinese haven't taken to personal health-related consumer technology in the same way as Americans have on wearable devices.   Continued...

 
Apple watches are displayed following an Apple event in San Francisco, California March 9, 2015.  REUTERS/Robert Galbraith