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Thin crowds greet Apple Watch in stores, suggesting fans prefer to buy, not fondle

Peter Sayer | April 13, 2015
The arrival of the Apple Watch in stores Friday failed to draw the same crowds that greeted the launch of the iPhone 6 -- but this may be a sign that Apple fans are prepared to queue overnight to buy, but not just to try.

"It's very light, and has some pretty good features," he said. "The price for sports model is okay, but I don't think a lot of people will buy the gold one, because the features are all the same as the other models."

Xie, a venture capitalist, has been investing in smart hardware, and wanted to know more about Apple's latest product. "A lot of other smartwatches use Android, but I want to pick Apple because of its App store," he said.

In Japan, mobile carrier SoftBank will also sell the Apple Watch through its stores.

At the company's Omotesando store in Tokyo, about 40 people were lined up to see and order the watch just after 9 a.m. Friday -- a far cry from the 200 that waited there to buy an iPhone 6 at its launch last September.

The large store had been remodeled to highlight the watch, with SoftBank's Pepper robot, a prominent display until Friday, relegated to the downstairs level. Nobody paid any attention to the white humanoid as it gesticulated and spoke to no one in particular.

Customers, predominantly male, tried on the regular version of the Apple smartwatch and the sport model as attendants offered them bands in various colors and materials.

SoftBank staff and journalists seemed to outnumber the customers. Within 90 minutes of its opening, the lineup outside the SoftBank store had dwindled to nothing. The Apple fans who showed up, though, were enthusiastic about the new gizmo.

"The Apple Watch is kind of like the cool computer wristwatch gadgets on Power Rangers-style TV shows I loved as a kid," said Tomoki Hasegawa, 38, a smartphone app developer based in Tokyo. An iPhone 6 user, he ordered the regular version of the timepiece in the 42 millimeter size. "I always wanted one, and thought Apple is the company that will do it right."

Hasegawa said he doesn't know what the smartwatch does in detail, but was excited to have ordered one. He expects to receive it sometime after April 24.

Electrician Taiki Kamata, 45, plans to use the Sport version he ordered to view messages while in meetings or when talking to people, without having to whip out his iPhone 6 Plus.

"The Apple Watch seems like it works much better than my Sony SmartWatch 2, which is sluggish," he said.

The Sport edition also wowed technology writer Makoto Saito, 23. She thinks the smartwatch will be useful on crowded trains where there's little space to use a smartphone.

"I chose the 38 mm size because I'm used to the small screens on Japanese 'garakei' flip phones," she said.

Aside from SoftBank, the Watch was available at Apple Stores in Tokyo. Japan's two other mobile carriers offering iPhone, NTT DoCoMo and KDDI, are taking a wait-and-see approach to the timepiece. DoCoMo hasn't decided whether it will carry it, a spokesman said, while a spokesman for KDDI could not comment on the company's plans.

 

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