Apple Watch is coming… but when? [Update: not any time soon]

Apple Watch launches

Apple’s first wearable went up for pre-order last week, with early estimates suggesting it managed to sell close to a million devices in the US in one day alone. Reuters estimates 6 percent of US adults intend to buy the device. Oddly though, Apple has so far not released any official pre-order figures, which is strange if the device is the success that it appears to be. Why isn’t Apple shouting about it from the rooftops? What is it waiting for?

Another more pertinent question is this: when will Apple start selling the device -- for real -- and in-store? 24th April you say? Well that’s what Apple originally said, but that no longer appears to be the case.

Anyone pre-ordering the Apple Watch online can now expect to wait months before they receive their purchase. Some Apple Watch models have shipping dates listed as 4-6 weeks, while the Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch Edition have shipping dates shown simply as "June".

Meanwhile, on the Apple.com website, the on-sale date -- the fabled 24th April -- has vanished. In its place is a vague "The Watch is coming" message.

Over on the UK version of the site, the 24th of April is still shown as the on-sale date. So that suggests that Brits will be able to buy the device then (although the online shipping delays are exactly the same for UK purchasers as they are for US ones).

So what’s going on? The obvious suggestion is that demand has seriously outstripped supply. Apple always limits the availability of new products at launch, so it can create an inflated illusion of popularity. The more popular something appears to be, the more people will want it. The harder it is to get, the more desirable it becomes, and so on.

But in this instance, Apple appears to either have seriously underestimated how popular the Apple Watch was going to be, or it’s run into supply problems and is struggling to meet the planned release date.

Either way, if you were hoping to walk into an Apple Store next Friday and walk out with a brand new Apple Watch, you’ll need to rethink your plans.

Update: According to a leaked internal memo from Apple’s retail chief, Angela Ahrendts, Apple Watch won’t be available to purchase in-store for a good while to come. Here’s what she said:

Team,

On behalf of Tim and the rest of the executive team, I want to thank you very much for making last Friday’s debut of Apple Watch unforgettable. The Previews going on in our stores and support from our Contact Centers are unlike anything we have done before.

The feedback from customers is overwhelmingly positive. They are excited about Apple Watch, and your teams are creating fantastic experiences for them. Customers who pre-ordered will start receiving deliveries next Friday as planned, and I know you will do a great job helping them get set up.

Many of you have been getting questions asking if we will have the watch available in stores on April 24 for walk-in purchases. As we announced last week, due to high global interest combined with our initial supply, we are only taking orders online right now. I’ll have more updates as we get closer to in-store availability, but we expect this to continue through the month of May. It has not been an easy decision, and I want to share with you the thinking behind it.

It’s important to remember that Apple Watch is not just a new product but an entirely new category for us. There’s never been anything quite like it. To deliver the kind of service our customers have come to expect -- and that we expect from ourselves -- we designed a completely new approach. That’s why, for the first time, we are previewing a new product in our stores before it has started shipping.

Apple Watch is also our most personal product yet, with multiple case and band options because it’s an object of self-expression. Given the high interest and initial supply at launch, we will be able to get customers the model they want earlier and faster by taking orders online.

I know this is a different experience for our customers, and a change for you as well. Are we going to launch every product this way from now on? No. We all love those blockbuster Apple product launch days -- and there will be many more to come. They’re the moments where you, our teams, shine. And our customers love them as well!

Apple Watch is an exciting new product and we are at the start of a very exciting time at Apple. You’re the best team on earth and you are doing an amazing job.

For customers who want to buy a watch, please continue to help them place their order online. Also make sure they know that, wherever they buy, Apple will provide them with a great Personal Setup experience -- either online or in our stores. This includes syncing their Apple Watch with their iPhone and teaching them about all the incredible features of their new Apple Watch.

Thank you very much again, and I look forward to seeing you soon.

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