Apple Watch price could leave you strapped for cash

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This article appeared in the April 2015 issue of CRN magazine.

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Apple Watch price could leave you strapped for cash

Apple has finally answered the one question in everyone’s minds since it first announced the Apple Watch: how much will it cost?

Appropriately, the event was held at the Yerba Buena Center – a venue whose name means ‘good weed’ – because the response to the prices was a resounding “woah, duuuude”.

(Oh I noticed the juxtaposition of the announcement of a $30 price drop in the already-low price of an Apple TV in the same event as the introduction of a $10,000-plus watch. I can’t imagine someone who cares about a $30 saving being interested in a $10,000 watch – or vice versa. But I’m not Tim Cook.)

Much has been written about the prices since, including the slightly inaccurate claim that, for the price of the top-spec Apple Watch, you could buy one of every other product Apple makes and still have change. It would depend on the specs.

It has also been claimed that, at $24,000, the most expensive Apple Watch is the most expensive product Cupertino’s favourite fruit company has ever sold. Again, this would depend on how you spec’d out your first-generation Mac Pro – going all-out with the configurator, you could go over the $30,000 mark.

There have also been questions asked about the specifications of the watches themselves. The ‘Sports’ version, for instance, lacks GPS capabilities and, therefore, might not be all that useful if you participate in sports that involve moving over any kind of distance. I’m sure it will find application among more sedentary sportspeople, so it’s hardly a significant criticism.

I’m intrigued by the straps. Within each range of Apple Watches, there is a choice of straps in various materials and sizes. By eschewing a ‘one size fits all’ approach in favour of an assumption that different people are different, Apple has an easy one-up.

The various materials range from ‘fluoroelastomer’ (aka ‘plastic’) through to stainless steel, something called a ‘Milanese Loop’ and on up to leather “from some of the world’s best-known artisanal tanneries”. My mission in life is to get an Apple representative to say “artisanal tanneries” out loud.

Not all straps are available in all models, though, which somewhat undermines the personalisation. You can’t, for example, get a ‘Milanese Loop’ with your hardened gold Apple Watch Edition, for reasons best known to Jony Ive. I would have thought letting people choose the combination of casing, size and strap that suits them would work best – but I don’t have his taste, evidently.

What you can get on your golden watch is the same plastic strap from the Sports version. Or, for a mere $10,000 more, a “Rose Grey Modern Buckle”. Check out the prices: $14,000 for the ‘fluoroelastomer’ or $24,000 for the ‘Rose Grey Modern Buckle’ on an otherwise identical watch.

What watchband is worth $10,000? Is it made of vibranium, like Captain America’s shield, or adamantium, like Wolverine’s skeleton, or feminum, like Wonder Woman’s bulletproof bracelets? No – all of those materials are fictional, though Apple claims that the ‘Modern Buckle’ contains a “stretch-resistant polymer that’s stronger than Kevlar” so maybe feminum isn’t too far off.

Can this artisanally tanned leather strap help the lame to walk or the blind to see? I’m asking since, for the price, I’d expect it to do more than just hold a watch on. I’d expect literal (read: Biblical) miracles. If it can turn water into wine it might be worth the price – you’d get your money back in savings on catering bills.

Short of that I can’t see where a piece of material a couple of centimetres wide by 20cm long gets to be worth $10,000, even with a nice buckle. Presumably, Apple has done its market research, and presumably it knows that customers at that end of the market will see 10 grand’s value in that strap.

Meanwhile, at my end of the market, did you hear you can save 30 bucks on an Apple TV?

Matthew JC Powell is a technology commentator, philosopher and father of two, in no particular order.

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