Apple’s entire initial stock of smartwatches appeared to sell out hours after the devices were available for pre-orders Friday, as many consumers found out they would have to wait until summer to get one on their wrists.
By Friday morning, Apple’s Web site stated that all models were expected to ship in June, about two months after the smartwatch officially goes on sale. The company had predicted that the watch would sell briskly. “Strong customer demand will exceed our supply at launch,” Apple said in a statement Thursday.
Apple also significantly altered the consumer experience for the launch of the watch, its first major new product since Tim Cook took over as chief executive in 2011.
In an effort to create a more upscale retail experience and discourage campers — who at times have lined up days ahead of a new product launch — Apple did not make the watch available at any of its stores.
At the Georgetown Apple store, consumers could try the watch on if they had set up an appointment in advance. Even then, they were given only a demo model, rather than the real thing. Those interested in buying the watch could order it in stores, but they could not walk out with the device. The watch, for now, can be had only if it is ordered online or in a store and shipped by mail.
Christopher McNulty, a 21-year-old Georgetown University student, said he was up at 3 a.m. Friday to make his Apple Watch appointment at the nearby store. He was able to schedule it at home, instead of waiting outside on a chilly spring morning to be first in line.
McNulty showed up just before the store opened. As the first appointment of the day, he was greeted with cheers from Apple employees as he walked in and made his way to the try-on table at the front of the store.
“It almost took me aback,” he said of the ovation. “I mean, I just rolled out of bed 10 minutes before that.” He’s an Apple fan, he said, but not the kind to wait for days in order to secure a good spot in line. When the iPhone 6 came out, he said he showed up early at the Georgetown store but was nowhere near the front of the line.
Analysts appear divided over how successful the smartwatch will be for Apple. Wall Street forecasters have put out a wide range of sales estimates — between 8 million and 40 million units for 2015. Apple’s stock rose 0.4 percent Friday and has jumped 27 percent since the watch was announced last fall.
Apple sells three versions of its watch. The Apple Watch Sport starts at $349, while the main version of the Apple Watch can be bought for as low as $549. The price of the upscale Apple Watch Edition, wrapped in 18-karat gold, starts at $10,000 and can go as high as $17,000.
McNulty said he was really impressed with the watch after the try-on and ultimately decided on the mid-tier stainless-steel Apple Watch with a Milanese metal mesh band. He said the primary attraction is the promise that the watch will let him detach from his phone.
“I feel like I’m on it all the time,” he said, adding that all those buzzes and notifications can keep him heads-down all the time. “If it’s on my wrist, I can triage throughout the day,” he said.
As much as he was celebrated on his way in, McNulty had a much less glorious exit. There was no crowd to whom he could show off his trophy. There was not even a package in his hand. Instead, the Georgetown student walked out to a quiet street, his iPhone to his ear and his old analog watch on his wrist.