Around the world, there were a few campers at stores. But -- generally speaking -- a lot of storefronts looked like this one in D.C.
And that's exactly how Apple wanted it. The company is trying to go upscale, and long lines of weary campers don't strike the right tone anymore. With the pre-order launch of its "most personal device" to date, the company and its new head of retail, Angelea Ahrendts, have introduced a new launch process that means there's no real reason to camp outside the stores. You can't walk out with a Watch, anyway -- they're only available online.
Which isn't to say that people weren't excited about the Watch. According to Apple employees at the store, they have try-on appointments fully booked all day. Christopher McNulty, a 21-year-old Georgetown student was up at 3 a.m. to make his Apple Watch appointment -- he just scheduled it at home, instead of waiting outside on chilly spring morning to be first in line at the store itself.
McNulty showed up just before the store opened, after Apple had psyched up its staff and dropped the black drapes that hung in the window -- but after a couple of stressed-out fellow students who were hoping to get walk-in appointments at the Genius Bar. As the first appointment of the day, he was greeted with cheers 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 ten 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 to the Georgetown store, but was nowhere near the front of the line.
McNulty was soon joined by his fellow early-birds -- three other men and one woman -- who came in shortly after the store opened. All were excited, but also fairly relaxed. After all, they had appointments.
McNulty said he was really impressed with the Watch after the try-on, saying that he looked at a few models and bands before deciding on the mid-tier stainless steel Apple Watch with a Milanese metal mesh band.
That combination, he said, means he can wear the Watch with a number of outfits. "It gives me more versatility," he said. "I can wear it with a suit at work, or when I'm more casual."
For the truly fancy -- aka those interested in Apple's $10,000 (or more) Edition model -- there will be a more private try-on process in the back of the store. But even with the pricey watches, the process will be largely the same, with trained clerks explaining the features of the watch to augment displays around the store that show off all that it can do.
For McNulty, he said the main thing that attracted him to the Watch is the promise that it 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 much less glorious exit. There was no crowd to 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.