Tech news: Apple gives first hands-on look at smartwatch - The Express Tribune

Analys­ts remain scepti­cal of gadget's succes­s.

Apple is offering an unusual range of choices, allowing consumers to customize the look—and price—of the Apple Watch, which is due to be released next month. PHOTO: AFP

Apple is offering an unusual range of choices, allowing consumers to customize the look—and price—of the Apple Watch, which is due to be released next month. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK: Apple gave consumers their first hands-on look at its smartwatch on Friday, pushing into wearable tech just as rival Samsung rolled out its new flagship smartphones.

With the world's two biggest gadget makers vying for consumer attention, Apple scored points by apparently selling out of the Apple Watch as quickly as it opened pre-orders.

"I really debated if I should buy the thing," said Eric Angelosanto, one of the customers looking to try the smartwatch at a New York Apple store, who indicated that he had already placed an order online. "It's tremendously overpriced, but a treat."

The Apple Watch starts at $349, with a limited-edition gold version priced at $12,000.

Some analysts, though, were not so sure about prospects for the new wearable device. "The watch's success is anything but guaranteed," said Endpoint Technologies Associates Analyst Roger Kay. "Most people I've talked with are not ready to buy one. It seems expensive, redundant and perhaps invasive."

Apple's device, which connects to the iPhone to facilitate messaging, calls and apps geared toward health and fitness, is a latecomer to the smartwatch market, and follows launches from Samsung, Huawei, Motorola, LG and others including the crowd-funded Pebble watch.

And it is not only tech companies. Last month luxury Swiss watchmaker, TAG Heuer announced that it was joining forces with Google and Intel to develop a rival to the Apple Watch. But because of Apple's devoted customer base, analysts expect the new watch to quickly take the lead and sell millions.

Meanwhile, Samsung's Galaxy S6 and its curved-edge variant, the Galaxy S6 Edge, went on sale in South Korea, Europe, the United States and markets in the Asia-Pacific such as Australia, Singapore and India.

Samsung, labouring under successive quarters of plunging profits and booming sales of Apple's iPhone 6, is hoping the new phone will reverse its fortunes.

"Given the response from the market and clients … we expect the S6 to set a sales record for all Galaxy models," Lee Sang-Chul, the vice head of Samsung's mobile unit, told reporters.

The S6 retails at around 858,000 won ($800) in South Korea, while the S6 Edge comes in at 979,000 won, broadly in line with their Apple counterparts.

Despite fierce competition on various market fronts, there are signs that Samsung is beginning to fight back. Earlier this week, it released a better-than-expected profit estimate for the first quarter.

The company is seeking to fend off a double challenge from Apple in the high-end market and rising Chinese firms such as Lenovo and Xiaomi in the fast-growing mid and low-end markets.

Samsung rarely discloses handset sales figures but analysts say the Galaxy S4, released in 2013, set the firm's sales record of 70 million units globally. 

Published in The Express Tribune, April 12th, 2015.

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