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Apple Watch reviews don't matter to early adopters

Aaron Pressman

A batch of mixed reviews for the new Apple (AAPL) Watch likely won't deter many early adopters from purchasing the latest hot gadget.

Of almost a dozen reviewers who got an early look at the watch, most agreed the device was good-looking and useful, but disliked the somewhat complicated user interface and short battery life. Apple plans to start taking pre-orders on Friday and delivering watches, which cost from $350 to as much as $17,000 for a gold model, on April 24.

Only two reviewers, Joanna Stern at The Wall Street Journal, and Nilay Patel at The Verge, recommended skipping the first-generation watch altogether.

"I’m not convinced that anyone actually needs a smartwatch yet and there’s nothing about the Apple Watch that really changed my mind," Patel said in his video review.

"People who can identify it immediately ask if I like it, and if they should buy one" Stern wrote. "I’ve told most: No."

More typical was Yahoo Tech's review by David Pogue.

Concluding that nobody needed an Apple Watch, Pogue still thought the device would be useful for some. "In the end, therefore, the Apple Watch is, above all, a satisfying indulgence. It’s a luxury. You might buy it to bring you pleasure—and it will—much the way you might buy a really nice car, some really nice clothes, or a really nice entree. Or a really nice watch."





Analysts on Wall Street have modest expectations for watch sales this year. Though forecasts range from 8 million to more than 40 million, most expect sales of 14 million to 16 million, or only a small fraction of the potential purchasing audience of current iPhone owners. That's far better than sales of any competing smartwatch. Gadget lovers bought fewer than 1 million smartwatches from all manufacturers combined running Google's (GOOGL) Android Wear software last year, according to Canalys.

Excerpts and links for all of the early Apple watch reviews can be found here.

"There's enough in these reviews that says the watch is right for some people that I don't think they'll do any real damage," says Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research. "I don't think the reviews will put a big dent in watch sales."

Still, the mixed reviews, and the legitimate concerns raised about complexity, short battery life and other shortcomings, will prevent the watch from becoming a smash hit in its first year, according to Ramon Llamas, research manager for wearables at IDC. He's forecasting Apple Watch sales of just under 16 million this year.

"This is good but the product definitely needs some more development," he says. "To think the watch is going to do 30, 40 or 50 million in its first year? That's impossible."

Apple investors had little reaction to the early watch reviews. Apple shares were just about unchanged in afternoon trading on Wednesday, down 6 cents to $125.95. The shares have bounced around in recent weeks as anticipation for the watch waxes and wanes, but remain up 14% for the year while the S&P 500 Index is up only 1%.