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Apple debuts its smartwatch to excited uk consumers: but there’s confusion over its purpose

by Matt Fisher , 27.04.2015

The moment millions of consumers have been waiting for is almost here. From 24th April, people will finally be able to get their hands on one of Apple’s smartwatches. Almost half of UK consumers (46%) are aware of the smartwatch’s imminent launch and one in five (19%) describe themselves as being extremely or very interested in the launch. Our recent research, carried out in the run up to the Apple launch, asked whether the UK’s consumers are ready to part with almost £500 to own one and, more to the point, do they actually know what they’re getting?

Form and functionality

When we asked consumers what they would use a smartwatch for, accessing maps (68%), reading emails and texts (61%), and controlling appliances, such as lighting and TV in the home(55%) emerged as the clear top three functions. But with many of the feature options failing to interest even half of respondents, our research suggests that smartwatches could be extremely under-utilized with consumers using just a fraction of their capabilities.

Given Apple’s phenomenal track record in category creation, we do expect people will understand and use the smartwatch’s numerous applications and associated benefits as they become more familiar with the device. For now, however, Apple and others in the category need to continue their efforts to educate consumers about the capabilities of a smartwatch. This is a vital prerequisite of widespread adoption.

But whether or not the smartwatch will achieve mass appeal is far from being certain.

Money matters

Although consumers are positive about Apple’s smartwatch launch, the research shows that actual prices are significantly higher than people expect to pay for the device, a factor that could impact adoption.

Almost three quarters (73%) of consumers who are interested in the launch of the Apple watch say they are prepared to spend up to £299 – a price that would only secure the small sports version of the smartwatch. Just one in ten (10%) are prepared to pay £400 or more. With the basic standard Apple smartwatch priced at £479, affordability and concerns about value may be a sticking point for a large number of consumers.

The future

Apple’s dominance in the consumer technology category, combined with the appeal of its products and the effectiveness of its marketing, puts it in a strong position to overcome the initial barriers of a lack of awareness of the smartwatch and price sensitivity. These obstacles suggest that Apple faces a challenge at the device’s launch, but as one of the most loved and admired brands in the world, and with a considerable fan base, we expect the brand to overcome these issues quite quickly. After all, reaction to the iPad was muted and yet it is one of the strongest selling tablets globally. The future for Apple’s smartwatch is bright.

For more information please contact Matt Fisher at matt.fisher@gfk.com, or Anne Giulianotti at anne.giulianotti@gfk.com.