We stopped by an Apple Store this morning — the one in Soho, Manhattan — to try on a Watch and see how smooth the try-on experience is. The short version: it’s a very nice piece of hardware, and the experience is a little bumpy.
In fairness, a lot of the experience is new for everyone involved; one of the sales associates reminded a customer that they themselves have only seen the watches for a couple of hours, and that the tables were installed overnight. It wouldn’t surprise me if some of the associates had yet to even handle a Watch.
Once you place a reservation and check in — the same way you make any online service or sales appointment at an Apple store — you may find yourself parked at the Watch display table until someone is free to help you. The table shows, under glass, a full selection of the watches available at that store (Soho carries the Edition gold one), all running a demo in sync. Look, but don’t touch.
Interestingly for a first day of sale, there was no crush, no lines, no real indication that anything out of the ordinary was going on. No David Pogue doing a music video (at least, not while we were there), although we were buttonholed and interviewed by a reporter as we left. Chalk one up for the retail team.
Conversations also break out around the table. One potential customer, with very white teeth and a gold star implanted in her left front canine, was aghast when told that the top price of an Edition watch was $17,000. The sales associate didn’t really have a ready response for her, and she was not mollified either by the fact that the Edition watch is gold, nor when she was told about the $349 starting price. That big number is what stuck in her mind.
When a Watch-trained associate finds you, you’re escorted to a try-on table, where there’s a jewelry pad and another watch running the same a demo. The associate asks if you have any questions, guides the conversation, and asks which models you’d like to see. The watches are stored in a drawer built into the table, like a cash drawer. You can have at most two watches out at a time. When you’re finished trying on a model, the associate wipes it with a cloth and puts it back in its place in the drawer, attached to a charger. For a first day, the pitch was a little unpracticed, but the associate who served us was very well informed about the Watch’s features.
The watches run only demos, so there’s no way to check out the software; this is a hardware-only experience.
And the hardware is really nice. Pictures don’t really do it justice. Despite what you may have read, this is not a large device. It’s no bigger and infinitely more elegant than a Pebble and not thicker than the Fitbit Surge. The straps are all comfortable and well-designed. The link bracelet in particular is gorgeous and a lovely piece of engineering, which it ought to be for a $500 upcharge. We found the haptics to be a little weak, but the associate said that it was settable in software, and that the demo had it at the lightest level.
As we noted in an earlier article, if you waited to try on a watch, you’re not going to get one in April (the official shipping date is April 24). At this point, you probably won’t get one in May, either; the Apple Store is quoting June (or July for some models) pretty much across the board.