Crowds Didn't Show for Apple Watch

After months of hype, the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) fans did not come out for the Apple Watch launch Friday. In contrast to long lines for iPhone debuts, only a handful of people showed up to see the watch in New York City, Friday morning.

Most customers at the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue told that they were unaware that they were visiting during the Apple Watch debut. They were there for iPhones, they said.

Part of the confusion stemmed from Apple’s last minute change of plans. The original announcement said that watches would be available online for pre-orders and in-store try-ons on Friday, with in-store pick-up on April 24th.

Then the plan changed Thursday, the day before launch. Apple said that they would no longer facilitate in-store purchases during the “initial launch period” and that the watches would only be available online, except for select boutiques on April 24th.

And those who attempted to order the devices online found that most watches will not ship until late spring or summer.  Only people who made their purchase in the first few minutes of the debut had better luck, with the shipments starting April 24th. It is unclear whether this was due to high demand or limited supply, or both.

The move to bring customers online was deliberate, said Apple. Angela Ahrendts, former CEO of Burberry and Apple’s current SVP of retail and online stores,  said in a statement that the online exclusivity was done “to provide the best experience and selection to as many customers as we can.” Customers were also encouraged to set up appointments to try on the watches, an effort to reduce lines.

Although most people at the Apple Store on Friday told that they like the Apple Watch, several said that the price point would prevent them from actually buying it. The watches start at $349 and cost as much as $17,000 for gold versions.

It is worth noting that the iPhone did not achieve widespread adoption at first, only selling 5.4 million devices in the year following its spring 2007 launch. Apple has now sold 700 million iPhones to date.

The Apple Watch will offer much of the same functionality as the iPhone, with apps like Uber and Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) available for download. Users will be able to answer voice calls, dictate texts, view photos and pay with Apple Pay. Fitness will also be a critical component, with Apple debuting its own goal-tracking metrics. The iPhone needs to be within 30 feet of the Apple Watch for the device to be fully functional.

This was the first new product category released under Tim Cook’s leadership. The last time that Apple released a new product concept was when the iPad launched in 2010.

Apple shares are up 15% year-to-date and are hovering around $126 a share.