Beijing fans get first taste of newly launched Apple Watch

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 April, 2015, 5:30pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 April, 2015, 3:30pm

Mac Li, a software engineer in his 20s, started lining up in front of an Apple store in Beijing just after 6am today – and became the second customer to try on an Apple Watch in the city.

A self-described Apple fan, Li has owned every generation of the company’s devices. For him, the question wasn’t whether to purchase it or not – it was how many.

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“I’ve read many reports about the Apple Watch. I’m interested. But it’s wiser to decide how many to buy after I try them myself,” Li said.

He was among the approximately 100 customers who walked into the Apple store in China Central Mall today, many of whom were in their 20s.

As one of the largest and newest Apple stores in Beijing, the staff set up four tables, manned by 16 Apple specialists, at the centre of the space, ready to answer questions about the new gadget.

Customers had to wait between five and 10 minutes before they could walk in and browse.

The watches cost from between 2,588 yuan (HK$3,275) for the Sport version with durable band and 38mm casing, to 126,800 yuan for the Luxe Apple Watch with a 38mm-casing in gold, and a red strap.

The most expensive among the three types - Watch, Sport and Edition - is a 38mm gold Watch with a red strap.

Li, who said he was passionate about sports, tried the Apple Watch and a version with durable straps, Apple Watch Sport, and found he liked the latter more.

“It’s lighter and trendy. The screen is as good as the Retina display with high definition. It’s better than I expected,” he said, adding that he disliked how the response time of the Apple Watch was “a bit long” and the battery life lasts only a few hours.

Another male customer, surnamed Liu and who also works in the tech industry, tried the Apple Watch Sport but said he would wait for the first wave of customers to report their experience before he would buy one.

Mac Li had also bought and tested other digital bracelets by Samsung and Sony in the interest of research. He said Samsung’s smartwatch was much slower, but some digital bracelets he owns can last for days after one full charge.

Apple store specialists reminded him that the watch is not 100 per cent waterproof. By comparison, Li said his Jawbone digital bracelet could be worn anytime and anywhere, including a swimming pool.

Still, Li said he wanted to buy four Apple Watches – if there is no purchase limitation – including an Apple Watch Edition for his father, a Sport edition for himself, and two other models for his relatives.

“It’s the Apple Watch. It’s the newest thing. They are the best gifts for my family,” he said.

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Buyers can head to the “demo area” to pick the device they like, the size of the screen, and the colour and materials of the watch and the bracelets. They can place the order in the store or buy it later on their own.

The preview in Beijing comes just as Apple’s Hong Kong launch had a muted reception, failing to draw the usual crowds that accompany an Apple gadget rollout.

An Apple public relations officer in Beijing told the South China Morning Post that ever since the launch of the iPhone 5S, the company has adopted a “less queuing” policy to encourage customers to pre-order and book store visits ahead of time.

“We want to give our customers more space and better experience when they try our new products,” the staffer said.

Unlike other digital device makers, Apple has adopted a low-key marketing policy in China. They do not have any Chinese social media pages, such as on the Twitter-like Weibo or messaging application WeChat, even though China has become Apple’s third-largest market globally.

Out of its fourth-quarter earnings of US$74.6 billion, China accounted for US$16.1 billion.

In contrast, China’s smartphone makers – including the largest, Xiaomi – are actively engaging with clients through social platforms. The company has more than four million followers on Weibo and even created a festival for its fans called Mifen or “Rice Noodle”, held each year on April 9.

Xiaomi made a sales push at Mifen and later announced that they sold more than two million phones worth of 2 billion yuan this year.