Only 5% of US iPhone users say they’re very likely to buy an Apple Watch

Decision time approaches for consumers.
Decision time approaches for consumers.
Image: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

The Apple Watch is on its way. Who’s going to buy it?

Over the past week, Quartz polled 811 US smartphone owners using SurveyMonkey Audience. (Methodology details are below.) And it seems many are waiting to see the watch in person before they decide to buy one.

Low interest

The first Apple Watch will require an iPhone to work, and about half of our survey group already owns one. (For context, comScore says 42% of US smartphone subscribers have iPhones.) Of those, only about 2% said they were extremely likely to buy an Apple Watch in the next 12 months, and another 3% said they were very likely. A total 20% said they were at least somewhat likely. Roughly 80% of iPhone owners said they were not likely to buy an Apple Watch next year.

Image for article titled Only 5% of US iPhone users say they’re very likely to buy an Apple Watch

The percentage of those unlikely to buy one was even greater for non-iPhone owners, who would also need to acquire iPhones to use Apple Watches. More than 90% said they weren’t likely to get an Apple Watch, and fewer than 1% were extremely likely to buy one.

Too expensive

The most basic Apple Watch will start at $350, with more premium versions (and accessories) adding up from there. Yet most people polled—among those who said they’d be willing to spend any money on the Apple Watch—want to spend less than $200.

Image for article titled Only 5% of US iPhone users say they’re very likely to buy an Apple Watch

Many wearable devices on the market today—like the Jawbone Up 24, the Fitbit Flex, the Pebble Steel, and the Nike+ FuelBand SE—cost less than $200, so this might be the price consumers are used to seeing for wearable tech. Apple will have to prove its watch is more useful or cooler than other step trackers and smartwatches if it’s going to attract buyers at nearly twice the price of the competition.

Apple, however, has experience here. Consider the iPod, which was only available for $399 when it launched in 2001, and gradually expanded to include less-expensive family members, all the way down to today’s $49 iPod shuffle.

Niche luxury market

The vast majority of those surveyed—over 85%—said they wouldn’t want to spend any money on a luxury version of the Apple Watch. Only about 5% of those who expressed interest in a high-end Apple Watch said they would spend more than $2,000 on it.

Apple’s 18-karat “Edition” watches are rumored to cost around $4,000, putting them in the same price bracket as many Swiss luxury brands like Rolex or Omega (and the Mac Pro computer). That 5% may not be much of a concern for Apple, as Apple’s high-end Editions will likely be more of a prestige product rather than something the company will be banking on for volume. (Swiss watch exports, for context, only account for about 2% of watches produced worldwide, but considerably more in revenue.)

Seeing it to believe it

An overwhelming majority of respondents—roughly three quarters—said they would want to see the Apple Watch in person before they purchased one. (A faithful few—11.2%—said they wouldn’t need to see it in person before taking the plunge.)

Image for article titled Only 5% of US iPhone users say they’re very likely to buy an Apple Watch

More than half of those interested in buying an Apple Watch said they would first go to an Apple Store to see the watch. Fewer than 3% said they would go to a high-end watch store. This is huge for Apple. With over 400 Apple Stores worldwide and highly trained staff—now under the watch of Burberry’s former CEO—Apple has a physical advantage over competing smartwatch and wearable brands that have to rely on placements in big-box electronics stores.

One question is whether—and how—Apple will change its stores to accommodate the Apple Watch launch. Unlike phones and tablets, trying on watches seems to call for a more peaceful, intimate environment. (Especially when expensive, luxury items are being handled.)

Influencing the influencers

Apple will need good reviews—professional and amateur.

About 40% of those surveyed listed that their friends’ opinion might influence them to buy an Apple Watch. Some 29% said reviewers might influence their decision.

Image for article titled Only 5% of US iPhone users say they’re very likely to buy an Apple Watch

For contrast, few respondents said that celebrities’ or athletes’ opinions of the Apple Watch would affect their decision. Here, we’d highlight that Apple invited many celebrities to its Watch unveiling in September and hosted a VIP event at Paris Fashion Week. Perhaps Apple knows more about celebrity influence on purchase decisions than individual buyers would care to admit. Recall, also, that its recent acquisition Beats Audio has built a business around celebrity endorsements.

Trust is split

When it comes to deciding where to look for information on the Apple Watch, Apple’s own website took a slender lead as the research site of choice. But nearly as many indicated they would look at Amazon during their research. Will Amazon—which still doesn’t officially sell the iPhone—even sell the Apple Watch? (Will there be an Amazon Fire Watch?)

Image for article titled Only 5% of US iPhone users say they’re very likely to buy an Apple Watch

This suggests most consumers are likely to look for multiple opinions as they weigh whether to purchase an Apple Watch. Apple’s public relations and marketing departments have their work cut out.

Changing behavior?

Purchasing an Apple Watch wouldn’t be a huge change in behavior for many consumers, as many are already watch wearers. (For context, a recent international Morgan Stanley poll found traditional watch ownership at 63%.) About half of our respondents said they regularly wear a watch, with most watch-wearers saying they wear an everyday watch like a Timex or Casio, or a premium brand like a Seiko or Movado watch.

Image for article titled Only 5% of US iPhone users say they’re very likely to buy an Apple Watch

Comfort will be key. Those polled by Morgan Stanley said comfort was their top purchasing criterion for a wearable device. Almost 60% said they were wearing their device “close to all the time” or “during most waking hours.”

Some details on the methodology behind our poll data: SurveyMonkey surveyed American smartphone owners and calculated a sample size large enough to be statistically significant. We had two groups of respondents—US iPhone users and US non-iPhone smartphone users. The number of respondents required for a statistical significance of 95% with a margin of error of +/- 5% was roughly 400 people per group. We surveyed 811 people, split almost equally between the two smartphone user populations.