Consumers not sold on Apple Watch without more details, analyst says

Only 7 percent of iPhone buyers polled by analyst Gene Munster intend to buy Apple's upcoming smartwatch, down from 8 percent in September.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
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Apple Watch, we hardly know you yet. James Martin/CNET

Apple needs to reveal more about its new smartwatch if it expects to drum up greater interest among potential buyers, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster.

Among 968 US iPhone owners recently surveyed by Munster, only 7 percent said they plan to buy an Apple Watch. That number is down from 8 percent this past September and 10 percent in September of 2013 (a year before the watch was actually unveiled).

In an investors note released late Sunday, Munster did note that on iPhone 6 launch day three months ago, 34 percent of the 386 customers waiting in line to buy the new phone expressed an interest in purchasing the Apple Watch. But the analyst pegged these as early adopters and not truly representative of the entire iPhone population.

Munster said he believes the "muted" response to the watch so far is the result of consumers still awaiting more information about the product. What is the watch's killer feature? What apps will be available for the device? The analyst expects Apple to answer these and other questions as we approach the launch of the watch, thereby increasing consumer interest and demand.

"As we get closer to launch of the Watch, which we expect in the Jun-15 quarter, we believe that Apple will begin to highlight more functionality of the product as well as third-party apps, which we note were what eventually helped the iPhone accelerate in adoption," Munster said.

Apple unveiled its new smartwatch, along with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, on September 9. The company demonstrated certain features of the watch. But there's clearly still a sense among consumers, at least those polled, that more details need to be revealed before they might commit to buying the gadget. The Apple Watch unites the features of a smartwatch with those of a health and fitness band and so could potentially appeal to a wide audience. But Apple faces a growing lineup of competing devices from Microsoft, Samsung and other major players and so needs to explain to consumers what distinguishes its product from all the others on the market.

Yet even as Apple shares more details about its watch, Munster expects "first-year sales to be modest."

Apple has been mum about a specific launch date for its watch, saying only that it would roll out in early 2015, reportedly in the spring. Expecting the watch to hit the stores in the quarter that ends in June, Munster projects sales of 8 million units for all of 2015 and 10 million units for the watch's first full year. That's lower than average Wall Street estimates of 12 million to 15 million watches sold throughout all of next year.

Overall, Munster forecasts that the Apple Watch will add around 2 percent to Apple's revenue for 2015.