iwatch rolex 2

For the past year or so, Apple executives have been teasing new product categories coming in 2014.

“There will be new categories,” Tim Cook told The Wall Street Journal back in February, for example. “We’re not ready to talk about it, but we’re working on some really great stuff.” Sadly, six months have already passed without a single major Apple product launch, let alone a new product category.

I’m referring to a mythical iWatch, of course, although Apple is rumored to enter new markets other than smartwatches, such as home automation accessories.

A report earlier today by KGI Securities’ pretty reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has hinted that Apple has been forced to push mass production of the iWatch back more than a month. He now expects the device to enter production as late as November.

Assuming Kuo is right, when can we expect iWatches to hit store shelves? Read on…

Let me just say it flatly: there’s no way the iWatch will release by Christmas if mass-production is kickstarting in November. For starters, companies like Apple lock their holiday lineups well before Black Friday.

For our non-US readers, Black Friday is the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the United States, which itself falls on the fourth Thursday of November. Frequently regarded as the unofficial beginning of the Christmas shopping season, Black Friday has routinely been the busiest shopping day of the year since 2005.

That’s why Apple now debuts new iPhones/iPads in September/October rather than in Spring/Summer. Most people routinely pick newly introduced consumer electronics products for Christmas gifts rather than gadgets that have been on the market six or more months.

iWatch concept (All, Todd Hamilton 001)
iWatch as a fitness band. Image top of post: iWatch as a fashionable watch.

Indeed, who wants an iPhone that’s no longer “new” for Christmas?

Apple typically releasing new category products in or around Spring is also a factor. For example, the original iPad was released on April 3, 2010. As for the original iPhone, it got introduced in January 2007 but hit the market six months later due to FCC requirements outside of Apple’s control.

The fact that we haven’t seen a single iWatch part signals that components hadn’t entered production yet. And if suppliers hadn’t really started shipping iWatch parts to Apple, and assuming assembly work won’t commence until late-November, a 2014 launch appears increasingly unlikely.

An iWatch in late-November or early-December would be a terrible timing. Worse, as Apple would have a very limited number of devices, it’d would be unable to keep up with huge demand as fans flock to buy a brand new category-defining Apple gizmo since the iPad.

As for January-February 2015 release, these are typically quiet periods of the year and therefore bad product launch months. By this logic, (again, assuming Kuo is spot on about late-November production) March or April 2015 is the soonest the iWatch would come out.

Keep in mind that the company got away with delaying Mac Pro shipments for months, not weeks, so anything is possible.

Apple Stores (Istanbul, Turkey, image 001)
Apple’s new retail outlet in Istanbul, Turkey.

Apple may announce the iWatch right before mass production in order to avoid leaks.

In this scenario, a November introduction right ahead of production ramp-up could help prevent leaks as much as possible while keeping the surprise factor alive. Assuming the iWatch does enter mass production in mid-to-late November, this begs the question of Christmas availability.

A very late-2014 launch with constrained supply is always a distant possibility. With that in mind, Apple could formally introduce the device in late-October or even early-November and opt to collect pre-orders in the weeks ahead. This would buy them some precious time to build enough units before first shipments start leaving docks in China.

There’s of course no telling how much demand there is for the iWatch, so maybe a few million units would be enough to survive Christmas demand after all?

Check out Motorola’s ‘Why a Watch’ video regarding its Motor 360 device.

So there you have it.

If Kuo is right, the iWatch probably won’t see its high-profile introduction and launch before Spring 2015 at the earliest – unless you believe that Tim Cook was (un)intentionally lying about great new products throughout 2014.

At any rate, Apple being Apple means the iWatch will release when it’s fully ready and up to Apple’s highest standards. Tim Cook & Co. don’t seem to be religiously committed to roadmaps and deadlines when it comes to category-defining product launches so I’m not surprised that the iWatch has been delayed a couple times now.

And if you think that Apple hiring senior-level iWatch executives a few short months ahead of launch is nonsensical, keep in mind that its head of iPad marketing was hired two months before the tablet’s introduction.

iWatch concept (teaser 001)

Before wrapping up, let me just point out that Kuo thus far has been pretty reliable with Apple predictions, at least for an analyst. On the other hand, he’s had some notable misses, mostly in terms of timing. Because of that, you’re advised to take my armchair analysis based on Kuo’s analyst note with a pinch of salt.

Kuo said the iWatch will incorporate a flexible AMOLED display, sapphire coated display cover, higher waterproof standards and brand new system-on-a-chip components. He’s also dropped estimates for 2014 iWatch shipments by 40 percent to three million units.

And your $0.02?

When can we expect the iWatch?

Chime in with your observations down in the comments.