With the holiday shopping season now gearing up, the expectation is that many people will purchase an Apple Watch as a gift. While Apple won't disclose how many Apple Watches it has sold, market research firm Canalys estimates Apple has already shipped 7 million watches. More and more people — from office types to fitness devotees — covet the Apple Watch, which lets people make and take phone calls, respond to texts from their wrists, and get notifications about email, as well as track things like heart rate and calories burned during exercise.
"People who buy it love it. A lot of the reasons cited are for the health and fitness benefits and the notifications — being able to use your Watch and not have your iPhone with you all the time," said Ben Bajarin, principal analyst at California-based Creative Strategies. "But the No. 1 barrier to people saying they're not interested in it is cost."
Indeed, buying such a pricey tech gadget needs some savvy. That's because the wearable device comes in three base models — Apple Watch Sport, Apple Watch and Apple Watch Edition. And with more than three dozen ways to customize, prices can range anywhere from $349 to $17,000. Fashion houses are also busy tailoring models to be aesthetically pleasing to the crowd.
Those on the hunt for an Apple Watch can find them online and in the Apple Store, Best Buy, Target and B&H Photo and Electronics in New York City. For those on a shopping mission, here are the five big things to watch for that can affect your bank account.
1. A bigger watch case
The case of the Apple Watch comes in only two sizes: 38 mm and 42 mm. Obviously, larger watch cases will increase the cost: the 38-mm Apple Watch Sport costs $349 compared to the $399 it costs for the 42-mm model. Cases are square with rounded edges, but the materials the cases are made out of also affect the bottom line. The Sport case is made of aluminum, whereas the standard Watch case is made of stainless steel. The case of the Apple Watch Edition — starting at $10,000, it's the priciest of the three Apple Watch models — is 18-karat yellow or rose gold.
2. The type of band
Once you've decided how much surface area you need, the next consideration for most will be the band. The Apple Watch Sport comes with a colorful sport band — the 38-mm Apple Watch with the sport band will cost $549. But consumers can opt from a number of bands, from stainless steel to leather, which can drive up the price. That same 38-mm Apple Watch with a classic-buckle band, for instance, will cost an additional $100.
Prices of the bands ascend in this order: sport bands at $49; Milanese loops, classic buckles and leather loops at $149; modern buckles at $249; and the stainless-steel link bracelet, which starts at $449. If you want one of the black link bracelets, for either a 38-mm or 42-mm watch, be ready to pay $549. And if you're set on getting a stainless-steel link bracelet but have a wrist bigger than 205 mm in diameter, you'll pay an extra $49 for the links needed to make a bigger bracelet.
By the way, this doesn't include the Apple Watch Hermès, the line of Apple Watches that start at $1,100 and retail for up to $1,500 and feature leather bands made by the luxury fashion boutique Hermès.
Apple HQ declined to speak on the record for this article, but according to an in-store specialist at a Philadelphia Apple Store who spoke with CNBC, buying the AppleCare+ package for your Apple Watch, regardless of model, is probably a good decision.
The warranty that comes with the Watch covers natural wear-and-tear, any immediate problems with the battery, and small damages like hairline cracks. But with an AppleCare+ package, the hardware repair coverage available through the limited warranty that comes with each watch purchase is extended to two years, and up to two incidents of accidental damage will be covered. That means you're protected against things like dropping and cracking the Apple Watch case or breaking the Watch band.
Again, prices for the insurance correspond accordingly. Those with an Apple Watch Sport, the least expensive of the three models at $349 for a 38-mm Watch, will pay an additional $49, plus a potential $69 service fee for each instance of accidental damage covered. Insurance for the Apple Watch costs $69, plus a potential $79 service fee per instance.
The boldest among us will pay $1,500 for their insurance. They're the ones who opted for the Apple Watch Edition with an 18-karat gold case. Eight different styles of the Edition model are available. At $10,000, the cheapest is the 38-mm Watch fitted with a sport band, but the person who wants an Apple Watch Edition outfitted with the modern buckle will pay $17,000. In this case, the insurance includes three years of hardware repair coverage, but each incident of accidental damage will be subject to a $1,000 service fee.
AppleInsider reported this week that Apple Watch resellers B&H Photo and Electronics and Best Buy are offering discounts on Apple Watch and the Apple Watch Sport. Sure enough, trips to the two retailers' websites show that B&H is offering up to $30 off, while Best Buy is taking $50 off on purchases of the Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch.
5. Extra battery life
Each Apple Watch, when fully charged, will get 18 hours of use. However, early criticisms of Apple's smartwatch include the slow pace of charging as well as a battery life that drops off considerably when the navigation and music player features are used.
To get more use out of your Apple Watch, the Reserve Strap might be the tool you need. Its creators claim that by exploiting the hidden six-pin port on the Apple Watch, where the watch's bands currently fasten, they've created a watch band that will charge the Apple Watch using that hidden port while you're wearing it. Bands, however, don't begin shipping until 2016.