Apple has all but admitted that it screwed up the Apple Watch launch

The Apple Watch launch has not gone as planned.

Sales have been strong — some estimates suggest Apple sold more devices in a day than Google managed with Android Wear in a year — but there has been widespread confusion over availability.

Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts has now recorded a video message to retail staff that aims to bring “clarity,” and acknowledging that staff are being “bombarded with questions” by confused customers.

The Cupertino company’s product launches have always been spectacular affairs, with customers often queueing overnight, and greeted by cheering Apple employees when doors finally open.

But for the Apple Watch, Apple tried an entirely new model. Instead, it opted for a preorder system: Customers could preorder the device online and go into stores to try it on — but they couldn’t actually take the device home. Instead, the smartwatch is due to start shipping on April 24.

In a memo leaked to Business Insider, Ahrendts said the decision was a “significant change in mindset” for the company, and that “the days of waiting in line and crossing fingers for a product are over for our customers.”

However, there have been problems.

Delays and backtracking

The device sold out almost immediately online — as expected. But many customers are now being told their Apple Watch may not ship until August, and Apple has now removed the April 24 shipping date from its site.

Ahrendts subsequently rowed back on her comments about ditching queues, saying that “we all love those blockbuster Apple product launch days — and there will be many more to come.”

Apple also told a customer who complained that there was “great concern” among executives at the company about the launch date and the fact that many customers were expecting their devices on April 24 — as advertised.

Apple watch drawer covent gardenRob Price/BIAn Apple Store employee with the device during a try-on session.

In the new video from Ahrendts, the former Burberry CEO concedes that retail employees are “being bombarded with questions” — an acknowledgement that many customers still have no idea what is going on.

The number one question, Ahrendts says, is “will you have the product in store for purchase on the 24th?” No, she confirms — it will be online only for now. This was “not an easy decision to make,” and the retail boss thinks “it’s really important to remind every single customer that this is not just a new product for us, this is an entirely new category.”

When Ahrendts said “the days of waiting in line… are over,” she wasn’t just talking about the Apple Watch: The memo referred to the new line of MacBooks too, indicating this was a much broader change.

Long-term, this won’t matter. Sales estimates indicate Apple is now comfortably the single-largest smartwatch platform, and stands to dominate the app economy accordingly. But for Angela Ahrendts, who was brought on to “revitalise” Apple’s retail experience, it’s an embarrassing misstep.

Here’s the full video from Angela Ahrendts to Apple retail employees:

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