No long queues as Apple Watch debuts

Apple Watch

PALO ALTO, Calif. (AP) – An online rush replaced the traditional overnight queues outside Apple stores Friday as the iconic tech company began taking orders and letting shoppers get their hands on its much-vaunted smartwatch for the first time.

Eager customers placed online orders for the Apple Watch as soon as Apple’s website began accepting them, shortly after midnight Pacific Time. Within half an hour, the company appeared to sell out the initial batch of watches that were available for the first official day of shipping on April 24. By midmorning, Apple’s website was showing the earliest shipping date for many watch models would be in June or later.

Demand was difficult to gauge, since Apple hasn’t said how many watches were available for shipping in the first wave on April 24. And in contrast with earlier releases of new Apple products, there were no big lines of shoppers waiting all night outside the company’s retail stores.

That’s because Apple encouraged customers to make appointments for a 15-minute opportunity to try on different models – which are priced starting at $349 and go up to $17,000 for a luxury edition – while specially trained employees explained their features. Apple is only accepting orders online, for now.

But the debut still came with some of the anticipation and marketing sizzle for which Apple Inc. is famous.

Apple retail staffers in New York, Atlanta and other cities clapped and cheered as the first customers streamed through their stores’ signature glass doors just before 10 a.m. Eager shoppers also examined the watch at shops in London, Shanghai and Tokyo.

Apple, which is based in Cupertino, California, hasn’t offered any estimates, but some analysts have predicted the company could sell 10 million to 20 million watches this year. By comparison, it sold more than 10 million of its new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus smartphones in the first weekend they were available last September, and a record total of 74.5 million iPhones in the fourth quarter last year.