Apple Watch goes on sale - quietly - in Asia

TOKYO - The Apple Watch debuted in some Asian markets Friday, but with sales limited to those who had pre-ordered online, it was a low-key start with none of the fanfare and fuss usually seen for a launch by the tech titan.

Previous launches of the firm's products such as the iPhone and iPad have seen queues beginning to form more than a week in advance, with many wearing fancy dress waiting for a throng of store staff to throw the doors open with loud whoops and cheers.

But official outlets in the Japanese capital were quiet Friday, with none of them stocking the smartwatch that the California company is hoping will give it a leading position in the world of wearables.

While the device has been much anticipated the only lines seen in the firm's Asia stores were of those customers who had pre-ordered it in Japan, Hong Kong, China and Australia, where it has launched.

However, at least one non-Apple outlet in Tokyo was selling them to walk-up customers, an AFP reporter witnessed.

Those who got their hands on a watch declared themselves pleased.

"I'm happy. I want to wear it all the time," said Makoto Saito, a 23-year-old who appeared at the store in the chic Omotesando area, wearing a giant cardboard Apple Watch on her head.

Saito said she took the day off work to pick up the gadget.

Takuya Kajigaya, 32, said he was "thrilled" with his purchase.

"I want to make phone calls (with the watch) once I'm back home," he said, adding it would be a little embarrassing to talk to the device on his wrist.

While most of the buyers at the Softbank store preordered the watch, 39-year-old programmer Yuichiro Masui said he had been waiting outside since Thursday night.

"I want to try the fitness application because I'm concerned about my weight," he said.

And in China, which is expected to be a key market, new owners went online to give their views.

"It is awesome! The Apple ecosystem is so strong, a large batch of applications can be used on the Apple Watch," said one happy recipient on the country's Twitter-like Sina Weibo.

Another posted: "Have received the apple watch, have done some research but still couldn't get used to it. Give it time, I really like it!" Apple says the watch will connect wirelessly to a user's iPhone and will be the interface for messaging, calls and apps, especially ones geared toward health and fitness.

Users can also send a real-time display of their heartbeat to another Apple Watch.

Prices start at US$349 (S$467), with a limited-edition gold version costing US$10,000.