Mac Information

Apple Macintosh, iPod, iPad and iPhone news and advice in Dublin, Ireland


Imagining the iWatch

We have gone wild at Mac Information today With the various rumours about a possible iWatch, I thought I would look at the possibility of such a product and see what lessons we can taken from Apple’s past.

So what will we see in the iWatch. What features make sense to people who know Apple and what do we know about how they design their products?

1/ iWatch- it will be thin. Apple would not produce a clumpy design which would feel intrusive. It would need to be very light and thin on the wrist. Jonathan Ive would now allow a clump-on-your-hand out of the design studio, so expect thin, light and unobtrusive.
2/ Lightening- it needs to have a lightening connector on the side for recharging (and possibly for syncing) and this is likely to be one of only two connections. Apple’s transition to the Lightening to USB cable in 2012 makes it possible to produce thinner devices.
3/ Bluetooth and WiFi- these have to be in there as the iWatch will need to connect to the internet to access services such as email and web. Bluetooth could be the way to go for headphones. Imagine Apple producing a set of small bluetooth headphones to pair with for music, radio, and Siri input? This is what Apple show in their information for the iPod nano, showing us how the iWatch could connect to headphones, speakers, car stereos etc.
4/ SIM card- now this is more tricky. Even a nano-SIM, the smallest version of the SIM card, would take up a lot of space in a small, thin iWatch. Would Apple be a able to give up the space for this in the watch? It is more likely that they would opt for some type of embedded SIM, which is integrated inside the body of the device. This would do away with the need for cards and opening trays, but would be difficult to implement due to mobile carrier requirements. Would Vodafone and O2 allow Apple to do this? Expect an iWatch with an embedded-SIM card to start on one or two US networks (AT&T and Verizon?) and for it to be rolled out later across other international carriers over 6 months.
5/ Apps- oh yes, they have to be in there. However we expect a new type of app to be produced. iWatch apps would not be iPhone or iPad apps as a new category would be required to work with the smaller screen. Expect a different category too with more of a focus on information based apps rather than content creation. Watch out Nike+ Wristband; the iWatch will do what you do right now, but far, far better.
6/ Voice recognition and Siri- this has to be key, given the lack of a keyboard or input device. The watch would have one button to active speech, so there will be many people on the bus chatting to their watch on the way to work! “What time is my first appointment” spoken into the watch and the result played into the bluetooth headset or displayed on the screen. “Compose new email” followed by dictating your message into your new message window.
7/ NFC- now is the time. Apple were criticised for not adding NFC into the iPhone 5 but launching it on the iWatch is far more sensible. Imagine Passbook or your iTunes account being included in the iWatch. When you go to pay in an Apple retail store you could swipe your wrist and watch over a receiver and you account is debited. It is unnatural to do this by fumbling in your pocket to pull out your iPhone. But with the watch on your wrist it makes complete intuitive sense. It temporarily turns your watch into a digital wristband at a sports game or concert, giving you access as your electronic ticket at turnstiles.
8/ given that the developer community needs time to prepare their apps, expect an announcement similar to the launch of the iPad and iPhone. These both happened at the start of the year (2007 and 2010) with the launch of the product later that year (June), allowing the developer community time to work on their apps and submit them to the App Store. If an iWatch is to launch in 2014, it is likely that a similar schedule will be use. But if it did happen this year, the iWatch would need to be announced this June at WWDC. We would not place money on this!

Conclusion: Try Googling Apple iWatch- those clumpy boxes on a strap are way off, and I believe almost none has given a sensible impression to what Apple might produce. This device needs to be light and natural on the wrist to persuade people who don’t wear watches (us included) to begin to carry a device on their arm.

Remember what Tim Cook said at D11 this week: “We release products when they are ready. We believe very much in the element of surprise. We think customers love surprises. I have no plan on changing that.” We expect that the iWatch will be part of this philosophy so don’t expect any beta products being announced. Apple will go to the market when they are ready, this year or next year, and will only venture into this new field if they are sure they can bring a new and unique slant to wearable technology.

Dr. Simon Spence / 2013.