After looking at Galaxy Gear and other so-called smart watches, about the only thing Apple’s iWatch will have in common is the ability to tell time. My own analysis tells me that Apple is working on far more capability, all tied into an array of built-in sensors.
Sensors With Bling
Apple’s iPhone has plenty of sensors already and I expect to see more with iPhone 6. Sensors? Sure. The iPhone is already loaded with sensors and expected to get new ones.
Right now there’s the proximity sensor, the motion sensor-accelerometer, the compass, the ambient light sensor, the gyroscope, and Touch ID fingerprint sensors, just to mention a few.
It doesn’t take much sleuthing to see what Apple is up to. The company has hired a number of fashion industry executives, and even more engineers with biometric sensor experience.
Apple’s iWatch (and I don’t think that will be the name) will be a watch-like device laden with sensors to track health and fitness, including heart rate, blood pressure, blood glucose, and much more, including a sweat sensor.
Most of the more recent reports indicate the iWatch (truly, this needs a different name; maybe even without ‘watch‘ in the name) will come in a variety of sizes, which makes sense for a wearable device.
Where does fashion come in? While I expect the iWatch screen (OK, for now we’re going with watch-like device) and housing to be manufactured in differing sizes, I also expect the capability for accessories makers to manufacture the bands.
That’s right. Apple will sell the watch and a few bands, but there will be other bands from accessories makers. How do I know that? I’m a clothes horse and accessories queen. Variety is the spice of life with wearables.
The List Of Problems
Apple’s solution to the smartphone was a large touch screen, a giant battery, and a thin motherboard with everything crammed on top.
What problems in wearable technology does Apple need to solve? Plenty.
First and foremost is battery life. All those sensors take a bite out of a battery, and Apple’s needs to last a day or two at the very least.
Second on my list is one that may be solved already. Sapphire and Liquid metal to make the device durable, scratch free. Light and strong.
Third on my list of issues to solve has to do with the screen itself. It’s a wearable device so telling time is important. A proximity sensor can keep the screen blank until the wrist is tilted a bit, then the time is exposed.
After that, I expect iPhone and iPad-like icons tied to various apps, but not merely a wrist location substitute for apps which already exist on the iPhone. The iPhone stays in the pocket or purse or backpack until time to use it. Apple’s new device will be more of a notification and sensor device than a Dick Tracy wrist radio.
Since Apple didn’t announce any option for a wearable device in iOS 8 at WWDC 2014, it’s likely that the first apps will be Apple only. Unless Notification Center becomes a wireless conduit from iPhone to iWatch. That makes sense.
Overcoming the need for multiple styles will be a huge issue for Apple. People didn’t mind walking around with the ubiquitous white ear buds for iPod and iPhone, but a watch is as much fashion accessory as it is function. Multiple sizes, multiple case colors, are expected, but third party fashions will be a must.
Finally, there’s price. The base iPhone 5s sells for $650. An iPad mini starts at $399. Most watches are $200 or less, but most of the profit in the watch industry comes from the high end of the product pricing spectrum. Because Apple’s new wearable device doesn’t replace an iPhone, it won’t be priced like the iPhone, probably less than an iPad mini, but not by much.
All indications are that Apple is about to go into wearable technology in a very, very big way, and the watch is a good place to start. Galaxy Gear and Pebble and others are cute, but not all that useful. A thin, light, durable wearable device that bristles with high tech biometric sensors and fits into Apple’s iEcosystem could be the next great thing.
Or, a big bust. Whatever it is, it’s not about the watch.