The tech industry is a funny place. It reads the rumor sites to see what Apple might do next, and then attempts to beat Apple to the punch. The latest case of this is the iWatch. While Tim Cook just recently hinted towards a wearable computing device, Apple hasn’t otherwise said a thing about making a watch. Or a necklace, for that matter. This is all hype fueled by rumor sites and random guesses from analysts. (Gene Munster is still convinced that an Apple TV set is just around the corner. That’s based on, uhm, any random thing he can read into what anyone even loosely connected to Apple might say or hint at.)
I’m not saying that Apple isn’t working on a watch of some sort, but I highly doubt it’ll be the standard watch you’re all thinking of. Watches have two immediate problems that Apple would have to work around:
They’re fashionable and they’re waterproof.
iPods and iPhones are notoriously not waterproof. They have exposed ports for recharging and for headphones. And then they have little sticker inside there to tell when water has hit them, voiding the warrantee. Would an iWatch run on batteries. No, of course not. It would need to be recharged somehow without a hole in it. Does that mean Apple might finally get into the game of making a wireless charger? One of the Android phones has that now, where you just place it on a pad of some sort and the thing magically charges. It’s possible Apple could do that, using the iWatch as a test case for such technology before rolling it out on a grander scale to the iPod Touch and the iPhones. iPads require so much charge that I think they’d be the last to use such technology. Plus, there’d likely be a revolt from people who use third party add-ons that utilize the port. On the other hand, Apple just switched out the old 30 pin adaptor for the Thunderbolt adaptor. So it’s not like they haven’t shown they can do that.
A phone doesn’t need a headphone jack, so that’s not a problem. But is the technology there for the touch screens to be waterproof?
Second is the fashion thing. Current styles go chunky large for men, and smaller for women. The problem isn’t just a pipeline and fashion thing, but a whole user input thing. Unless the whole thing is run by voice control, the watch will need a display most likely larger than what a woman’s watch would normally be. I don’t see Apple disrupting the fashion world in that way.
All of this leads to my theory of what an iWatch is: An iPhone accessory. It’s a bracelet that you wear on your wrist with a bunch of sensors in it that communicates automatically with your iPhone. At best, it has a small one-line digital display of the time on it somewhere. You could make it in black and white. You could make it in a few different lengths to accomodate different wrist sizes. But inside, it has a GPS chip and an accelerometer and who knows what else?
The secret to the product isn’t the hardware, but rather in what software Apple comes up with to utilize the “iWatch.” It has to do more than just what the current market for pedometers and health checkers offer. Maybe that small display (underneath an extra layer of something that’s clear and water protectant) tells you who’s calling before you pull the phone out of your pocket. Maybe swiping your finger along it turns the volume up and down on your iPhone that’s currently playing your favorite song.
And it charges wirelessly, but requires so little power that it easily lasts the whole day and recharges while you sleep. That’ll be the trick. This watch will be an eighth the size of an iPhone, yet still contain sensors and a memory chip. There’s not that much room in such a device for a battery. Keeping it powered will be a trick. But the lack of a display — or a small one, at most — will be a big help.
That’s my guess. In a few months, I may be proven wrong. Or, I’ll stand by my earlier prediction: This is all a fake-out from Apple to keep the competition busy in R&D making a product for a market that won’t be interested in it.