Apple's iWatch, the rumored gadget on which a 100 people have been purportedly working, has generated enough dust storm to last till the next-big product launch from Apple expected sometime in March/April this year. Some of us believe that “iWatch” is not a matter of if but a matter of when.
There's a lot riding for Apple in this part of the tech world. They've been doing a lot of stuff in the personal computing world. They revolutionized smartphones and then tablets. What companies like Sony did to television standards, Apple did to both desktop and mobile. Resolutions have gone through the roof and performance benchmarks have often gone beyond expectations.
But innovation has, kind of, hit a plateau. There's a lot of chatter about Apple's product line-up being nothing more than thinner and lighter variants with some not-so-surprising performance upgrades thrown in.
I do think Apple needs a new innovation to boost its position as that old pirate who defied standard industry notions about people's technology. And interestingly, wearable computing needs that breakthrough which will push it from this research lab to the laps of people.
Google Glass – while being an ambitious project – is a somewhat obtrusive thing. Even if you were a hardcore Google+-er, you'd find it uncomfortable wearing your Glass all the time. Success of contact lenses has an important market pointer here.
The same can be said about the iWatch but think of it like a resurgence of a past glory. Swiss watches are still coveted and cherished gadgets. A watch holds not just an embellishment but a sense of legacy: a throwback.
And iWatch, needless to say, will provide an enormous opportunity to these things:
- less fiddling with a larger gadget (smartphone) for things like time, date, weather, alerts
- a better voice-command communication protocol rather than tapping and swiping on screens
- a more personal gadget that doesn't demand being carried in pockets, safely and securely
- a familiar interface (more on this later)
The Recent Rumor Pile-up
A lot of rumors has been piled up regarding iWatch. It's come to a point where people generally are of the opinion that it's just a matter of when the iWatch would be released. The truth, as much can be inferred from gathered data, is that we're not even sure if iWatch has come out of the prototyping stages. The production is far away now. (read our report on iWatch release dates)
iWatch would certainly be one of those mini projects that Apple will involve itself into. The iPad Mini was a pet project that would fetch Apple a few millions – spare change in comparison to other large-scale products like the iPad and iPhone. The iWatch can be safely assumed to be a pet project too but how it gets implemented decides what kind of a revolutionary product it turns out into.
iWatch Design Spec
What really matters now is that Corning, the legendary maker of Gorilla glass, cracked the code behind wafer-thin curved glasses: a prerequisite for an iWatch. The Willow glass is light, thin and curved. Samsung has produced and displayed (at the CES) it's own version of curved LCD screens but they're not probably iWatch-material.
There have been plenty of iWatch concept designs and mockups around the cyberspace but very few actually appear to be realistic and aesthetic. Apple prefers a simplistic, truthful design. They're the Vitsœ's of personal computing.
To me, the iPod Nano-embedded design looks more like what Apple would be after. A clear demarcation of the interface from the strap seems very straight-forward, something that I feel would trigger the familiarity while keeping the user-friendly levels high.
The iWatch is expected to fill a lot of missing technologies from the iOS ecosystem including NFC. It is expected to make Siri even more personal and powerful.
Personal Computing Gone More Personal
When it comes to iWatch's features, there have been only a few good inputs. Since the product hasn't purportedly even crossed the prototype stage, it wouldn't be an optimal time to speculate on what Apple has in store. However, the whole thing is an awesome fertile land for millions of possibilities.
Siri has been constantly at the forefront of any iWatch-like technology. You would communicate with your device through voice commands (mostly). Interfaces for weather, call and message alerts, reminders/tasks, and any superfluous action can be performed simply through voice commands that a mic would pick up. Commands may be relayed to your iPhone connected via Bluetooth or to the apps that reside on your iWatch.
Obviously, an iWatch without a touchscreen interface that lets a touch input in addition to voice inputs would be shortsighted. But how far would the touch interface be used? What would be the level of functionality? What would be the ratio of touch to voice inputs as envisioned by Apple?
These are the core things that would decide what kind of a revolution Apple wants to bring to the wearable computing sector. I would assume that the focus would be more on voice-based inputs with the occasional touch inputs filling in the limitations of voice inputs.
iWatch as a Standalone Product
This also brings us to another question that often goes unasked.
Would the iWatch be a standalone product that can connect to other iDevices or would it merely be an add-on to your iPhone?
The former sounds more promising and interesting. This would put iWatch release dates far into the future (2014 or later?) but it would definitely signify a new generation of products. But as some critics point out, the iWatch would be severely limited in functionality if it's merely a standalone product. Yet, I think Apple will actually produce something that can exist outside the iPhone ecosystem and still connect to it and increase the overall functionality.
There's also the possibility of a new communication protocol besides Bluetooth pairing the iWatch and your iPhone but that's an entire debate of its own.