Wearable computing has been in R&D for decades and the “smartwatch” seems to be imminent. But there’s rarely a perfect new product.
Apple is known for disrupting markets and instantly making existing products passe (including their own), but their first versions are usually basic and their disruption sometimes takes several iterations to take hold.
Samsung was first to market here with the Galaxy Gear, but it’s very limited and has a horrible battery life, and besides mounting on your wrist, it won’t give you anything a cheap smartphone can’t provide in a better, more powerful way.
It also requires a smart phone nearby to be configured to perform many of it’s advertised features. Samsung made this “watch” require a phone, and it’s not being received well.
Apple’s name has been attached with an ‘iWatch” for several years now, and most people such as myself believe that Apple could indeed deliver such a device out of the box that has enough battery life and features (ecosystem) to be a viable product.
There’s also debate about whether a smartwatch should be a companion device, or, if like the iPhone and iPad before it, we will see people downsizing and modernizing to 1-2 devices instead of 3-5. This is the crux of The Secret to Apple’s iWatch Success: Self-Sufficiency.
So let’s brainstorm — what would the perfect iWatch do for you?
We won’t have an on-screen keyboard or 4G built in. We could have a bluetooth headset and a few on-device buttons. The primary interface will probably be voice beyond the tiny touchscreen, basic watch-like frame buttons similar to iPod/iPhone/iPad.
Before any science fiction we should look at the ecosystem apple has already developed, and how another iClient – one that lives on your body – could integrate:
- iTunes Music & Media – control playback of local iTunes’, tune in iTRadio, stream media from your iT, manage apps that are iWatch compatible
- Mail – display or read messages aloud, take dictation for new messages, attend/don’t attend meeting invites, notification updates
- iCal Calendars – display or read events aloud, add new events by voice, receive notifications and directions for every meeting
- Safari browser – view bookmarks, get RSS feeds, add bookmark
- Messages/FaceTime – read messages, speak messages aloud, compose messages by voice or list, do facetime video conferencing
- Contacts – look up people, add voice notes or dictate notes, get notifications on birthdays & anniversaries, Find My Friends by location
- Automator macro tools – run Automator actions on your mac remotely – this is the pathway into remote control of your macs and your home
- Finder tags & Spotlight search – run spotlight search on your macs, use QuickLook to see results, call up a tag and iWatch shows you all it’s files
- Time Machine backup – run backups, browse backups, use QuickLook to peek back in time
- AppleTV – remote control for AppleTV, manage your channel queue’s without disturbing playback, take over the display (Picture in Picture?) using watch, for instance, “Open <bookmark>, display on AppleTV”
- Health monitoring – I’m not sure what app manages this, but Apple has been working with Nike to perfect athletic monitoring software, and an iWatch touching your wrist all day could deliver all sorts of health data.
- Siri voice control – critical for all of the above. No on-screen keyboard and a small screen makes voice the primary interface. All existing Siri features should work on iWatch, and new voice-centric features should grow.
- Other ideas for the wrist iClient?
I think the secret to Apple’s success here will be the software ecosystem integration. Hardware is mostly done – an iPod nano-touch can be mounted on the wrist already but it’s not quite “the iWatch”.
What kind of hardware would we need to do all of this? We will need at least 1 camera, a wi-fi radio, a bluetooth radio, a curved touchscreen, some flash storage, and enough battery life to get through a day. This is all doable now.
For experimentation – cover up everything but a square inch of your iDevice screen, and use Siri to imagine working with a screen that small. Most powerful uses would require voice OS to accomplish your task.
This is an advanced Siri that can accept simple variables on input, and adjusts her output for the lack of screen. Most of the changes are on the output end, from what I see.
So will Apple put it all together and do an iWatch? I’d pay $200-$500 to get a wrist device that could do even 50% of what I’ve listed above, and most of that is possible already in the iEcosystem using a phone or tablet. Maybe they drop the term ‘watch’ and call it iI, pronounced I & I rastafarian style!