Hopes big — perhaps too big — for Apple's iWatch
With Apple's stock hobbling and questions lingering about its ability to innovate in the post-Steve Jobs era, investors and fans are latching on to hopes that the tech giant's next big thing will be the iWatch.
While little is known of the mythical gadget that has recently become the hottest topic of Silicon Valley's rumor mill, boosters envision a device that would let users read emails, Facebook notifications or caller ID by simply glancing down at their wrists.
The smart watch, connected wirelessly to the iPhone, would tap the power of the voice assistant Siri to control music, dictate messages or get directions. Forget the wallet? Just swipe the watch near a scanner to make a payment. And as you jog home later, the kinetic energy of your movement would keep the battery charged while the watch measures your heart rate and the distance covered.
“It would transform the whole smartphone business and the whole watch business at the same time,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for consumer research firm NPD Group. “And for the better.”
It would do all this and more. If it exists.
For despite all the speculation about Apple's plans, nobody really knows what features it might include, and when Apple might release it.
And yet, this being Apple, such a watch, imagined or real, faces monstrously high expectations. For Apple, there's a big risk that releasing a watch that fails to dazzle, or that falls short of the iFantasyWatch people have in their heads, could hurt its reputation for innovation and raise fresh questions about the company's ability to develop products without its late co-founder.
Veterans of the smart-watch game caution that current technology severely limits the features such a watch could offer, not to mention the difficulty of getting a complex mix of specs just right.
“Apple brings a lot of cachet to the conversation, but success in this category will be about cool design as much as technology,” said Bill Geiser, chief executive of Meta Watch, who has been working on smart watches for more than a decade. “You have a very small space for the device that is largely constrained. The design of any smart watch is driven by anatomy, and it's driven by fashion and it's driven by battery life.”
There is no question that Apple is looking seriously at wearable computing, and most likely something for the wrist.
In recent weeks, several news outlets, including Bloomberg, have cited sources indicating that such a product is on its way.
The financial news agency reported that at least 100 employees are working on a watch.
As is typical, Apple has declined to discuss any plans for future products. In the past decade, the company has filed applications and received numerous patents for technologies related to watch-like devices, including at least 79 that mention the word “wrist,” according to Bloomberg.
In late February, the Patent and Trademark Office revealed a patent application from Apple for a wearable computer in the form of a flexible bracelet that wraps around the wrist.
According to the filing, that gadget would include a multi-touch display that would enable the user to “accomplish a number of different tasks including adjusting the order of a current playlist, or reviewing a list of recent phone calls.
A response to a text message can even be managed given a simple virtual keyboard configuration across the face of the flexible display.”
Another patent, filed by Apple in 2009 and awarded in February, describes a “personal items network, and associated methods.” The patent outlines what Apple calls “movement” or “event monitoring devices” (MMD or EMD) that include sensors and transmitters and an accelerometer to record things such as heart rate, pulse, stress, outside temperature or other environmental conditions. The patent includes a drawing of one such device taped to a person's wrist.
Putting this all together, an Apple smart watch could combine some aspects of a phone but also health monitoring devices such as Nike Inc.'s FuelBand.
And there are plenty of folks who are convinced that such a device represents a massive opportunity not just for Apple, but also for numerous competitors.
“The combination of technologies naturally opens up the opportunity for a body area network to become a reality,” said Geiser, whose firm sells watches that work with both Apple and Android phones. “And the wrist is beachfront property.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Amazon.com distribution center planned for Pittsburgh’s West End
- Smartphone coupons just one way stores aim to increase spontaneous buys
- PPG to sell Illinois glass plant, shift operations to other sites in North America
- Federal appeals courts disagree on Obamacare subsidies
- Income inequality narrower under Obama, analysis concludes