Cezary Wojcik
Keyboard Wizard
Apple's Forthcoming iWatch

July 17, 2013

Ever since Apple discontinued the iPod nano 6th generation on September 12, 2012, speculation started about a potential iWatch (the 6th generation iPod nano was the square-shaped variation that could easily be worn as a watch with a special strap). Recently, rumors about an iWatch have resurfaced. Back in February, Bloomberg reported that Apple has around 100 designers working on a "wristwatch computer." Another report surfaced in March confirmed that Apple has at least 79 patents filed that mention a "wrist."

Apple's iWatch will not be the first wristwatch computer, much as the iPhone was not the first touch screen phone. Pebble is the main product currently in the wristwatch computer market. It uses an e-ink display, which solves some interesting problems that come about with a wristwatch computer. The first problem that e-ink solves is having a display that is constantly on. Having to hit some sort of button every time you want to see the time on your watch seems silly. The second problem is battery life. The Pebble watch lasts 7+ days on a single charge. Everyone already has enough devices to have to charge regularly. I don't have to worry about charging my analog wristwatch, so a wristwatch computer is far more inconvenient in that regard.

There are many very difficult design decisions with regards to a wristwatch computer. The battery is the first concern. If I have to worry about making sure to charge another device regularly, then it needs to be worth my while. That alone begs the question, what problem would a wristwatch computer solve? The obvious features are checking time, text messages, and calls. Is managing calls and texts on a far smaller screen really more convenient than having to pull your phone out of your pocket? I don't think it is. Not only do you have to worry about another device to charge, but you're also working with a smaller screen.

The screen is another big concern. Obviously, any Apple wristwatch would have a touchscreen, but what sort of screen would it be? I doubt that Apple would use an e-ink display as Pebble does. But is it possible to have a screen that is constantly on that isn't e-ink? Not without serious battery concerns. Because having to activate the screen on a wristwatch just to see the time seems so silly, I imagine that Apple will implement some sort of automatic screen activation. It's extremely likely that an Apple wristwatch would have a front-facing camera for things such as Facetime, so it is likely that the camera could have some sort of eye detection in conjunction with an accelerometer. I'm sure that this is an issue that Apple engineers are working very hard to solve

Assume that Apple solves the issue of both the screen and the battery. The next concern is the OS. Would an Apple wristwatch run iOS, or some iOS-like entity the likes of an iPod nano? Running iOS seems to make the most sense because the App Store is so profitable for both Apple and developers. The introduction of an iWatch would likely mean that developers have a new screen size to worry about. Depending on what kind of screen an Apple wristwatch has, making "universal" apps that run on iWatch, iPhone, and iPad could be far more involved. Since an iWatch would most likely connect to an iPhone via bluetooth, that begs the question of what new iPhone-iWatch APIs we would see. Would the iWatch have direct connection to the internet, or would it just sync with apps? If it does have a connection to the internet, would that require a tethering plan?

There are many concerns and questions I have about a potential iWatch. At the moment, I doubt that an iWatch could be worth it. I'm hopeful that Apple proves me wrong. I can't wait to see what Apple comes up with.