iWatch: Are we ready to change the way we view the time?

Sections: Features, Opinions and Editorials, Rumors

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Apple has long been rumored to be working on, well, everything. From the obvious iterative updates of its current products to iTVs, iWatches, iCars and other outlandish (and not so outlandish, in some cases) predictions on what will be the next big disruptive technology unleashed on the unsuspecting world by the technology powerhouse, Apple certainly is not running short of ideas any time soon.

Recently, both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal reported that apple is indeed working on a smart wristwatch device, thanks to inside knowledge received via the never-tired journalistic trope of “people familiar with the matter.” Both of these reports claim that deep inside Apple’s Cupertino headquarters, top secret research is going into curved glass displays that will curve around the wrist and act as an extension of your iPhone.

In its headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., Apple is experimenting with wristwatch-like devices made of curved glass, according to people familiar with the company’s explorations, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because they are not allowed to publicly discuss unreleased products. Such a watch would operate on Apple’s iOS platform, two people said, and stand apart from competitors based on the company’s understanding of how such glass can curve around the human body.

Apple accidentally made its first foray into the dying wristwatch market with its 6th generation iPod nano. The small square device (pictured above) inspired an entirely new market segment of iPod accessories devoted to transforming the product into a watch by way of an attachable wristband, after a joke made at the keynote by the late Steve Jobs. “One of the members of our Board of Directors is going to use it as a watch,” Jobs said jokingly, leading to an explosion of third party accessories, one of which is wrapped around my wrist as I type this.

Apple put an end to this “iWatch” fashion with the latest update to the iPod nano, ditching the small square form factor for a thinner, longer device. Conspiracy theorists claimed this was a deliberate preemptive move by apple to not butcher it’s own future wristwatch market, and we all laughed. But these recent reports may lend credence to the theory.

Apple has a history of disrupting the status quo in various areas they feel need an update. They did it to the music industry with iTunes. They did it to the phone industry with the iPhone, heavily regarded as the world’s first true smart phone. Most recently, they did it to themselves with the iPad mini. The timepiece industry, while not an obvious industry for Apple to leap into, is definitely in need of a 21st century shakeup. My generation has never had much use for traditional watches; our phones are quite capable of telling us the time. Statistics show that wristwatch sales have been in a steady decline since 2005, their only saving grace is that they make a fancy addition to the wrist for anyone wanting to look classy. With the Jobsian philosophy of technology meeting liberal arts and humanities firmly ingrained in their companies DNA, Apple is the perfect company to blend cutting edge technology with elegant, state of the art design and make the wristwatch relevant again for future generations.

Pebble has already shown us how smart a watch can really be, linking their slick waterproof e-paper display wristwatch with our smartphones via bluetooth to display vital and customizable information. The product was a hit on kickstarter ($10m in backers, one of the first highly successful kickstarter projects) proving that, yes, there is a market for smart watches.

Wearable computing has long been thought of as the next phase in the digital revolution, and Apple CEO Tim Cook has even expressed a slight interest in the idea at All Things D last year. Google has stolen all the headlines in this emerging field with their experimental Google Glass technology. A smart watch would be a great way for Apple to throw their hat into the wearable computing ring without producing something that looks like it would be at home on a cyborg from Blade Runner, while at the same time doing what they do when they are at their best—shaking up a pre-existing industry with much needed improvements.

Here’s hoping that sometime soon I’ll be reading emailed comments to this article on my wrist while outside playing fetch with my dog, and my phone safely on charge in my bedroom. I say, delegate the nano watch to hipsters everywhere, and give me my first true apple iWatch.

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  • Bill Matthies

    “Apple accidentally made its first foray into the dying wristwatch market with its 6th generation iPod nano.”

    The “dying wristwatch market”. Sigh!

    Whenever I read a comment such as that, particularly from a tech writer, I immediately get a mental picture of young, nerdy, no style geek. An individual whose primary focus in life is on the processor speed of the (too) many devices he/she carries with them everywhere they go. (If the pocket protector fits Greg, wear it.)

    These are people who repeatedly say the market for wristwatches is “dying” or “dead” because, they also say, “You can tell time on your phone. Who needs a watch?”


    For anyone even minutely interested in style it’s never been only about telling time. Watches are as much if not more a piece of jewelry, and at the higher end, a marvel of craftsmanship. Me and millions like me have and wear many of them and I assure you it’s not solely because we need them to know what time it is. (Do you have more than one pair of shoes? If so, why? You’ve only got one pair of feet which can be easily covered by just one pair of shoes, right?)

    I have more watches than I will admit to, and certainly more than I need, in addition to my S III, MackBrook Pro, iPad, and iMac. Some of those devices take great pictures but that doesn’t mean I still don’t feel the need for, and therefore have, a Sony Nex7 for taking still better pictures, an iPod Touch for listening to music or watching video.

    And who knows, I may add an Apple watch to that collection should they ever come to be. However if I do it won’t mean I will get rid of something else simply because my latest device now does what the old stuff did.