In recent months, it has been reported that Apple has been hiring health and fitness experts to join with the experts from the fashion industry and Apple's design team to work on something. That something has, so far at least, been regarded as a wearable gadget known as the iWatch.
Well, other than the fact that so-called smartwatches seem to be gaining somewhat in popularity, or at least product selection, but there hasn't been a breakout device yet. Yet that doesn't seem to be because of a lack of trying. It's very possible the mere suggestion that Apple is working on something — anything — is sufficient cause for potential competitors to be spooked enough to build a presumed competitive product.
Add to that reports that Apple now has 200 engineers working on the supposed iWatch, and the story seems to gain more credibility. It doesn't hurt that Apple reportedly trademarked the name in different countries, but that doesn't mean the name will be used in a real product this year, next year, or ever.
But didn't Tim Cook speak of Apple's intense interest in wearables, so isn't that proof enough of an iWatch?
So if such a product is under development, what form will it take? Will an iWatch match existing gear, such as the smartwatches from Pebble and Samsung, which serve as tiny devices for notifications, playing music and physical fitness?
As it stands, though, the public has not really embraced any of the current smartwatches. Selling a few hundred thousand units doesn't make a trend, and it's also true that many people, particularly of the younger generation, don't even bother with watches anymore. If they want to check the time, they take out their smartphones.
So if Apple is going to enter this market, they have to look at customer resistance, and build a magnificent something that, once you use it, will become absolutely indispensable. Are we there yet?
Before you consider looks that make it a fashion statement, and a smooth, simple, elegant interface, there are questions of raw functions.
Existing smartwatches are basically accessories for your smartphone or tablet. If you don't have a compatible device on hand, your smartwatch doesn't do very much. Well, I suppose it tells the time, but why spend $150-$300 or more for a timepiece, unless it makes the appropriate fashion statement? You understand the appeal of a Rolex, and it's not just for telling you the time of day.
If it's partly about fitness, wouldn't an iWatch do more than just check your progress while jogging or exercising? You can already do that with existing gear. But being that fitness is of such prime importance to Apple, what about a wearable that takes different readings to monitor your condition while at work or play?
Certainly blood pressure is an important measurement and, no, you don't need a cuff to perform the test. There are ways to palpate the proper arteries on your body to deliver a similar (though less accurate) result. Would an iWatch be able to perform that test periodically, particularly for people with hypertension or health conditions? In the real world, you normally have to feel for the proper arteries located in your neck and a leg, so how would you be able to do that with something affixed to your wrist? Just asking.
Or perhaps there'd be an accessory cuff that would connect via Bluetooth to your iWatch to take and record the readings as needed. Paste-on sensors would be too awkward to manage, but I suppose it's possible. But your iWatch would still monitor pulse, temperature and other indications that will trigger an alert something was amiss.
Add to that a database that stores your medical records, which would make it possible for a physician or other medical professional to be notified in the event of illness or injury. But just helping you exercise and eat a healthy diet might be sufficient to make an iWatch worthwhile. Maybe you'd prefer to call it the iHealth.
If it's to be an iWatch, however, I continue to believe that it would have to be able to perform certain core functions without being tethered wirelessly to another device. That may even include a version that can serve as a mobile phone — paging Dick Tracy. No, I wouldn't think you'd have to bring the watch to your mouth to talk, a clearly awkward process. Better to have a Bluetooth headset.
I don't pretend to have any real answers as to what Apple is working on, but consider the features Apple would want to add to make the iWatch, iHealth, or whatever, utterly indispensable. It would have to sport looks that make it a fashion piece, not a geek's toy, which already would make such a gadget quite different from what you can buy now.
Today's smartwatches clearly don't show much imagination. But Apple has promised to enter new product categories this year. So what form will a wearable device take? Consider the possibilities. And, no, I do not expect a drivable product. The Tesla is not destined to become the iCar.
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