It’s a feature, not a product.
There’s been a heap of chatter recently about what Apple’s new iThing might be, the noise around this has gotten even louder since Apple started inviting people to a typically mysterious press event.
Naturally my inner fanboi is gunning for iPhone+some new iThing, but if that iThing actually ends up being an iWatch the question in my mind is: How is that useful?
It’s probably a mistake to categorize whatever the new thing is as a watch. It might actually end up being called iWatch but just like the iPhone, I really believe the name is just a label.
In the case of the iPhone, what’s become clearer and clearer over time is while it’s sold as a smartphone the iPhone’s primary reason to exist is that it’s a pocket sized, Internet connected computer you can take pretty much anywhere. ‘Phone’ is an app, a feature. The iPod functionally was renamed ‘Music’, a feature. Each app (pre-installed or downloaded) serves as a feature plug-in for the powerful and portable computer that happens to have traditional phone functionality built-in.
I’d go as far as saying the iPhone is actually a really small iPad. Consider this line up:
iPad Air (Wi-Fi) / iPad Air (Cellular), iPad mini (Wi-Fi) / iPad mini (Cellular),
iPad nano (Wi-Fi) / iPad nano (Cellular).
In this case, iPod touch = iPad nano (Wi-Fi) and iPhone = iPad nano (Cellular)
The size of the device or maybe more specifically the how you carry it around (big bag vs small bag vs pocket), in some ways defines how it fits into your life. When the iPad was announced, a lot of people called it ‘a big iPod touch’, I disagreed at the time purely because the use case is different but it’s a pretty accurate assessment if you consider iPad, iPhone and iPod touch as just models of the same device.
I’d imagine if the iPhone 6 ends up with various sized screens (6: bigger and smaller, 6C: current 5S in new plastic colours) that these will neatly fill the size gaps between a iPad mini and iPod touch.
The point being, calling the iPhone ‘iPhone’ was great because there was existing categories in the public’s collective minds about what a ‘phone’ is and how it fits into your life. But take a step back from the marketing and you see a broader strategy of reusing and adapting good ideas to a bunch of different situations.
So when (optimism) iWatch is announced and it’s actually called iWatch, you and most others will know before you even see it that this thing goes on your wrist, and at a glance, can tell you the time. That’s not a new idea but it’s an easy idea to accept. In this case though the watch is a feature, not the product.
I’m 100% sure that nobody will guess everything this thing will do, but in broad strokes these are my prognostications:
There will be 6 watch faces included and it’ll be widely criticised as inadequate. There will be an enormous market for 3rd party watch faces downloadable from he app store, a lot of them will be ugly.
It augments your iPhone. Upgrades to notification centre and more granular notification controls in iOS 8 will let you selectively send whatever you decide is useful to your wrist. iMessage, map directions, now playing info, calendar notifications, geolocation alerts all seem like things that would be useful to glance at without the need for much interaction.
More sensors. Those pedometer/health band things are super popular for a reason. Now you only need one and it automagiclly gives more inputs into Health (iOS 8). How many M7 chips has Apple made since it was announced? That’s some serious scale-benefit-head start action.
Bluetooth only. The changes to bluetooth pairing and particularly how tethering works means this is now trivial. It also means, no room taken up for wifi chips and more space for battery. If you already have your iPhone/iPad/Mac, you always have a way to stay connected.
No onscreen keyboard. In fact I’d go as far as saying that interaction with the screen will be buttons and swipes only. The iOS 8 version of the iMessage app will be able to send audio clips with a tap-hold-swipe gesture, that also makes sense for a tiny screen.
It’s mostly useless without your iPhone. I can’t actually think of a lot of ways to use a device like this without a partner/parent device, but I feel like that’s the point. Cheap and functional (and yes, good looking), but not critical.
What about NFC? If you already store your credit card details in iCloud keychain, what’s stopping you from using your wrist mounted NFC capable device to pay for things? That might be a step too far for version 1, but it seems like the rest of the pieces are already or very nearly there.
HomeKit is now a thing. Chances are you either have your iPhone in your pocket or are in range of a Bluetooth connection when you’re home. From a convenience standpoint, simple wrist mounted control is only beaten by Star Trek level voice control…sorry Siri.
That’s a lot of not-outside-the-realms-of-possibility-today stuff that’s begging to be crammed into a good looking watch sized bit of high-technology.
A watch is only a very small part of iWatch*.
*feel free to point and laugh if I’m wrong or send messages of adoration if I’m right.