iWatch: iPhone replacement or extension? [Editorial]

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The iWatch, a seemingly innevitable future product from the design imaginarium of Jony Ive (and 100 more people). Apparently, somewhere, shrouded in secrecy lies the must have piece of wearable technology. For the moment, I’m working on the assumption that it is going to happen. It may not be this year, or next, perhaps not even the year after. But, if Apple wants to remain innovative, there’s no denying it needs to enter the field with something at some point. And I can’t see them going down the Glass route like Google.

Whether it wins or loses – I think – depends on one question only: what is it for? Is it aimed at replacing the iPhone as the central point of communication, or is it merely an extension. I can only see one option in the near-ish future: the extension.

Mobile phone technology has advanced so much since the late 80s. Phones have been transformed from a voice-only communication tool in to a pocketable computer capable of taking great photos, communication, browsing the web, console quality games… The list goes on. But, if I was Apple, I’d be questioning why. The current generation smartphones are about as far removed from the original mobiles as the human race is from single celled organisms. Place them next to each other at the same time, and you’d assume there’s no corrolation or natural link between them whatsoever. So, how come in 2013, almost 30 years since mobiles entered the scene do we still leap to its every whim, and have to dig them out and raise them to our faces? This is exactly why wearable tech is an inescapable progression.

An iWatch would have to be a device which connected with an existing product for many a reason. Firstly, the practicalities of building all the necessary components inside something as small as a wrist watch is an uphill struggle to say the least. You’d need a powerful processor to work as the brains, a chipset for the various mobile network connections needed, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi chips, and also a big enough battery to make it last all week. Even if you can squeeze all that (plus a SIM-card) inside the tiny chassis of a watch, there’s still the question of exactly how much you can get done on a tiny touchscreen. Web browsing, and gaming? Forget it. It’s not going to happen.

See, the point of a watch is to be something you check on every now and then. You glance at it, you don’t sit for hours staring at the screen. It needs to get out the way and be useful when you need it. So, I don’t see it being used as a futuristic screen for FaceTime chats, video calling or phone calls. However, it should – at the very least – alert you when when you get emails, messages and phone calls. There are watches like the Pebble and MetaWatch which already do that.

What it should really do is fit in to those moments in your life where you want to get something done quickly on your phone, and yet actually grabbing your phone from your pocket and picking it up almost takes more time and energy than completing the task. It could be setting the timer, starting music, creating reminders, sending a quick message. Granted, Siri makes them easier and swifter, but it doesn’t solve the 30 year old problem of having to lift the device to your face. Let’s assume the body’s made out of one piece of lightweight aluminum, and that it has a battery that can last a week. It’ll use Bluetooth 4.0 for energy saving purposes to connect with your iPhone.

As a use case, let’s say you want to send a text to your wife, and tell her you’re running a little late. We’ll assume Siri is the quickest way to get it done. You grab your phone, press and hold the Home Button for a couple of seconds, and speak your command in to the microphone of your iPhone. It’s not taken an age – sure. But what if it was as simple as peaking at your watch, and speaking. No button presses, no lifting or grabbing a phone. The time saved might be minimal, but it would be easier.

One thing I’ve learned from using a MetaWatch for the past week or so, is that ignoring emails and messages is so much more convenient with a connected device strapped to your wrist. You know from the brief message on the watch’s screen whether or not it’s worth your attention. What’s more, glancing at a watch is a much more socially acceptable behaviour than picking up your iPhone when you’re hanging out with friends, or spending time with a loved one.

I’m not talking holograms, projectors or lazer keyboards. Not in the slightest. But, something which syncs and connects seamlessly with your iPhone and becomes an extension. Something you didn’t know you wanted until you had it, and after having it a few weeks couldn’t imagine life without it.

What do you think? What will Apple’s iWatch feature? Or are you still unconvinced it will ever happen? Let us know in the comments or tweet @TiP_Cam.

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  • stoicatheist

    wow another lazy tech twat who doesn’t feel like reaching into his pocket–hey Brian Brushwood–you out there? you got companyyyyy!!!!!!. two iWaches SOLD!!!!!