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Apple’s iWatch: The next iPod, or a big mistake?

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by James Plafke, 14 Feb 2013Blog
Apple’s iWatch: The next iPod, or a big mistake?

This past weekend, stronger rumours made their way into the wild regarding the fact that Apple is looking to add a watch to its line of iDevice products. However impressive or sleek an iWatch would end up being, would it really be a good idea for Apple to get into the wristwatch game?

Now, before you instantly discredit an iWatch rumour as just being a rumour that the news cycle created in order to have news to cycle, the report originated from the Wall Street Journal, and despite what you may or may not think about the publication, it has a great track record with Apple-related rumours.

Reportedly, Apple has discussed the production of a smart watch with one of its manufacturing partners, Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. – otherwise known as Foxconn – and would be adding some smartphone-like features into the device. The watch would be made out of curved glass that can form and fit around the human body, and would run iOS.

The technology for a curved glass smart watch has already been established. The sixth generation iPod Nano already fit an iOS-like (albeit simple) operating system into a wrist-sized device, and Gorilla Glass manufacturer Corning created Willow Glass, a bendable glass. Apple uses Corning’s Gorilla Glass in its smartphones, so the two companies already have a working partnership.

Considering the other prominent tech scenes Apple has yet to enter – such as an actual TV, a dedicated gaming console, or even sprucing up its set-top streaming box – jumping into the watch market would be odd. If the watch ran some iteration of iOS, then that’d still leave the device with a significantly tiny screen, and it would be without the capability to make phone calls, plus it wouldn’t have enough screen real estate to efficiently type text messages (or anything else, for that matter) on the device.

Also, the company did allow its sixth generation iPod Nano to fasten to a strap so people could wear it like a watch. Now, the seventh generation iPod Nano departed from that design and went back to the rectangle; clearly, the watch idea didn’t prove too popular. It would seem like a much better idea for Apple to just make a television already instead of taking this detour into watch territory.

However, remember when the iPad was first announced, and everyone thought it was a redundant piece of technology that only tech people would adopt out of a sheer love for new tech? Well, everyone sure was wrong about that. So, if a smart watch seems like a silly idea, so did the iPad once upon a time. On top of that, the success of the Kickstarter-funded Pebble proves there is a market for a smart watch. In fact, it could be a handy little device.

Though the screen would have to be smaller than a smartphone’s, there’s nothing stopping it from utilising equally powerful hardware to perform tasks as well as a smartphone does. It’s also possible that Apple could slip cellular and data capability into the watch, not only giving consumers a (hopefully) stylish wrist accessory, but an alternative to droppable, bulkier-by-comparison smartphones. If this ended up being the case, the watch would need to be paired with a wireless headset, which has been a common accessory for a while. Also, if Apple could combine the curved glass with flexible display technology, the watch’s screen could theoretically extend around the whole wrist, providing more real estate.

You could also call a smart watch something of a trial run for Apple exploring the wearable computing sector. With Google Glass somewhere on the horizon, it looks like wearable computing is the wave of the future. Rather than its first wearable computing product being as complicated as what is essentially an augmented reality headset, Apple could ease into the scene by first testing the market with a wearable wrist-computer.

As for when – or even if – Apple will attempt to make our wrists a place where computers reside, who knows. The technology is already here, though, so if Apple is serious about the endeavour, it doesn’t have to be too far off.

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