The Apple Watch, Tog’s Feb 2013 Prediction

Two years plus before the release of the Apple Watch, I set out my expectations of its capabilities and features. This was at a time when  “smartwatches” ran little more than recycled feature-phone software tied together with cumbersome interfaces. The article is just as it was in February, 2013. All I have done since then is to change the title from, “The Apple iWatch,” to its release name, “Apple Watch,” to make searching for this article easier. If you wonder why my prediction was as accurate as it turned out to be, it was because I applied the same design methodology that we developed at Apple decades ago. I had no inside information whatsoever.

Main sections & select features

Overcoming smartwatch drawbacks

  • Wireless charging, so you never remove the watch from your arm
  • Smooth Apple design with no clunk-factor
  • Siri and your iPhone take the place of buttons and menus on your iWatch

The iWatch as facilitator/coordinator

The Killer Applications

  • Your iWatch vouches for you, so you’ll never have to type another passcode or password again.
  • Walk away from your iPhone and your iWatch will warn you.
  • Your NFC chip for making payments is in your watch, instead of in an easily-grabbed $800 phone. Just wave your hand over the sensor and you’re good to go.

Other Cool Capabilities

  • When your iPhone rings, you watch says who’s calling, and you can handle your response by touching the watch.
  • Sensors enable the watch to monitor you in sickness and in health, tracking calories burned, miles walked, steps climbed, restlessness of sleep, even advent of tremor and other early warnings of serious health conditions.
  • Your music may be on your iPhone or iPod, the sound may come from your Bluetooth headset, but your controller is on your wrist with the iWatch.

The Apps

  • Unexpected apps will afford unexpected capabilities, like KidCode
  • Expected apps like using the watch to pause, mute, or change the channel on your TV or alter your room temperature
  • Apple Maps fix. Crowdsourced pressure data from the watch could enable Apple to fix the 3D view in its Maps app.
  • “What’s that thing?” Point your finger to a distant object, and Siri will tell you what it is.

Postscript

The Forum

  • Two-way conversation between readers and myself with a surprising number of good ideas for both features and applications.

Introduction

The iWatch will fill a gaping hole in the Apple ecosystem. It will facilitate and coordinate not only the activities of all the other computers and devices we use, but a wide array of devices to come. Like other breakthrough Apple products, its value will be underestimated at launch, then grow to have a profound impact on our lives and Apple’s fortunes.

Steve Jobs’s true legacy lies not with his products, but his method, the way he would forge revolutionary products from cold blocks of creativity. I know. I was one of his earliest recruits and watched him develop the method. Steve applied it one project at a time.  My hope is that Apple now has teams applying it across many projects, shortening the historic six years between breakthrough products.

What will follow is not based on insider information but a solid understanding of Apple, its products, the problem, and the opportunity. The Apple iWatch development team I expect exists is likely already well ahead of the ideas I’m suggesting here. (Should they draw any new ideas from what follows, they are free to use them.  I’ve already reached my lifetime goal of as many patents as Heinz has varieties.)

Who’s talking?

Bruce Tognazzini was hired at Apple by Steve Jobs and Jef Raskin in 1978, where he remained for 14 years, founding the Apple Human Interface Group and designing Apple’s first standard human interface. He is named inventor on 57 US patents ranging from a intelligent wristwatch to an aircraft radar system to, along with Jakob Nielsen, an eye-track-driven browser.


Before delving into what an Apple smartwatch might look like, we need to understand why, right now, people not only think they don’t need a smartwatch, they flat-out don’t want a smartwatch.

The Smartwatch

I’ve found a traditional smartwatch’s extra functions neatly divide into those I don’t need and those I can’t find.

Traditional smartwatches are big and clunky.  They require charging. (I haven’t had to remove my “dumb” watch from my wrist in four years.) I can’t read a smartwatch at night without using my other hand to turn on the light.  I can’t read a digital watch at any time without the use of reading glasses, nor can most people over 45, which is why the big hand and the small hand continue to go around together on so many watches.  What’s worse, I’ve found a traditional smartwatch’s extra functions neatly divide into those I don’t need and those I can’t find. I can live without a smartwatch.

Recently, some startups have addressed a few of the smartwatch’s disadvantages.  They noticed that people are now carrying around a decent-sized screen with a whole bunch of virtual buttons—their smartphones—so smartwatches no longer need display everything and offer access to every option within the watch interface itself.  Bluetooth 4.0 enables low-power communication without draining the watch’s battery, making smaller size and longer running times possible.

The Cookoo watch, for example, will last for a year between battery changes. It doesn’t do a great deal, but what it does do is quite useful.

Cookoo Watch

The Cookoo Watch

The Pebble, while it offers much more than the Cookoo in terms of functionality, lasts about a week before demanding removal for charging. That’s longer than smartwatches used to go, but hardly compares to what people expect in a modern watch.

pebble-watchfaces-3

The Pebble Watch

Martian has combined the large, somewhat clunky styling of the traditional smartwatch (albeit in a great many color variations) to offer the greatest pass-through power from the smartphone.  The result is Dick Tracy’s two-way wrist radio:  Ask Siri to call someone, and you can talk with them through the speaker and microphone in your watch, all handled via Bluetooth by your phone.

The Martian Watch

The Martian Watch

The Martian sports two hours of talk time, although the watch itself will keep running after that. You’ll certainly need to get in the habit of charging it every night.

These and others of the new generation of smartwatches are certainly very attractive to early adopters, but don’t expect them to smash the market open.  That’s going to require an entirely different level of both functionality and perfection, just the sort of thing for which Apple is famous.

Overcoming Smartwatch Drawbacks

The first thing Apple has to do is address traditional drawbacks in smartwatch design, something they are qualified to do.

Charging. If you think about it, there isn’t actually a charging problem at all.   Never has been.  Instead, there’s a having-to-remove-the-watch-from-your-arm problem. What if you held a patent on a charger that could charge an object that is several feet away through the air wirelessly? Apple holds such a patent.

The usual drawback to remote charging is that it is not efficient, but if the watch doesn’t require all that much power to begin with and will shut down the charger when it is full, the process can be relatively inefficient and still not cost you much money or the nation’s infrastructure much energy. (We spend lots of money/resources on inefficient power sources all the time: One AAA cell for your TV’s remote control costs around fifty cents.  It holds around 1.4 watt-hours of energy.  Not kwhs, whrs.  You would have to spend $25 to $50 on AAA cells to equal a penny’s worth of the power you get out of the wall.)

Clunky design.  Two reasons clunky design wouldn’t be a problem for Apple.  The first and foremost: Jonathan Ive.  Second:  Apple’s recent patent on a low-cost method for creating curved glass for screens. Apple can create a smartwatch with revolutionary functionality that is drop-dead gorgeous.  Is there any doubt they will do so?

Buttons & menu trees.  Won’t be any.  Why?  One good reason: Siri.  Whatever the watch can do, you’ll be able to put in place by commanding it (with your iPhone and the Siri back-end handling the actual mechanics, of course): “Set timer for 22 minutes.” “Wake me at 6:15,” etc. Whatever the watch can display, you’ll be able to bring up just by asking: “How long before my plane takes off?” “What’s the temperature right now in Dubai?”

Siri will be accompanied by touch, of course, with touch handling the lighter tasks, Siri the more complex. There will be overlap, so you can use more complex touch maneuvers when you can’t speak to your watch, during a meeting perhaps or when there’s a lot of ambient noise. Many people will never learn the more complex maneuvers, nor will they need to as the iPhone, iPad, and Mac will offer simple alternative interfaces to the more complex tasks.

The iWatch as Facilitator/Coordinator

The iWatch will have a few functions it performs entirely on its own, chief among them being telling you the time.  It’s chief role will be that of office manager, facilitating and coordinating your use of your other iDevices and the Internet by gathering data, delivering messages, storing and forwarding, coordinating tasks, and carrying out functions that extend the capabilities of your other devices. The iPhone or other primary device will be the executive in charge, making the decisions, setting the strategy, and apportioning tasks. The watch will have the least energy resources available, so the watch will be used sparingly.  Still, as time goes on, more uses will be found for it, and it will receive increasing amounts of traffic.

The Killer Applications

The iWatch can and should neatly fix the two most serious problems we have with our current mobile devices, ones we may not even realize we have. Only Apple holds the necessary keys to address the first of these, so only Apple will.

The paradox of the “huge problem”: A problem that feels sufficiently insurmountable will appear the product of natural law, to be accepted rather than challenged.

The first two killer applications are neither sexy nor fun, but they will make our lives so much more pleasant.

Passcodes & Passwords.  The watch can and should, for most of us, eliminate passcodes and passwords altogether on iPhones, and Macs and, if Apple’s smart, PCs: As long as my watch is in range, let me in! That, to me, would be the single-most compelling feature a smartwatch could offer: If the watch did nothing but release me from having to enter my passcode/password 10 to 20 times a day, I would buy it.  If the watch would just free me from having to enter pass codes, I would buy it even if it couldn’t tell the right time! I would happily strap it to my opposite wrist! This one is a must. Yes, Apple is working on adding fingerprint reading for iDevices, and that’s just wonderful, but it will still take time and trouble for the device to get an accurate read from the user. I want in now! Instantly! Let me in, let me in, let me in!

Apple must ensure, however, that, if you remove the watch, you must reestablish authenticity. (Reauthorizing would be an excellent place for biometrics.) Otherwise, we’ll have a spate of violent “watchjackings” replacing the non-violent iPhone-grabs going on today.

If the watch would do nothing but free me from having to enter pass codes, I would buy it even if it couldn’t tell the right time!

Individuals or companies that demand a higher level of security can require both the presence of the watch and a passcode, aka, two-factor authentication. Even that could be made a lot less onerous, again optionally, if, when at work or within your own house, the security software would be allowed to lift the requirement for the separate passcode, only applying it when you are out and about.

Find iPhone. The current “Find iPhone” is a well-implemented solution wherein you can find your iDevice no matter where it has wandered on the globe, as long as it is turned on and no one has messed with it.  However, it is not exactly as simple procedure:

  1. Find yourself another iDevice or computer
  2. Log in
  3. Open Find iPhone or point a browser to www.icloud.com
  4. Wait while signals are sent through the ether
  5. Select the device you want from the map or list
  6. Click “Play sound”
  7. Find the device you’re looking for & dismiss alert
  8. Delete the follow-up email

That’s a lot of steps! Better that your iDevices never get all that lost to begin with. Two additional capabilities, facilitated by the iWatch, can help ensure you never need that long-distance capability.

Local Find: As long as your device is close by, just scrawl a question mark on the top of your iWatch or perhaps ask Siri, “Where’s my phone?” and your phone will light up and start chiming. Of the eight steps above, you need perform only step seven. (You would find your iPod or iPad the same way, of course.)

Automatic Find: By the time you realize you have left your top-secret prototype iPhone sitting on the bar, some on-line tech blog will have probably already published an article on it. However, with the iWatch on your wrist, as soon as you move out of range, it will tell you that you’ve forgotten your phone, then help you locate it, as needed.  That’s a lot more useful than waking up the next morning to discover you seem to be missing something, only to then press Find iPhone into service. (The Cookoo watch already has at least the reminder part of this feature.)

Extending the range: Bluetooth Low Energy is supposed to have a range of 50 meters or 160 feet.  Presumably, that’s in an open field with a tailwind.  In your home or work place, your watch could end up driving you nuts if Apple doesn’t provide an intelligent means of expanding the virtual bubble so the alarm doesn’t go off anywhere in your safe environment. The system will need to “know” you’re in one of your secure areas, warning you only if you start to drive away without one of your devices. This could be handled, perhaps, by repeaters embedded in devices such as Apple Airports.  In homes and businesses with multiple repeaters, your watch could then also give you a local “read” on what repeater your device is near.

Near Field Communications for Payment.  The conventional, collective “vision” is that, soon, we will all pay our bills by simply reaching for our phone, a phone that, for around half of us, is lost somewhere deep in the recesses of a purse, retrievable in around one minute and thirty seconds. With luck. Think of the time those folks will save over paying with their wallet, a much bigger and more obvious object that they actually had to move out of the way in their effort to find their completely invisible black phone!

Oh, yeah, they won’t save any time at all.

Of course, we guys are a lot more clever. We’ll slide our phone right into our breast pocket where, heh, heh, we can get at it instantly. Or could have if we hadn’t then put on a turtleneck sweater before putting on and zipping up our jacket.

Next time, we’ll just pay cash.

And then there’s getting on the subway:  Instead of having to slide that paper card we buy once a month into the slot, all we’ll have to do is wave our $800 iPhone over the little sensor, except that nice gentleman we hadn’t noticed standing just to our side just grabbed our $800 iPhone and is now hot-footing it out of the station with us trapped on the wrong side of the turnstile.  Huh!  That didn’t work out so well!

Just last week, our kid had to struggle to get his phone out of his backpack to pay his bus fare using his marvelous NFC chip, only to have it stolen the same way! If only there were a better solution! Oh, yeah. There is.

The NFC chip belongs in the iWatch, not in the iPhone! That way we’ll know exactly where it is at all times, strapped to the end of an appendage expressly designed to be waved around at things.  How handy! Reach. Touch. Done.

Meanwhile, our iPhone, handling any necessary communication, will stay hidden safely away, and, if someone does manage to get ahold of our watch, it will require reauthorization, having been removed from our arm.  Net value to the thief: Zilch. Net loss to us: A whole lot less than an iPhone, with word on the street quickly making it clear there’s no point in stealing an iWatch.

Of course, not every merchant will accept NFC right away, so the watch, linked to Passport, will also display QR codes, etc.

Other Cool Capabilities

Phone call facilitator. Your iWatch vibrates. You glance at the watch and see who’s calling. You swipe up twice, indicating you want to answer (or some other standardized gesture). Your caller is asked to, “Wait one moment, please” while your watch instructs your phone to light up and start ringing to help you find it (or just lights up—your choice).

Many of us, of course, would like more, however, the iWatch as speakerphone peripheral for our iPhone is much less likely to happen. Of course, it would be cool: Let’s face it, Dick Tracy had a two-way wrist radio, and we want one, too! Imagine asking your imaginary friend, Siri, to call one of your real friends, Bill, then having a conversation, all without actually reaching into your pocket for your phone. However, the iWatch is going to be all about energy management. The Martian watch, for all its bulk, can squeeze only two hours of talk-time out of a charge. Martian will likely be left to pursue that market on its own.

Sensors. The iWatch will incorporate a variety of sensors. Certainly one thrust of these sensors will be sports/health data capture, inferring walking based on arm swing, detecting climbing or diving based on a pressure sensor, etc., etc. The more sensors, the better. A temperature and pressure sensor pressed against the skin could prove useful for medicine. A proximity sensor will let software “know” whether the watch is hidden in a sleeve or under a blanket. Whatever combination of sensors ultimately make their way into the product will inevitably lead to some very interesting new applications that people may have yet to consider. Other iDevices will combine the iWatch sensor data with data from their own sensors and from the outside world, such as weather data, to form a complete and complex picture.

Music. The Pebble is already handling music functions, which, of course, an iWatch would likewise be expected to do, just as the earlier generation iPod mini would do when embedded in an after-market watch-like case. The Pebble, however, is acting solely as a controller to—facilitator for—the user’s iPod or iPhone, rather than acting as a music device on its own, saving its battery life. The iWatch would be expected to follow this same path.

Telling the time. Yes, it will tell the time, likely offering a familiar Swiss Railroad watch face as an option, and it will tell the right time, too:  By communicating with the iPhone, it will update to changing time zones, etc., as the phone updates, eliminating—or at least reducing—the need for manual intervention, a major bother with current watches.

When Apple really gets serious about integrating Passbook, your watch will “know” when you’ve boarded that plane to London:  You were scheduled to board, the phone’s GPS locates you at the airport, and you just now turned off your phone.  Yesterday, the watch will have offered you an easy way to switch to split local/London time and, now that you’re aboard the plane, will be prepared for you to flip to just London time with a single touch.

The Apps

Most wearables to date have been dedicated devices.  The iWatch will be in the vanguard of devices that can work with 3rd party apps  There will be tens or hundreds of thousands of apps, few that either the designers of the iWatch (or I) will have anticipated. Almost all will actually run on the larger iDevices, extracting data from the iWatch, displaying data on the iWatch, or making use of the iWatch as facilitator.

Consider the iPhone, released on day-one with its handful of built-in apps.  Yes, it was exciting, but it was not nearly the tool that exact same phone had become three years later, as the breadth and depth of applications mounted and the system software matured.  We can expect the same curve to occur with the iWatch.

The Unexpected Apps

At least one or two evil apps will slip past the Apple watchdogs, launching a feeding frenzy in the press.  Apple will have already limited how much data a given app can access plus given us the power to offer and withdraw permissions. More steps will be taken once the breech occurs, and we’ll all soon get over it because the benefits we’re receiving will so far exceed the risks.

Then will come a different kind of unexpected apps. Consider SMS on cell phones. It’s a hack, a simple message system slipped in an underutilized space reserved for cell phones and towers to communicate with each other. It cost the cell phone companies nothing to offer it, and has made them billions of dollars, with total revenue expected to reach around one trillion dollars before the technology finally declines.  Grown-ups wouldn’t use it because you had to learn a secret code and phones are supposed to be talked into.  Kids took to it like ducks to water. (Only after Apple and its imitators made SMS accessible did the demographics creep upward.)

The iWatch, like every other Apple product, will have an interface made as simple as humanly possible.  However, human nature is such that, unless the designers work tirelessly to keep ahead or at least abreast of the users, it won’t stay that way forever.  Consider the following possibility:

KidCode. It might start out as an app designed with the best of intentions, to let people communicate via a brand-new gestural language-in, Morse-code vibration out, aimed, perhaps, at a few aging amateur radio operators. It it suddenly and unexpectedly taken over by school kids, sweeping the nation. No more being busted by teacher while intently tapping out text on phones. Instead, kids will be just innocently rubbing their watch faces. No more glancing at text screens, just feeling silent vibrations.  Tabloids and the evening news will simultaneously condemn it and  propagate it.  PTAsParent-Teacher Associations will decry it.  Civic leaders will condemn it.  Ultimately, teachers will learn to notice the trademark casually drooping arms of the senders, right hand over left wrist, along with the far-away stares of the recipients, and order will be restored.  However, by then, we’ll have an entire generation of kids that knows Morse code, just as an earlier generation learned that pressing the 4 button on a phone three times would get them an “K”.

YoungEmployeeCode. Kids grow up.  The young people you may be supervising in a few years will sit in your staff meeting strategizing against you in KidCode on their iWatches while looking at you with the most innocent of young, fresh faces.  You’ll learn to ply them with Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and coffee to force their hands above the tabletop, omitting napkins to ensure that, should they subsequently decide to engage in skullduggery, they’ll end up sliming their watches with syrupy glaze. (No, it won’t hurt the watch, but it will make you feel good anyway.)

This kind of utterly silent messaging will have benefit as well. Consider:

TheaterCode. Young people will be able to communicate in crowded theaters to their heart’s content without disturbing anyone.  No talking, whispering, ringing, buzzing, illuminated screens, no nothin’. If you are neither sender nor recipient, you will remain completely undisturbed except for the occasional seemingly random guffawA short explosion of laughter.

SalesCode. ExecCode. LawyerCode. A wide variety of people will communicate with collegues using KidCode in meetings and even open court, sending cues, cautions, etc., without fear of eavesdropping or censure, giving them a clear advantage over their less communicative opposition.

If you grew up knowing that pressing the 5 button three times will generate an “N” and pressing the 7 button two times will produce an “S”, but the very thought of having to learn KidCode sent a chill through you, I regret to inform you that you have officially just turned old.  Welcome.  The good news is that you will be old for a long, long time.

SilentMessage. Having learned the code, users will be able to receive notification of people calling, appointment reminders, etc., all in complete silence without even glancing at their phones.  Gestures can start, stop, pause, and replay messages, as well as set up replies, with coded responses offering the user feedback the the system understands. SilentMessage, as with most apps, would be primarily handled by the phone, with the watch accepting input and providing output, vibration in this case.  SilentMessage would also be an option.  Everything it could do could be done using either the iWatch display or the iPhone itself.

The Expected Apps

Many apps just belong out there. In some cases, they’re already being done by other companies in other forms, like the fitbit, or even in other watches, as with the companies mentioned above. In other cases, the iWatch

Golf. Baseball. Bowling. Tennis. Critique your form based on data gathered from the accelerometers in the watch. Get distance to the hole in golf and pertinent data for other sports delivered to the watch, rather than having to glance at your phone all the time.

Running/walking. Store and forward to your phone/computer data on jogging/walking time and distance based on arm swings, altitude changes based on pressure sensor, etc., to your phone or computer for the appropriate app to compute and display your running achievements. Lots of competition there already, but with the iWatch, it’s all built-in so you need not carry any additional hardware.

Swimming. Time your swimming laps retroactively.  Your “swim coach” app has instructed the watch to store and forward repetitive arm movement times and intervals when the watch is in a wet or high-pressure (under water) environment, so when your arm starts flailing for an extended period of time, that data gets stored and forwarded to the cloud via your phone.  Nothing for you to set beforehand. The app just simply has that data available to it to display the workout you did earlier today or a week ago Thursday if and when you become interested.

Health.  Having the watch facilitate a basic test like blood pressure monitoring would be a god-send, but probably at prohibitive cost in dollars, size, and energy.  However, people will write apps that will carry out other medical tests that will end up surprising us, such as tests for early detection of tremor, etc. The watch could also act as a store-and-forward data collector for other more specialized devices, cutting back the cost of specialized sensors that would then need be little more than a sensor, a Bluetooth chip, and a battery. Because the watch is always with us, it will be able to deliver a long-term data stream, rather than a limited snapshot, providing insight often missing from tests administered in a doctor’s office.

Find other stuff. Finding doesn’t have to be limited to only Apple products. The watch could also tell you that your car keys just went out of range, that your hand-carry luggage is no longer with you, etc. by communicating with simple Blue-Tooth-plus-battery transceivers designed as key fobs or luggage tags. They would then light up and/or emit chimes upon command to aid retrieval. These would likely not be Apple products, but would fit well into the Apple ecosystem.

Watching TV.  The iWatch will empower TV watching in at least two ways.  First, it can serve as the remote control:  Whisper to Siri what channel you want or what recorded show you want to watch. That information is then handled by a non-hobby version of AppleTV. Just double-tap to pause the screen.  Double-tap again to continue. (It could be some other gesture. They will choose one that you won’t perform by accident, but one that is much more lightweight than required, say, to unlock an iPhone.)

Second, because the iWatch eliminates the need for a passcode, IOS can be changed to enable your iPod/iPhone/iPad, in the presence of both iWatch and a nearby, running AppleTV, to turn on and default to the Remote app as soon as you pick it up, for the very first time making the Remote app practical to use on a passcode-protected iDevice.

The More Ambitious

Temperature Control. It wouldn’t take all that much to let the watch interface with a room’s thermostat. Local Bluetooth repeater information would determine what room you are in and provide the communications link, enabling you to raise or lower the current temperature from your wrist. However, if the watch can, through its array of sensors, accurately determine local ambient temperature where you are in the room, an HVAC system with an intelligent controller could provide a microclimate that would follow you around the building, making appropriate accomodation when two or more individuals with different thermal tastes occupy the same space.

The same localization information could be used by an evil employer to track employee whereabouts and, by inference, activities. In the case above, the HVAC system only needs to know that a human wants a temperature of 72 F/22 C, not that Bruce Tognazzini, employee #66, wants that temperature and spent 22 minutes and 17 seconds in that room. Apple will need to ensure that it is inherent in the system that data is anonymized to as great an extent as practical at every step.  The press will need to ensure that Apple maintains such an architecture and practice.

Correcting Apple Maps. This is a good example of what could come about through crowdsourcing using iWatch data.

Google Maps has had a roadway literally running right through the middle of my living room since 2005

Contrary to press reports, Apple’s 2D roadmaps, supplied by TomTom, are pretty darned accurate.  However, because the initial Apple Maps presentation misled the world into believing that Apple Maps was the perfect app on its first day of release, it instantly became popular sport to point out every error anyone could find. Meanwhile, Google Maps has had a roadway literally running right through the middle of my living room since 2005, and no one has felt the need to send headlines screaming around the world about it. (Apple Maps, on Day One, moved that roadway off to the side of our property where it belongs.  I can’t tell you what a relief it has been to my wife and myself having reduced traffic passing between us and the telly these last months, with only Android users continuing to rumble past.)

What is less than stellar is Apple’s “3D View,” not “Flyover,” it’s quite wonderful. I’m talking about “3D View.” However, let’s start with “Flyover.”

“Flyover” is limited to the central portions of metropolitan areas within free and democratic countries.

Apple Maps Flyover View

This is not a photograph, but a texture-mapped model of San Francisco. The Flyover view, the envy of the computer world, covers far less than 1% of the globe and, because of its super-high cost, will never cover that much more.

Today’s “3D View,” seen below, superimposes a satellite photograph of the earth on a topographical map of the world. While the height of mountains, valleys, and lakes are accurately depicted, finer features, such as buildings and roadways, have no independent altitude information associated with them, resulting in buildings being uniformly flat and roadways being, at all times, assumed to hug the landscape, something that becomes quite comical when the “landscape” is a chasm dropping several hundred feet and the roadway is actually a bridge:

softBridge

Note that both the actual bridge and virtual bridge, the semi-transparent broken segments of paving seen slightly lower and to the left of the bridge, are shown as melted into the river.

The Fix: Using pressure data from millions of watches, Apple could build a precision altitude map of the world. This map would indicate true altitudes everywhere that iWatch wearers travel. The granularity would be several orders of magnitude greater than ever before attempted for a wide-area map at a cost several orders of magnitude less than Flyover.

Because most of the time, most of the people’s arms will be within four feet of known roadways (or rail beds), one can, over time, correct for both local barometric pressure and current GPS error (the GPS, of course, being in the phone, not the iWatch—GPS requires significant power). Given that data, one can then look for where current map data and people’s actual locations consistently vary, specifically where people appear to be either diving below or floating above the surface of the earth. If everyone is dropping below nominal ground level, they must be in a cut.

The more interesting data will arise from where people appear to be floating. Consider the real results that would be detected on Highway 93 above: Motorists’ watches will consistently show no pressure change as they cross the river, ergo, they are staying at the same altitude, ergo there is a bridge. Apply that correcton and the roadways, both real and virtual, will no longer melt into the river.

The building-height problem would likewise be solved:  Data collected day-after-day might report four different pressure levels, spaced 12 feet apart at one given location, indicating that particular building has four occupied stories.

Would the resulting map look as good as Flyover?  No.  The image textures would be missing, perhaps to be applied through local effort.  The buildings would typically be rendered as extruded solids, based on their roof shapes, i. e., primarily clusters of rectangular solids. Would it be ahead of what’s there and way ahead of the competition?  Definitely. Such a world-wide micro-altitude map, applied to Apple’s current 3D View, would instantly correct millions of errors, turning Apple Maps into the map with the most finely-detailed vertical information ever.

Weather prediction. Sure, the watch will tell you the temperature outside and whether you’re going to get rained on, but I’m talking about another crowdsourcing application, one that can save lives. Once a true altitude map has been established, meteorologists will be able to gather barometric data at a granularity never before even considered.  That data, fed into supercomputers, has the potential to enable them to detect and correlate initial conditions very early in the process, predicting storm paths, strengths, and timing with considerably higher precision than today.

Turn-by-turn walking directions. The face of a smartwatch would be a poor place to display maps, but it can display an arrow just fine. As you approach an intersection, the arrow will become bent, etc., indicating a right or left turn, just as we’re used to with the arrows in our GPS. Except there’s one problem: As you rotate your arm, the arrow, fixed as it is on the display, rotates right with you. Or at least it would if you didn’t have a compass embedded in your watch.

Here’s how a compass-equipped iWatch would work: You start by asking Siri to guide you someplace in the city, and the Maps app on your iPhone works out the route.  The iPhone issues its first command to the watch:  “iWatch: Display a straight arrow pointing toward 22 degrees.” (Actual syntax more complex.) The iWatch “knows” which way is North from its compass, so it adds 22 degrees to that and displays the arrow pointing toward 22 degrees.  Then, it updates that image, say, 15 times a second, as necessary.  You can rotate your arm all you want, but the iWatch will always display that arrow just floating there, always pointing toward 22 degrees magnetic.

The watch might also display the remaining minutes until the bus you’re hoping to catch will arrive, along with an indicator letting you know if your pace is sufficient.

With people no longer needing to stare at their iPhones as they walk down the street, there will be fewer people run over and fewer people subjected to having their iPhones snatched from their hands.

“What’s That [thing]?” You’re standing in a forest clearing and a waterfall high on the mountain catches your eye.  You raise your hand, point your finger, and say, “What’s that waterfall?”  Your iPhone’s speaker responds, “That’s the upper level of Yosemite Falls.” Simple: The GPS (in the phone) establishes your position, the iWatch compass reports the direction your arm is pointing, its accelerometer reports declination, and triangulation in the app on the phone corrects for the offset between your eyes and shoulder joint. (Yes, finer resolution could be achieved by having the user start out by running a setup routine to determine each user’s dominant eye. A bit beyond the scope of this article, no?)

For just these last two apps alone, having a compass would be very cool, and I hope they’ll incorporate one in the first release.  If they don’t, then these last two apps will fall into the category of…

Future Releases

With subsequent product generations, the iWatch will take on more and more of a central role in your iLife.

Important papers. You know that sinking feeling when you realize you left your wallet at home?  It would be nice if having your NFC chip with you in the watch would, from day-one, remove most of that, enabling you to buy lunch, gas, and food for dinner, but how about if it also stored electronic copies of your driver’s license, your passport, etc., along with an access pathway to your medical records for emergency personnel?

Ubiquitous access.  Approach any Apple device, mobile or not when wearing your iWatch. Armed with the owner of that device’s approval and your passcode, make it temporarily yours.  If it’s a Mac, you will see your account just as you last left it.  If it’s a phone, it will, for as long as you’re holding it, be your phone, being billed to your account, showing your address book, etc. (This is a concept we showed in the opening scene of my 1993 film, Starfire.) To secure that kind of access, will require two-factor authentication, and, with the iWatch, that authentication will finally become available and simple.

First Release

So when will the iWatch come out? I need mine no later than a week from Tuesday, but Apple, when you look back, is never actually the first. They let a few others, sometimes many others, experiment first. (Tablets were out for more than a decade.) Then, they bring out the killer product. We may have to wait until next year, or around 7500 pass code/password entries from now.  Please, Apple, get a move on!

Postscript – One Week Later

It may seem like this watch has every bell and whistle imaginable, but if you carefully examine what I’ve proposed, I’ve really outlined proven technology that is here today, found in other wearable products.  It is packaged differently, to be sure, but that has always been Apple’s hallmark.  In fact, the iWatch I have outlined uses much simpler technology than products already out there.  It does not have a speaker, an earphone jack, or a camera. I do not anticipate that it will be a two-way wrist radio nor a two-way wrist videophone, at least not for a long, long time.

The reason that some reviewers have seen the article as extravagant is that it projects the iWatch into a mature future. Consider back in 2007 when you first heard that Apple was about to release a line of phones. At that time, sophisticated phones held perhaps a dozen apps, most of them simple games, all of them relatively difficult to use.  Suddenly, you read that this new phone would not only make calls, but soon users will be able to see geosynchronous satellites in orbit simply by raising the phone in the air, to deposit a check in their bank accounts just by aiming their phone at it, and to do, not another dozen things, but another 800,000 things that might interest them. People might have imagined the phone would have to be the size of a house and the complexity of an NSA supercomputer.

Visioneering is about looking at the way products will appear at maturity in order to design in the necessary elements that will enable that maturity to take place.  What sounds extravagant in this case arises from a conservative hardware design coupled with an open architecture heavily dependent on the existing Apple infrastructure.  It is the openness of the architecture and the ability of Apple to leverage its infrastructure that will offer Apple the advantage and make this vision possible. Don’t expect every feature and certainly not every app to be in circulation on day one, but they and many more will be there in a short order, much faster than with previous products.

Below, you will find extensive reader comments that include many good ideas for some of those future apps as well as follow-on designs.

The Forum

The lively discussion that followed first publication of this article produced a number of excellent ideas both for software that could make use of an initial release as well as follow-on products. (The discussion is now closed.)

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109 Responses to The Apple Watch, Tog’s Feb 2013 Prediction

  1. Dan Eyman (@designer_person) 6 Feb 2013 at 12:35 pm #

    Using the multitude of sensors for crowdsourced data is an interesting vision. The possibilities seem pretty limitless.

    You mention the watch responding to touch gestures e.g., drawing a question mark on the watch face to find your iDevice, but how about gesturing or even writing using your arm to which the watch is attached, pointing with your finger, but having the watch actually “read” the gesture by means of its accelerometers?

    • tog 6 Feb 2013 at 3:30 pm #

      Excellent idea, and one I hadn’t considered!

      It would be nice to mute the TV by just sweeping your hand up in the air, palm out as in “stop.” (No, the watch wouldn’t “see” your palm out necessarily, but it would detect both the upward sweep of your arm and the vibration from your wrist as your hand hit full upward extension, and you do want to give people a familiar metaphor.) You might indicate to AppleTV your displeasure at the current program, or at least the particular turn it has taken, by shaking your fist at the TV. And, of course, clapping twice (a zen-like one-handed clap would do) would turn the TV on or off, if that wouldn’t run afoul of someone else’s prior art.

      Your arm is too heavy to do a lot of writing in the air, but you can write forever as long as your hand is supported by a flat surface. Cursive writing is properly done by moving the arm, not the fingers, so someone wearing an iWatch on their dominant hand should be able to “write” with that hand down on a desk, using no stylus, anywhere at anytime, as fast or faster than using a virtual keyboard on their mobile device.

      Or maybe take it up a notch and provide an app that will enable people write, paint, and draw on their own bigscreen TV, using their iPhone or iPad as their paint & tool pallet and to establish anchor points on the screen, at least until our watches can be localized in 3-space.

      Or how about people in crowds voting thumbs up/thumbs down? We could reinstate the Roman circus. (No, which hand you have the watch on is not a problem: When you read your watch, you always “vote thumbs down,” so the system will “know” what wrist your watch currently occupies.)

      The ideas for this one only expand. How about a billboard in TImes Square on which people can take turns generating art and messages, all by waving their iWatches (with Apple’s censors—I mean, app reviewers—watching carefully). Or a little something for the professional magician or the well-heeled suitor prepared to propose: Skywriters, flying in perfect formation, accurately puffing out a message as it is being inscribed, live, in the air, the arm’s movement captured by the iWatch, the characters recognized by the iPhone, and results communicated to the aircrafts’ on-board computers via the Internet. The sky is literally the limit.

      • Joseph Carducci 10 Feb 2013 at 2:43 pm #

        It could also be incorporated very easily into all sorts of large-scale medical studies. If you want to understand, say, how people’s vital signs change prior to a seizure, then, with appropriate permissions etc., there is your database.

      • Pedro 14 Feb 2013 at 12:45 pm #

        This project is already doing some croudsourcing of ambient pressure data using Android devices:
        http://www.cumulonimbus.ca/

    • Frank Rush 11 Feb 2013 at 2:11 pm #

      Similar gestures could be used as inputs into iOS games displaying via appleTV; e.g. iWatch input into a tennis game or sword based quest game.

    • John Hiebendahl 13 Feb 2013 at 4:16 pm #

      I have a blackberry for work and would love a iWatch for personal use. Facetime to my wife and son who both have iphones would be Great. etc..

      • tog 14 Feb 2013 at 1:52 pm #

        FaceTime, if it comes to the iWatch, will be a relay through an iPhone, and no other channel. It would require a camera dedicated just to that use, facing directly up in the same plane as the watch face. The biggest problem would be that people will tend to let the camera wander off their own face during the conversation. Larger displays offer an inset picture to let you know what the other person is seeing. That, obviously, would be impractical on a tiny screen. One possibility that could feel quite natural to the user would be to move the other party’s image off the screen in response to the user’s image moving: You see your daughter beginning to slide off to the left, so you tilt your watch to the right. This scheme would actually take significant computing power, since your daughter might actually be moving off to the left, because she wasn’t holding her camera properly on target, so the system would have to have a means of compensating for that. Of course, your phone or even an intermediate computer on the network would be doing those computations and compensations. Just a thought, and another patentable process I just added to the public domain.

        We can definitely expect that FaceTime will not be a first-release feature.

  2. kodabar (@kodabar) 6 Feb 2013 at 8:15 pm #

    I thought when I read the headline that you were going to tout one of the limited-functionality smartwatches like the Martian. But as I read on, I became more and more enthused by your careful consideration of what such a watch could do, especially by linking it to your phone.

    This is a marvellous idea, beautifully fleshed out. Well presented, sir.

  3. Gridbeam Solutions 6 Feb 2013 at 9:11 pm #

    Great ideas here!

    How about lighting control? Imagine walking through your house at night with your arms full, and the smart lights turn on where you are and turn off after you leave.

    Smart lights can also adjust to your circadian rhythm. As you approach your bedtime, lighting in your vicinity can automatically dim, and LED color-change lights even color-shift — along with your smart phone, computer, and TV screen. You can also set lights to automatically go on, and color-shift, to help you wake up in the morning. If more than one person is present, your iWatch can negotiate with the other person’s settings.

    With Siri, you can add items to your shopping list without digging out your iPhone, then have the watch buzz you or the phone ring you when you’re at or near the store to remind you to get toilet paper.

    I’m glad to read that, like myself, you’re also concerned about iWatch privacy — it’s a real issue. However, the benefits… ah, the benefits! The iWatch is a great idea, and I bet Santa is going to get a bunch of requests this year. Bring it on!

    • tog 6 Feb 2013 at 10:23 pm #

      Lighting control! I no longer want an iWatch a week from Tuesday! I want it tomorrow!

  4. Carl Maniscalco 6 Feb 2013 at 9:11 pm #

    As an aging amateur radio operator myself, I like the idea of the Morse Code app. The only problem I can see with it is that we hams are used to dealing with code as audio and, being old, may have a hard time adjusting.

    Of course, that only reenforces your idea that it will be co-opted by kids…

  5. tog 6 Feb 2013 at 9:54 pm #

    Shankar sent a reply that failed to “take,” hence he sent it directly to me. It is as follows:

    “The most important breakthrough would be to power the iWatch using the body electricity of the wearer, then no recharging would be necessary. It would be eco friendly also.”

    It would certainly be wonderful if the amount of energy required could be reduced to the point where no external power would be needed. Given that the watch, at minimum, must compute, store, retrieve, transmit, and receive information, that is likely to be a far-off achievement. It is, however, just the sort of goal that Steve Jobs liked to challenge his teams with, being willing to pull back only after every reasonable and even unreasonable solution had be tried and found lacking. Imagine forcing developers to try to build a phone that, instead of being centered on a simple stylus, instead would be entirely dependent on people using their giant, clumsy, opaque fingers!

    • selgart 7 Feb 2013 at 4:40 am #

      I don’t think powering this is the distant future, I think we can do it now. I have a Casio Waveceptor watch (model QW2762). Its face is a solar cell and that charges a “super capacitor” that can power the watch for months through the winter when you’re covering it with your long sleeved coat. The four-button user interface is just awful of course, which means I never use any of the “higher” functions of the watch, but it does fulfill my basic watch needs. It’s digital but with analog hands, has a digital display to tell me the date, automatically sets the time using its built-in radio receiver, and has no battery to charge. In a way it’s the perfect watch as it never has the wrong time, never needs setting (provided you live in maybe 7 out of the 24 time zones in range of the radio time signals), and never needs winding or batteries. If you ignore everything about the user interface it’s almost the Apple of watches, in a sense; you put it on and then never have to think about it again. So the bottom line here is that we already have at least a start on the power and radio technologies in a currently existing watch.

      • tog 7 Feb 2013 at 9:25 am #

        Shankar’s original suggestion was that the watch be powered by the user’s own electrical energy, a tiny trickle. Mechanical charging, which reader Marcus raised as a possibility, is likewise free and green, and likewise powered by the user’s own energy, if mechanical, rather than electrical. Solar, in common with wireless charging, actually draws from external power, although its source is, in common with the first two, free and green. Of the bunch, wireless is the only one not free and green, though it would only sip at power, but what it would offer is the potential for far more energy transfer and storage in the same amount of space in the watch.

        Apple’s energy choice is going to be driven by needs of the watch which, in turn, will depend on the capabilities of the watch. A big split exists between the Cookoo watch and the Pebble Watch, a difference in capability that translates into a 52 to 1 difference in battery life. A chasm exists between Cookoo and Martian, a potential 4368 to 1 difference in battery life! If we were to add in what reader informatimago would like, video chat on the watch, that chasm would reach to the Mariana Trench, where you might have no one to chat with but a tardigrade. The choice of energy source will be all about size, weight, and energy vs. capabilities and features. It will be the most difficult, critical call that Apple will make.

      • EricE 11 Feb 2013 at 10:40 am #

        With new flexible battery designs why can’t the strap be the battery?

  6. tog 6 Feb 2013 at 10:18 pm #

    I do fear that Bluetooth, as it is today, may not have the proper discrimination, so that either very clever programming or additional technology may be in order. It would be nice to have one device chirp and the other listen, but the other device might be buried in a backpack.

    The Google ring is just an update of Sun’s Java Ring, first publicly shown in 1998, and used to identify yourself to whatever Sun computer you would sit before. This is not a new idea, by any means. The problem has been that people don’t want to add anything to what they are wearing today, hence the attractiveness of putting it in a watch.

    I would love it if your watch became your car keys. The world is going to have to embrace an entirely different level of cooperation before that happens. Right now, we have all the automakers making exclusive deals with one electronics company or another to embed that particular company’s technology in their product.

    Insofar as GPS, you need to acquire four satellites, rather than three, to get an altitude fix. That means you have to have a really good antenna that is out where it can see the sky. Until the military boosts the transmitter power by 10X or more, the receivers are going to stay large and consume a lot of power. I was banking on an increase in power when I went on an invention-jag and racked up about 10 or 12 patents on devices that would be dependent on just that kind of GPS, including a watch that would always tell the correct time no matter where you stood on the globe: It had a GPS and simple time-zone map, would receive correct zulu-time from the GPS satellite, and make the necessary correction as you’d move from zone to zone. Today’s satellites just require too much power. A pressure sensor plus GPS, btw, is a great combination, as you can not only then get barometric pressure, but, when you lose GPS altitude from time to time, which you will, the pressure gauge will keep you right on since you now know barometric pressure.

    • farwestab 7 Feb 2013 at 8:51 am #

      Actually, with Bluetooth LE, the ability to determine the distance between two devices using signal strength is surprisingly reliable, and precise enough in this case to be useful. It won’t know within inches, but it will know within feet, how far apart the two are. Basically, as long as it can tell that the two are “about 10 ft +/- 3ft apart”, which is the radius of a large room, that’s probably “close enough”.

    • Tesluthian 9 Feb 2013 at 2:44 pm #

      Sounds like you did a lot of GPS in a watch work Tog. How about a tech solution ? I saw an article on flexible glass; but what on earth could you do with it ? Maybe this :
      1) Solve GPS problem.
      2) Make a 4 in 1 product.
      3) Revitalize sales (Apple)
      4)

      Make the large iPod with flexible glass, and bend it around your wrist creating a bracelet, watch & iPod.

      In watch mode, the screen displays a watch (millions of color styles to choose from).

      In bracelet mode, the screen displays a bracelet art/skins.

      And finally, because it’s bigger, maybe it will fit the GPS receiver.
      Now you have a wearable GPS.

      And the fourth product of course is the iPod, whose motto now is 10,000 songs on your wrist.

      • tog 12 Feb 2013 at 12:18 pm #

        What I really like about Tesluthian’s suggestion is that he neatly solves the problem of size by extending the watch into a bracelet, similar to what Nike has done with the fuel band. It also solves the marketing problem of the under-thirties, who see a watch as a counter-fashion statement, but seem willing to accept a bracelet.

        (For those in the older generation who would like to point out the folly of “kids today” who think nothing of permanently illustrating their entire arm to honor a temporary love, but recoil in horror at the thought of exposing a tan line upon removing a watch: Think back to our own era of bell-bottom trousers, Neru jackets, and our own physical transformations. No, we didn’t illustrate our skin, but we ingested a remarkable number of untested chemicals with sometimes startling physical sequela. Think: Keith Richards.)

        Tesluthian’s device could not be the only Apple watch, but could be part of a family of watches aimed at different users and offering different capabilities.

    • EricE 11 Feb 2013 at 10:36 am #

      I don’t get the hang up over taking it off at night. Perhaps because I’ve always taken off watches when I wore them in the past. As long as it had inductive charging so all I had to do was drop it into place before I went to bed, the whole more-than-a-day battery life thing would be totally solved for me. Fancier charging systems can come with version 2. Is it really such a hardship? What’s that phrase? Oh yeah: First world problems :p

      • tog 14 Feb 2013 at 3:12 pm #

        Apple can bring a phone to market that requires nightly charging off-wrist, but it will not be the kind of elegant solution for which Apple is famous. Both of us would buy one, but many people would not. Every time you add some kind of “gotcha”—the watch is big, clunky-looking, has too many buttons, only comes in orange, requires nightly charging—whatever it is, you carve away a piece of the market, and Apple just hates doing that.

    • Adam C. Engst 14 Feb 2013 at 12:19 pm #

      Lovely imagining, Tog, and we can only hope your ideas are being worked on as we speak. My only bits of constructive criticism are that I don’t think you should write off GPS so quickly, nor worry so much about the power requirements.

      For the last few years, I’ve run with a Garmin ForeRunner GPS watch, and while you’re correct that its altitude readings are pretty mediocre, the solution is simple for a device that’s likely to have Internet access. When you upload a workout from the Garmin, they offer to correct the altitude readings, simply matching them up to your location on known topo maps. The only amusing error is that you see huge drops whenever you cross a bridge, something that’s impossible to avoid in gorge-filled Ithaca, NY, where I am. As far as the size goes, the earlier generations of the ForeRunner were pretty bulky, but the current incarnation is quite small. Give size reduction to Apple’s design team and I’m sure they could fit it in.

      Second, while I would of course like to see a watch that didn’t need charging, charges itself through mechanical action, solar power, skin current, or whatever, I don’t think it’s essential that the watch be able to last for more than a day or so. Again, my experience with the Garmin ForeRunner, which goes for only about 15 hours of powered-on time, is that you simply charge it every day. I’d far rather have an iWatch that does a great deal but requires charging every night than an iWatch that can last for a long time but has many fewer compelling features.

      cheers… -Adam

  7. Ralph Dratman 6 Feb 2013 at 10:35 pm #

    Proprioception. The phone and the watch will be able to figure out the necessary 3-dimensional geometry. Though it wasn’t mentioned in your inventory of sensors, knowing at all times where the owner’s wrist is (in relative-to-body coordinates), will change the world of user interfaces in, well, unspeakable ways.

    Allude to money by reaching very slightly in the direction of your wallet. Move/rotate the wrist imperceptibly in the direction of eyeglasses, shoes, shirt, hair, or a friend, and articulate a language which is more like thinking than speaking. Tog, I don’t want to be rude, but Morse will not be necessary. The codes thus communicated will be more like Chinese characters than an alphabet. A continuous flow-dance of silent communication is more like telepathy than anything else I can imagine right now.

    • jack 12 Feb 2013 at 1:48 pm #

      The skin on the wrist just isn’t sensitive enough to detect much more than Morse. Braille is probably on the edge of workable.

    • tog 10 Mar 2013 at 5:31 pm #

      The morse code was not for accepting input, but for silently communicating output. Input for Kidcode would, of necessity, be via gesture, rather than tapping, as the teacher would either see or hear tapping.

  8. informatimago 7 Feb 2013 at 12:59 am #

    Beyond giving the time (but I don’t have a watch because I’m always with computers that can give me the time), a killer application for a screen on my wrist would be video (or audio) chat. The iPad is just clumsy for video chats. A watch screen would be a little too small for reading, but it is the right size to see the face of the person I’d talk too.

  9. Markus 7 Feb 2013 at 1:34 am #

    My automatic fully mechanical watch has a moving part inside that winds up the thing by inertia when I move my arm about (which is a typical thing for most persons anyway). I have been carrying this watch on my wrist for the last 5 years and never ever had to manually wind it up. Could probably generate enough energy for an iWatch so that no external recharging is needed.

    • tog 7 Feb 2013 at 9:03 am #

      Absolutely feasible! It’s a matter of whether they could/would give up that amount of real estate, that amount dependent on how much energy the watch would need. It might be possible to have a mechanical reciprocal vibrator do double-duty: constant generator, periodic vibrator.

      • rdenatale 10 Feb 2013 at 7:52 am #

        Yes, that’s what I was thinking as well. I still wear a metal ‘analog’ watch, which is actually a Citizen eco-drive with a few extra features like multiple time-zones. It almost never leaves my wrist. A bit bulky but with a titanium case so it’s not very massive. It uses a photocell for charging and has never stopped in the many years I’ve owned it.

        I suspect that the energy budget for this watch is smaller than the iWatch, so I don’t know if solar charging is feasible. But mechanical charging certainly should be maybe even with a spring to store the energy driving a generator which runs ‘on-demand’ for a bit of an old-school touch.

        And I’ve always wanted to learn Morse code, that kept me from getting past second-class Boy Scout many years ago.

        Great thought provoking article

      • Dareo 10 Feb 2013 at 9:04 am #

        When we look at a watch today what we see is a mechanical / electronic device (the source of information) housed in a casing. That’s the “smart” component. That casing is then affixed to our wrists via the watchband. The watchband can be made of many different materials, it can be more decorative or less decorative, but in the end the watchband is the “dumb” component of the system.

        If the technology exists for flexible displays, maybe the potential exists to offload the charging circuitry to the watchband to save some of that valuable real estate. While we’re at it, let’s consider what other tech will work well in a flexible format and how it can be integrated into a reasonably slim band. I can imagine a modular system where you buy a watch plus a band – each requires the other to work, but each has different configuration options, providing a very wide selection of combination possibilities (and prices of course). This could also allow one to upgrade “hardware” without having to upgrade the whole system.

  10. Lucio Bragagnolo (@loox) 7 Feb 2013 at 4:48 am #

    Apple makes simple products. This one is overly complicated, so it’s unlikely to happen the way you describe it.

    • tog 7 Feb 2013 at 9:49 am #

      I suspect Lucio hit KidCode and its variations. I offered that as an example of the unexpected, the kind of application, coming from an outside developer, that the original teams never envision being put on their bouncing new babies, turning something so smooth, so simple into something requiring, in the case of KidCode, users learn a secret code more than 150 years old. I have now added a few words of introduction to make it clearer that KidCode is the kind of thing that would not be supplied by Apple, but that does tend to arise once a product is “in the wild.”

      In 1996, I created Tog’s Law of Commuting: “The time of a commute is fixed. Only the distance is variable.” If you build a better road, it will only encourage people to buy a house further from work. Give people a computer with a cleaner, smoother, easier to use, more productive interface, and they will immediately take on more challenging tasks. Before the Macintosh interface, we were all composing three-page memos. Now, we knock out books, websites, edit 20 meg images, and other tasks unthinkable with the old interfaces. It was after watching that phenomena time and time again that I thought up the possibility of KidCode.

      But Lucio raises the larger question as to whether Apple makes simple products, and I would argue that they most certainly do not. The netbook computer is an example of a simple product. It is also difficult to use. The Raspberry Pi is an even simpler product—an Apple One for a new generation—and it is impossible for the average person to use by itself. In sharp contrast, the iPad is a phenomenally complex product usable by infants only a few months of age. It must be that complex to make it so easy to use.

      If you review the tasks I’ve envisioned, you will find that few require extensive interaction with the watch at all, with the glaring exception of KidCode, which may or may not ever happen. Primarily, the iWatch will free people from the drudgery of constantly entering passcodes and passwords, of the constant anxiety of losing their other devices, and of having to rummage around looking for their other devices just to get simple information like temperature or to pay for a chocolate bar. Those applications that do require looking at the display, such as getting turn-by-turn instruction while walking, are just replacing the iPhone’s display with one closer at hand. The watch adds no complexity and requires no new learning as it perfectly mimics the directional arrows they’ve seen before.

      I would see the average user strapping on the watch, going through a simple Bluetooth connection, entering their password or confirming their biometrics once, and being pretty much set for life, with the watch instantly making their life simpler, all handled in the background.

      Now, based on Tog’s Law of Commuting, one can assume that the flood of applications at which I hinted will add complexity, just as they did to the Apple One, the Apple Two, the Mac, and the various iDevices. The only way you hold back that flood is to cripple your software and seek to infantilize your customers, and you do that at your own risk.

      • rdenatale 10 Feb 2013 at 7:57 am #

        On the point of whether Apple’s products are simple or not. I agree that they are not. This is the consequence of Larry Tesler’s Law of the Conservation of Complexity, is it not?

      • tog 10 Feb 2013 at 1:22 pm #

        Certainly the disagreement as to whether they are simple or complex arises from Tesler’s Law. From the point of view of their makers, they are beyond complex. From the point of view of the user, they are simple. Tesler states the the true measure of complexity are to two added together—not averaged, but added together. That makes Apple products very complex.

  11. jon 7 Feb 2013 at 10:51 am #

    I would really like to see using an accessory as an automatic profile selector. When the ipad recognizes my watch, it gives me my email accounts and data. When it sense my wife’s watch, it switches to her profile, apps, and data. No watch = guest account, etc.

    • tog 7 Feb 2013 at 11:41 am #

      Yes! I left out that case! I talked about accessing our personal machines, and, in the second to last paragraph, “Ubiquitous access,” talked about doing just that in the future on strangers’ machines, but jon is talking about doing it right now on our own shared machines.

      Definitely, the iWatch should facilitate family/trusted friend or collegue access! Of course, to ensure sufficient local storage for both our and our trusted one’s apps and data, we will have to buy iPhones, iPads, etc., with more storage. Therefore, the iWatch could end up making as much or more money for Apple by driving sales of higher-memory iPhones and iPads than the money Apple makes off the watch itself. Interesting…

  12. bill holz 7 Feb 2013 at 11:01 am #

    I want one for my whole family today. I’m heading for the Apple Store, then i’m going to have the name patented, sell it to Cook and retire. What a great Article so well done, and the readers should be hired to what insight and ideas they had. Time to my buy more apple stock.
    also ……………one more thing HIRE that idea man. I like the way he WRITES so well thought out and logical. I’m gone to love this if it all starts to become True today. 

    today is 2/07/13 at exactly 2pm.

  13. althegeo 7 Feb 2013 at 2:14 pm #

    These iWatches will be a Godsend to the spy/antispy freaks. The iWatch will also have a Driver’s License/Passport App for all citizens, I assume. Think of the convenience.

    Taking out the bad guy/girl in a crowd, a bus, a train, a car, a boat or a plane, with an orbiting drone will be a piece of cake. Taking out your political enemies will be easier and more fun too.

    I can’t wait to get mine and the Drone Access App from Big Brother Inc.

    • tog 7 Feb 2013 at 7:27 pm #

      The small chance, say one in 1000, of being vaporized by a government drone is small price to pay for the convenience of being able to pay for your sandwich electronically!

      Your point is well taken, though we draw nearer and nearer not to Orwell’s 1984 totalitarian vision, but Huxley’s Brave New World, where the people voluntarily surrendered their liberty and their privacy. Were the technologies I suggest for the watch instead embedded in our phones, the problems would be as great. NFC must be done right. If it is not, people have the responsibility to reject it until it is.

  14. bobh 8 Feb 2013 at 7:18 am #

    I zeroed in on the swimming app. I need that today. The accelerometer data could be sent to your iPhone for later analysis but the iPhone should send the lap count, total and interval, back to the watch. The iPhone is in your gym bag on the pool deck or the pool facility (YMCA, gym, school, etc) could operate an iPad or Mac tracking multiple swimmers at the lifeguard tower or front desk maybe.

    I’ve actually tried this at the pool with my iPhone 4S and the Bluetooth LE “SensorTag” from Texas Instruments strapped to my wrist. The 2.45 GHz signal seems to penetrate water well enough for swimming despite some absorption. The BLE waveform seems resilient enough to accommodate any signal drops.

  15. Derek 8 Feb 2013 at 7:36 am #

    These are absolutely fabulous ideas. I’m a huge proponent of the smart watch, which is why I backed the MetaWatch Strata on Kickstarter. It’s very similar to the Pebble, and IMHO better in several respects. The passcode is too much of a hassle for me, so I don’t use it, but I’m anal about always having my phone on me. Authentication via the watch would be killer.

    My main reasons for wanting a smartwatch were:
    -Caller ID and message alerts (I miss a lot of them)
    -Auto feeds of weather, sports scores, stocks, and news headlines
    -Alternate display and very light data entry for exercising, golf scores, etc.(including integration with heart rate monitor, fitbit, etc.)

    MetaWatch does those first two points pretty well, and is getting better. Once the platform grows, I expect to see the third point and many others. Ideally it’d be great to have sensors built-in that currently fitbit, heart-rate monitor, and others do so that it’s less to charge and keep up with.

    The smartwatch, like the Internet of Things and home automation in general, are HUGE trends that should not be dismissed over the next 5-10 years. This is an exciting time in technology…

    • Walter is Wright 9 Feb 2013 at 11:35 pm #

      i’m Watch made in Italy.

      it has a curved display already, it is the Worlds first Smart Watch, it mimics the style of the iPod Nano on a wrist, it communicates to your Android and iOS phone, it runs apps.

      I think Apple is way behind on this. Have a look.

      http://www.imsmart.com/en/i-m-watch/overview

      • tog 10 Feb 2013 at 2:14 pm #

        The watch has an attractive feature set, but at a high energy price, with the battery discharging in anywhere from 24 to as few as three hours.

  16. William 8 Feb 2013 at 8:00 am #

    You’ll never see a watch take blood pressure … And a perfect example where this sort of speculation by non medics falls apart.

    Pulse etc ok, but unless it has a proper cuff it’s not going to happen.

    • tog 8 Feb 2013 at 1:19 pm #

      A watch with its band does, in fact, cuff your wrist just like a great many blood pressure reading devices cuff your wrist today. I looked into these devices, but found their technology could be squeezed into a general-purpose watch only, as I mentioned in the article, at “prohibitive cost in dollars, size, and energy.”

      When, before publication, I ran this question by my wife, a Stanford-trained MD, she pointed out to me some promising research and development being done in taking a more subtle approach to gauging blood pressure without cutting off the circulation from one of the limbs of the body, but any solution small in size and cost and robust in application that could be incorporated in a wristwatch may be decades away. However, since it has now arisen, you may be interested in seeing an article on one new approach here.

      The most practical solution in the near term would be third-party product consisting of a simple, battery-powered cuff to be placed on the wrist or upper arm above the watch, communicating with and through the iWatch via low-power Bluetooth. For a single pressure-reading, pressing a button on the cuff would begin the inflation cycle, with the associated app identifying the systolic and diastolic blood pressures based on the iWatch’s monitoring of the pulse. Results would be displayed on the face of the watch. (The app might be resident in the watch or in a larger iDevice.)

      The cuff could also be triggered by the iWatch, either on a regular schedule or by pre-determined events. An example of the latter would arise when attempting to diagnose a zebra condition like orthostatic intolerance, where capturing blood pressure immediately after the subject has stood up is key to establishing the severity of the condition and response to treatment. The iWatch can detect the patient has moved from the bed, the iPhone can trigger the pressure read, the iWatch can detect the peak and minimum pressures, with all data flowing to the iPhone and, from there, potentially, to the iWatch wearer’s medical team.

  17. Steven Travers 8 Feb 2013 at 8:04 am #

    I want a watch that can constantly gives off the scent of brownies baking in the oven.

    • tog 8 Feb 2013 at 10:25 am #

      So do I! Third release. Forth release will print-out the brownies from your iPrint, the miniature 3D printer in your left front pocket :-).

  18. BrianL 8 Feb 2013 at 8:55 am #

    I want my child to be able to contact me in an emergency, and I want to be able to locate them by GPS (affordably). If the iwatch did this and the size of the iwatch could fit the wrist of a 4, 6, 8 and 40 yr old — I would buy 4 today.

    • tog 8 Feb 2013 at 10:15 am #

      Until the American military ups the transmitter power of the GPS satellites by 10x or more, it is doubtful that Apple will be able to fit a GPS receiver into a small watch. A future micro-cell technology could fit the bill of enabling both a public 911 service as well as a private parent-child service that could fit into a watch. Perhaps some other readers might offer you more hope.

  19. daniel 8 Feb 2013 at 11:23 am #

    I feel like this could be a great expansion to apple as a company, they seem to have stagnated lately. Even Siri, which I’ve had for over a year, hasn’t been that impressive. If they could implement only a few of these features, it would really be a great addition to their products.

  20. majamaki 8 Feb 2013 at 12:17 pm #

    I would love a good smart watch with these ideas implemented. If it would auto log me into everything I do on my computer and devices, that alone would be well worth it. Currently I login 30 to 50 times a day in my daily work and activities.

  21. David Breaux 8 Feb 2013 at 1:27 pm #

    I’d like to see them add Personal preferences to the watch….not only Passwords. If Cars, Homes, Offices, etc. are all going wireless anyways…When you walk in to to a room or get in your car, the watch could automatically tell the car to set predefined radio stations, AC Temp, Seat position, Mirror Adjustments etc… Yeah and you would have to work out a priority system in case more than one person is in the environment at the same time….not a problem.

  22. jonyen 8 Feb 2013 at 1:45 pm #

    Good article–very nice coverage of the current products on the market and the potential features that an iWatch would have.

    I doubt that Apple would actually release an “iWatch” per se. More likely, I think they would bring back the previous form factor of the iPod nano (the square clip-on one), give it a new name, and beef it up with Siri & Bluetooth (and other features). Of course, Apple would introduce their own watch strap accessory to go along with the product, but it wouldn’t be marketed specifically as a watch–it’s just going to marketed as something new and revolutionary (which goes in line with what they did with iPad and iPhone).

    After all, why design a watch that would only be limited to your wrist? The previous generation iPod nano allowed you to take it off a watch strap and clip it on your shirt if you wanted to. It’s ridiculous to listen to earphones with the cable going up from your wrist. The design of the 6th generation iPod nano allowed you to wear it for running, so its versatility would be important for Apple to market it to a broader group of people. I think the move to the current iPod nano design was a strategic one so that Apple could basically reintroduce the design as something completely new altogether.

    Putting this product out will be a big risk for Apple, but they have to take risks and innovate if they want to stay alive in this market.

    • tog 8 Feb 2013 at 2:23 pm #

      I doubt that Apple would actually release an “iWatch” per se.

      That’s an interesting take. I’ve seen some real push-back on other sites discussing this article with younger writers declaring that they abandoned their watches when they got their iPhone and would never go back.

      It might prove useful, as jonyen suggests, for Apple to not label the new product as a “watch.” That will, of course, be a marketing call, well outside my area of expertise, and I’m sure they will do their homework.

      There would also be advantage to users wearing it elsewhere than the wrist, at least part of the time. For example, by strapping it to one’s ankle, it could be used, with an appropriate app, to diagnose restless leg syndrome.

      The iWatch, regardless of its name, will neither be the first wearable device from Apple, nor the last, and will find itself surrounded by wearable devices of all manner, many already flying forth from startups and established companies alike. As wedded as many people are today to their phones alone, that will change in time, and probably in a short time.

  23. Garrett Birkel 8 Feb 2013 at 4:30 pm #

    I haven’t had to wear a watch for about ten years now. Even if an iWatch was just as capable and usable as my phone, I would not care to wear it on my wrist.

    From my point of view, wristwatches have become more rare as smartphones have become more ubiquitous, implying there was something distasteful about the wristwatch. What makes you think they would eagerly reverse this trend?

    • tog 8 Feb 2013 at 6:21 pm #

      One third of the millennials are still wearing watches, and sales to them are going up, not down. If Apple can replace both the dumb watch and the ugly watch with a cool wearable computing device that will free them from the tyranny of pass codes, track their exercise, etc., etc., I suspect they will go for it.

      Most people, once they pass over the age of 30, buy a watch, even today, and are attracted to upscale watches with high-fashion design.

      People over 40 cling to their watches, specifically watches with big hands and little hands. Why? Because they can read an analog watch without glasses. For perhaps two billion people, that lovely iPhone “retina” display is nothing but a big blur because the lenses in their eyes can’t focus the image from their phones onto their actual retinas, at least without putting on that pair of reading glasses that “I know I left around here someplace.” The phone is not the instantly-available device it is for younger owners. If Apple sold the new device to only half of those two billion people, I suspect they would still hit break-even mark. 🙂

    • Craig 9 Feb 2013 at 9:35 pm #

      It only took a few years for smartphones to shrink down in thinness and weight only to go back up again to 6″ displays, thicker batteries and double the weight. These phones are essentially the same as the original iPhone in functionality. The line between trends and marketing can be blurred so while I believe an iWatch could be sold to a large consumer base through sheer will of marketing, I’m expecting Apple to raise the bar by offering a few features that we didn’t even realize we wanted until they were on our wrist. This is a great blog. Thanks.

    • Dareo 10 Feb 2013 at 4:15 am #

      Nearly 100 years ago, around the time of WWI, military officers began to appreciate the convenience of a watch on the wrist versus having to dig in one’s pocket and pull out a ”device” in order to know what time it was. The wristwatch became ubiquitous after overcoming some hurdles (accuracy compared to the pocket watch, comfort, etc.) and this took a good 20 to 30 years to happen.

      Being a person who does not like to carry around redundant devices I made a conscious decision to stop wearing a wristwatch on 1 Jan 2012 because I already had a smartphone with me that, amongst many other things, provided me with the time. I made a commitment to this change for one year. It took some getting used to (I’m 51 and had been wearing a wristwatch nearly all my life) and probably hundreds of times of looking at my empty wrist as a pre-cursor to pulling out my phone when I wanted to know what time it was.

      When the bells rang in 2013 my first three actions were 1) toast in the New Year, 2) kiss and hug my wife and children, and 3) put my wristwatch back on. Why did I go back? After all, one year was more than enough time to become accustomed to using my phone for time telling. It’s all about convenience.

      By putting our watch back into our pocket / purse, we’ve gone back 100 years. It is my belief that innovative thinking (like many of the ideas put forward in this post, including ideas from the comments section) and creative industrial design will again take through the transition of having time back on our wrists. As the saying goes, “everything old is new again”.

  24. Ganesh Gaikwad 8 Feb 2013 at 9:46 pm #

    I am writing from a very different world -India! I recently met a person, farmer leading a sustainable lifestyle. He abondoned using watch a few years ago. The reson he shared was very interesting. He said, when he was working in a farm, he used to glance at his watch very often to check what time it is. Mind you, the work is labourius and he was one of the lucky ones who really feels hungry unlike the corporate workers who have to have a ‘Power Lunch’ discussing some strategy even when they are not hungry after a warming chairs for hours. He used to check how much time is left for the lunch break. That led him to loose interest in work and he used to eat even when he was not hungry! No doubt, he is much more healthy today and hasn’t seen a family doctor in years, leave alone specialists.

    So what happens when he needs to get up early? Another important reason we really need a watch of some sort. His answer was simple again. He said, I get up when my sleep is over, not when my watch wakes me up. And again I found that in the group, he was the one who needed the least sleep.

    So what to do with this iWatch? Frankly, I feel I am better off without it. I hope one day, people would understand the value of living as a plain human being over a customer of this or that brand! I find myself lucky to know some people like this farmer who can afford this type of living, because, they are free from the clutches of a need to earn more, even if not yet free from the money itself.

  25. Wysz 8 Feb 2013 at 9:51 pm #

    Fascinating insights. 🙂

    If Google Maps is running a road through your house, you can click on “report a problem” on the map, and describe the error, or you can fix it yourself with Map Maker. Or you could set up a toll booth.

    http://support.google.com/maps/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=162873

  26. Joe Cassara (@JoeIsInTheCloud) 8 Feb 2013 at 10:43 pm #

    Tog, these are brilliant thoughts. I wish you were still with Apple to execute on your vision!

  27. Vinicits 8 Feb 2013 at 10:53 pm #

    One of these days Apple will release a pillow. An iPillow, it’ll be white with a silver apple logo and it’ll do only one thing: Stay cool during my entire sleep. Now that, that’ll be the day.

    • tog 8 Feb 2013 at 11:35 pm #

      One of my early inventions, in the 1960s, was an electric blanket that would keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It used thin plastic tubing to circulate water heated/cooled by a thermopile. Never had the money to patent it, Such blankets are now used in hospitals. A pillow using that approach would be quite easy to make. Of course, just putting an Apple logo on a pillow would make it so cool you could probably sleep through the night without even plugging it in.

  28. Eyemah Source 8 Feb 2013 at 11:42 pm #

    I like your ideas for the watch. However, I am certain that these ideas are better implemented in the form of reading glasses with twin 1080p screens and twin cameras. I wear narrow reading glasses now positioning them to look over the top of the frames matching the top of my car dashboard. If the frames are magnetic you can attach lenses above or below the twin displays. Infrared lasers track eye movement and steer the cursor. One long blink to click, two to right click. Head movement will pan and tilt the view of the desktop expanding screen space. This is the perfect stereo-optical, hands free camera viewfinder, free of washout. Go to town with this. It’s way, way beyond what would be possible with a mere “watch”.

    • tog 9 Feb 2013 at 2:09 pm #

      I chose to dive into the iWatch because I wanted the challenge of exploring a product that’s been assumed to be a “bit-player” at best. It quickly became apparent to me the potential for an unobtrusive 24/7/365 device was far larger than either the diminutive size of the device itself or the conventional wisdom.

      Virtual/augmented reality glasses have enormous potential. They can directly access not only your eyes, but ears. They can easily be designed to hear your voice, so, while wearing Apple iGlasses, you could command Siri and talk hands-free. However, unlike the iWatch, iGlasses will not be a 24/7/365 device. It is doubtful you will wear your iGlasses in the shower, the swimming pool, on the beach (at least until someone figures out how to remove the IR filters from the cameras), or while sleeping. They cannot perform the central role of facilitator that I laid out for the iWatch.

      As for driving while using iGlasses: While you are doing that “long blink” that Eyemah Source mentioned, you are likely to run over that old man crossing the street (30mph=44 feet per second, 48kph= 13.3 meters per second). The old man was me, and I’m at least grateful I didn’t have to live to see you hit that busload of school kids a half a block later while doing the “head movement to pan and tilt.”

      If you’re thinking they could substitute a one-eyed wink for that two-eyed blink, consider what’s going on in your mind during that wink: 100% of your concentration is going to be on whether and when the glasses are going to respond to your command.

      Then consider you’re not in a car, you’re in a restaurant, and you appear to have been winking at that guy at the next table for the last 10 minutes. He’s now looking at you in one of two ways, and neither of them is good.

      Walking is similarly problematic, although the person killed will more likely be yourself: Immersive augmented reality with glasses vs. the kind of augmented reality achieved today when holding up an iPhone is just so much more, well, immersive. You are so much more likely to walk out into traffic and get hit by a bus.

      No, I’m not against the glasses (although I really must insist on 4K resolution, not 1080p). In fact, I’ll be the guy in line just in front of you on day of release. However, the glasses will not be the be-all and end-all, and they will require very careful and sometimes frustratingly restrictive design to keep people from killing themselves or others. You can bet every development team working on these products has someone armed with a law degree and absolute veto power.

      Fortunately, people need not fear being torn between buying an iWatch vs. iGlasses. Apple will be more than willing to sell you both, and, used together, they will prove much more powerful than the sum of their parts.

      Consider the problem of a long blink to indicate a click: Even if interpretation of blinking were turned off as soon as a car or pedestrian were in motion, the person used to the long blink would blink out of habit. When nothing happened, they’d likely fixate on it, actually increasing the danger over having the glasses respond (even if, at the same time, lowering the company’s liability).

      Enter the iWatch. Voice would likely be the predominent command method, but you will still want to directly manipulate what you are seeing on the screen. When not driving, the watch face would become the touchpad to your iGlasses, enabling you to slide your virtual space around as easily as you could on your desktop, much better than having to toss your head like a happy horse. A click would be a touch.

      Alternately, you could use the “writ large” interface suggested by reader Dan Eyman, turning your entire arm into a relative-position pointer, just like a mouse.* For one-handed clicking, you could choose among several alternate physical movements of your arm, such as a rapid spreading of your fingers, rotation of your arm, once or multiple times—movements found by Apple researchers to be relatively unobtrusive and unlikely to be triggered accidentally.

      This synergy could be quite powerful.

      * It’s also possible that the iGlasses, themselves, could “see” your finger position and use your finger as an absolute device, like a stylus, with your bending your finger to indicate a click. You would still want to use the iWatch’s touchpad interface most of the time, unless you wanted to draw undue attention to yourself.

  29. GILBERTO CARABALLO 9 Feb 2013 at 8:20 am #

    Medical applications: Continuous cardiac rhythm monitoring, detection of arryhtmias and autodial 911 with GPS information. Countless lives to be saved.

    • tog 9 Feb 2013 at 1:10 pm #

      Excellent. The nice thing about this is that it would not require a subscription service, so the person would not have to know in advance he or she was going to be in trouble and need 911. For older people who actually expect they might be in need of 911, it would add monitoring to the “help, I’ve fallen” capabilities that pendants offer today, and, unlike the pendants often left sitting by the bedside, this device will be with the patient at all times.

      When at home, the wearer could need nothing more than access to their bluetooth-enabled Airport to carry the message. When away, they would need their cellphone to determine location and effect the actual transfer.

  30. Ibrahim itani 9 Feb 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    Its fantastic! How much would it cost?

    • tog 9 Feb 2013 at 2:06 pm #

      I cannot say. I hope that Apple will produce many models, instead of only one. Some sports/medical versions may have more sensors, so they will cost more and be larger. They might license makers of expensive watches to make them, too, so rich people could spend as much as they want on models made of gold. All will be able to unlock your phone and your computer. All will let you know who is calling, tell you that you have email, and all of the other small things that will make your life easier.

  31. Luciano Martinez (@mluciano11) 9 Feb 2013 at 4:27 pm #

    Ever since I was a boy, I’ve always had a watch. Never without it. In my 9th grade class on professional communications, the teacher asked us to make a product advertisement. I worked hard taking a bunch of watch/iPod/iPhone photos and editing them into my idea of the iWatch. I made a beautiful presentation with all these awesome effects for the slides (We had to present its design and features like we were at a press conference) and even modified my digital wrist watch to resemble the one I made.

    On the day of the presentation, I came to school with my PowerPoint in my USB in my pocket, my model of my iWatch around my wrist, and even dressed up in my steve jobs cosplay, mimicking his iconic clothing. I gave it like the boss, and the teacher was like EXTREMELY Impressed, said it was the best presentation of any of his classes, but this one kid said it was impossible and that it was not something Apple would ever do, and got all the other kids to laugh at me. Even though I got a good grade on it, it really, really hurt.

    Now, two years later, I start hearing all these rumors that apple is working on the iWatch, and, when it comes out, I don’t care if I have to spend all my money, but I am gonna buy the most awesomest one, hunt down every single person that laughed at me that day and show it to them just so I can say, “See? I told you! I told you it would happen!”

    I support the iwatch 100000000000000% do it, Apple, yeah!

    • tog 10 Feb 2013 at 3:08 pm #

      My classmates laughed at my early inventions, too, when I was your age. Several of mine later happened, just as the iWatch will happen. I don’t know what happened to those classmates that laughed at me, but I grew up to be a recognized inventor with dozens and dozens of patents. Those kids don’t matter. What your teacher said matters. Buy the watch because it is going to be the coolest thing ever, and you won’t have to go to them, they will be coming to you. And never forget, Illegitimi non carborundum.

  32. Kevin Reid 9 Feb 2013 at 6:04 pm #

    Please make it come true!!

  33. newmac (@newmac) 9 Feb 2013 at 6:53 pm #

    Naturally; it will control your lights; thermostat; answer queries by reading back the first paragraph of a wikipedia entry; quickly dial contacts by their name; handing off to the device they are nearest (home or mobile) detect a rise in body temperature; start or shut down your computer; read back shopping lists… the biggest problem I see; is the wait before I can get my hands on one…..

    • tog 10 Feb 2013 at 2:28 pm #

      The first app you should download is the upgraded Time Machine, which will be an actual time machine. Then, you’ll be able to have bought your iWatch a week ago! 🙂

      Interestingly, of all the the functions you mentioned, only one would be carried out by the watch on its own: Reading your body temperature. For all the rest, the watch is simply facilitating your use of other devices and the cloud. The real work to make that happen will lie with the OS teams and third-party developers, not the iWatch engineers. The post-iWatch world I’ve envisioned in this argument is not about the iWatch, its about the integration.

  34. starks 9 Feb 2013 at 6:56 pm #

    kid code…brilliant.

  35. Peter Goninon 9 Feb 2013 at 11:51 pm #

    Insightful and intriguing article. Thank you for the work and effort that you have so obviously put into it. It certainly shows the opportunities that could open up. I fully agree with your reasoning over analogue watches and from my perspective I value being able to check the time by glancing at my wrist rather that dragging my phone out. In that vein it could well be suited as a pager type receiver where the ability to check quickly by glancing at the wrist could be valued.

  36. Yo1 10 Feb 2013 at 1:53 am #

    I was thinking the other day as I was mirroring a game from my iPad Mini to my TV set via Airplay (a slow and eyebleeding experience, by the way): If this Apple smartdevice did all of those serious, useful applications AND could be activated in front of an upgraded AppleTV box vocally by saying something like “game mode”, it could be used as a wireless controller (the iPhone and the iPad Mini would then be Apple’s own “GamePads”). This would make it at the same time a nice breakthrough in the smartwatch industry while potentially killing the 3 existing living room gaming consoles ($120 AppleTV on iOS 7 + upgraded games that we already play in the AppStore + let’s say, $300 for the iWatch.) It wouldn’t even be considered a premium extra for once.

  37. LAKS 10 Feb 2013 at 3:04 am #

    watch2pay is in europe on the market already – and soon in us too – NFC for Mastercard payment – http://watch2pay.co.uk/en/product/the-watch2pay.html

  38. Dareo 10 Feb 2013 at 4:55 am #

    Chapeau Tog! This is the kind of innovative thinking that has stimulated Apple’s engineering and industrial design teams for the last decade. If there’s a strong business case for it (Apple is, after all, a business) they definitely have the talent and resources to make it happen. On some level though I’d like to see this taken on by the team at Nest (yeah, okay, the founders are ex-apple employees). Tony Fadell and company reinvented a tech item that hadn’t seen much innovation in decades: the thermostat, and what a great job they did. Why would I choose them to take this on over Apple? a) they’ve already demonstrated their engineering and design prowess, and b) a Nest watch would not necessarily be limited to the Apple ecosystem.

    • tog 10 Feb 2013 at 1:30 pm #

      Apple’s unique advantage is that only they have the hooks into the system software to enable key capabilities like token authentication. Only Apple is in a position to act upon the Apple ecosystem as an integrated single entity, using the watch most effectively for inter-device communication and coordination. Many other devices will coexist, both as competitors and as partners, in the latter case, just as Nest has done, extending the “Apple Way” far beyond the shores of Infinite Loop.

  39. Paul Ackerman 10 Feb 2013 at 7:48 am #

    Bought more AAPL today due to TOG…thanks!

  40. Tom R 10 Feb 2013 at 1:07 pm #

    Wonderful! Just stop calling it _the_ iWatch. Just “iWatch” 😉

    • tog 10 Feb 2013 at 1:23 pm #

      Omygosh! Next you’ll be telling me to stop calling it “the Google!”

      • Tom R 10 Feb 2013 at 4:43 pm #

        😉

      • Walter is Wright 11 Feb 2013 at 2:23 pm #

        Hahaha, call it whatever you wish Sir. You write the best articles anyways.

  41. Pedro W 10 Feb 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    You say the iWatch will not handle the music on its own, rather just controlling the music on other iDevices.

    Well, I use my Nano as a watch. I use it only because it is a better iPod to listen to music when on the gym. So, yeah, I’d rather have the iWatch handling the music on its own.

    • tog 10 Feb 2013 at 3:45 pm #

      I speculate it won’t because of the energy cost and memory requirements, but Apple will be making these decisions, not me. Apple may finally start making multiple versions of their products, with real differentiation, borrowing from the Samsung playbook, so you may well get your wish.

  42. ARJWright 10 Feb 2013 at 3:47 pm #

    I like this, but it seems many of your ideas don’t go much further than the last generation of the Nano…. Still, there are ideas worth considering.

    Apple has to fix the charging aspect, I totally agree. I want a smart-watch, but none of the current devices pass that test for me, let alone anyone who likes anything on their person that has some lasting value. I wonder if Apple can pull it off.

    I don’t think it needs to be extendable. The idea of Apple making it into another platform, especially when Passbook isn’t quite fleshed out, well, that seems a bit hard to consider. Still, I *could* see Passbook make an appearance on a Nano or this similar device, and then with BT/NFC, making a stand towards better tech behaviors.

    iTunes is still central, and I don’t think Apple is ready for a device that can live so far without it….

    Some of the better thoughts, that’s for sure. Glad to know that folks who’ve worked at Apple think and act in this manner. Perhaps there’s hope for conversations beyond black slabs yet.

    • tog 12 Feb 2013 at 1:45 pm #

      I tried, in developing this piece, to stick with proven technology that Apple actually could incorporate in the watch. What is different, perhaps, is my looking at what the world might look like two or three years after you start wearing your watch, when the apps are there. Remember, when the iPhone came out, it could place calls, do messaging, and a few other things. That same phone can now do 800,000 things. The iWatch, being a general-purpose computing device, rather than a dedicated device, will have a similar growth pattern.

      The other important thing about the iWatch is that I don’t see it as being a stand-alone device, but, rather a new member of the Apple family. Most of the applications I projected in the article actually ran on the iPhone, not the watch! The phone would command the watch what to look at, what to store, when to forward it, etc., but the real smarts stay in the larger, more able devices. Therefore, in some respects, the iWatch can actually be less able than the iPod Nano!

  43. Greg 10 Feb 2013 at 3:58 pm #

    Further to your thoughts I think a companion device, of any type, opens up great potential for Apple. (one example – make the AppleTV an extension of the iPhone rather than just have an iPhone AppleTV app, to really make it sell). Another example – while people want larger screens on their phones, they also want it to be smaller when used as a phone (and preferably smaller to carry too). You could almost switch to companion products of an “iPad Mini plus small ‘phone’ device” – the small phone might have an iPod Nano screen and do simple functions like your watch idea. Rather than buy an iPad + Cellular, you could save $130 and put it towards a “companion Phone” that really integrates with the iPad. Separating the main screen from what’s at your ear has other benefits too. And similarly, the watch has great potential, I’d probably get one though I don’t wear watches (I’m 40 and I don’t know many people who wear a watch).

    • John 10 Feb 2013 at 10:39 pm #

      All technologies enabling such device are already in place and waiting for a smart one to piece them together in a creative fashion. Whoever coming out with it first will be the trend setter for a new category. The word, “watch,” is weak, and only useful to describe how people will carry it. A better or more suitable word is needed to express its huge potential.

  44. Lane Jasper 10 Feb 2013 at 7:47 pm #

    My Casio turns it’s own light on at night by turning my wrist towards my face so the statement that you need to use another hand to turn on a watch light isn’t altogether true. This feature could easily be implemented into an iWatch so it’s not a battery killer.

  45. Anirban 10 Feb 2013 at 11:43 pm #

    I am not sure (probably one of few cynics) that I get the idea of a dedicated watch – sure some people like watch and wear it on their wrist (or may be as a pendant). But I have many people (including me!!!) who have found the idea of having something for telling time and time related functions (alarms etc.) to be something of an extra baggage. I have something that tells me time whenever I want – my car dashboard when I am driving, my laptop when I am working/browsing, my phone for other 80% of time, my tv when I am watching tv).

    The functionality of showing time is so little that can be added very easily on almost any other device that I don’t get the reason for having a dedicated device for telling time. As a jewellery/object to show stuff – yes it might make sense to some folks but not for telling time.

    Also the passcode related stuff – why can’t the same functionality be added to our mobiles is beyond my comprehension.

    • tog 12 Feb 2013 at 1:09 pm #

      If the iWatch is a “dedicated device for telling time,” then the iPhone is a “dedicated device for making phone calls,” and no one under 70 wants to be caught dead with one of those! The iWatch, by whatever name it might have and whatever shape it might take, is a wearable computer that just happens, among other things, to be able to tell time, just as the iPhone is a mobile computer that, among 800,000 other things, can make phone calls.

      Insofar as the “passcode related stuff,” your suggestion to put the functionality inside the phone is like suggesting we leave our keys in our car. The watch is the key, the iPhone is the car. They must be separate or the scheme doesn’t work. It would work when you wanted to open your computer at home or at work, but people typically do that around one-tenth as often as opening their mobile device. Phones are also not secure, subject to both easy theft and accidental loss. It’s harder to lose a device you’ve grown used to having on your wrist at all times.

  46. jaredite434 12 Feb 2013 at 6:22 pm #

    I’m excited for the iWatch, but if it truly will be a watch, then my wife has made a good point: Most women never wear watches, and, if they do, they choose ones that are extremely small, prohibitively small when it comes to electronics. I’m sure Mr. Ive is more than capable of figuring this out, but it is a problem to have 50% of your market fashionably opposed to your product.

    • tog 14 Feb 2013 at 2:42 pm #

      Apple has been a one-size-fits-all company for a long time. That era is coming to an end. Wearable computing products cannot be made in either a single size or a single style. Electronics can be trimmed back. Not every watch need have every feature. Given the watch is designed to work in conjunction with a smartphone or computer that has a lavish display, the watch should not be your first-line choice for reading War and Peace. It needs to be able to display time, temperature, an arrow for directions, a checkmark for confirmation, icons for mail and messages received, things like that. It’s real work is done quietly, inside, with results delivered to your phone, your computer, your cloud, your physician. Those electronics can be made small today and smaller tomorrow.

      If first release happens to end up being one-size-fits-all, don’t expect that to last for very long. Apple, I suspect, has few illusions in this area. It may just take them a while to get the level of miniaturization they need to built the tiny watches. Or perhaps not. Maybe they’ll surprise us on day one. With Apple, you’re just never quite sure, which is what make them so interesting!

  47. Dave Van Bruwaene 12 Feb 2013 at 7:36 pm #

    The possibilities you explore are intriguing, to say the least. The added functionality of an iWatch will undoubtedly be worth the price to very many people, myself included. I can imagine myself buying one and having a fabulous weekend devoted to it and the app store. But then I can imagine riding the subway Monday morning. Rather than seeing hordes of iPod earbuds I might notice that everyone else seems to have my watch (maybe in different colors). I imagine the honeymoon ending immediately

    Watches are forms of jewelry for most of us, especially now that we don’t need them for timekeeping purposes. A ubiquitous hundred dollar apple product is junk jewelry, Jony Ive and all. We don’t just buy cases to protect our phones. They individualize our phones. In many ways we treat phones like we treat jewelry, where the choice of phone or accessory becomes an act of self-expression. And these are devices we keep in our pockets most of the time. These impulses will be heightened for iWatches which are always in full view.

    Clearly executives would never trade in their Rolexes for watches worn by every other sixteen-year old. I think most people over forty will take a similar view. I’m not sure that a choice of wristbands in the Swatch tradition will be enough for everyone else.

    The iWatch may be released and have a loyal customer base. But I can’t see it disrupting Switzerland.

    • tog 14 Feb 2013 at 2:20 pm #

      You’ve raised an important issue, one that I hope Apple will address. Ironically, I predict Apple will do better, at first release, with the under-30s, the ones who have been writing in to explain they don’t wear a watch and never will. What is anti-hip now is suddenly going to be ultra-hip, and they are going to want to join in, particularly if the device is disguised as something other than a watch, the course Nike has taken with their Fuel Band. (“I don’t wear a watch! I wear a bracelet!”)

      Analog watches and mechanical watches were all supposed to disappear when digital watches first came along back in the 1970s, and, of course, they didn’t. However, Apple has licensed their technology before—they did it with Airplay—and they could again. Consider a Rolex self-winding watch that generates sufficient electricity to power an internal chip set with a transparent display overlaying its mechanical screen. Most of the watch’s function: User-authetication, NFC payment, wellness data collection, storing and forwarding, etc., require no data display whatsoever. Only occasionally would that Rolex user ever look at the overlay display. He or she would get the lion’s share or perhaps even all of the benefit while still wearing what appears to be a traditional timepiece. Of course, we’re not talking about first release here, and maybe it won’t happen, but nothing technical will stand in its way as miniaturization continues.

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