Who Cares About the iWatch?

There have been two persistent rumors about Apple to move around the tech world for the past few years. 1) Apple is building an AppleTV — a real one, that’s at least 42 inches or so. 2) The iWatch.

Now say what you will about the (real) AppleTV rumors, but they sound pretty neat to me. But the iWatch? I don’t know why I’m supposed to care, so why do you? Why does anyone? Let’s find out.

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The Theory

Since Apple hasn’t come out and shown us this “iWatch” yet, let’s go ahead and break down what we’ve heard — and believe me, there’s a lot of stuff out there. The gist is that Tim Cook wears a Nike Fuelband, and therefore, Apple is working on a wearable device that will contain similar healthy living features (There are also patent records to back this up) . In addition, it will connect to your iPhone and give you pertinent information on your wrist, such as controlling your music, showing text messages and all that jazz. Basically, this has many of the functions that your iPhone already has, it’s just acting as a conduit between the iPhone and you.

Straight from the US Patent Office.

Straight from the US Patent Office.

Not everyone remembers Dick Tracy, but he’s one of the roots of the watch communication device concept. The police detective would hold his wrist up to his face and talk into it, communicating with his pals. For 1930’s readers, that was basically sci-fi. And we all want to live in the future, right?

Let’s Get Practical

OK, so let’s say the iWatch does exist, and it does all of the things we’ve discussed. Let’s say it does the communication part. Tell me: how many times do you use speakerphone on your iPhone? For me, it’s not very often as I want to keep my conversations private. So now why would I want to talk into my watch the same way? Plus hold it up to my face for long periods of time? If you’re talking on the phone for a long time, you can switch hands and ears. So you’re going to take off your watch and switch that too? Doesn’t make sense.

Then there are the iPhone functions, like displaying who’s calling, showing text messages and emails, and maybe even apps. Well although displaying all that stuff is cool, realistically, you’re not going to be able to do anything with it. There are tons of people who hate the virtual keyboard on the iPhone, and they can type on that with one hand. Typing on the iWatch would be difficult and time consuming at best — why not just pull out your iPhone to respond?

They want it to be revolutionary, not just another thing.

Alright, now you’ll probably say that Siri is the answer here. Voice communication is going to solve all of the typing problems, right? I see two issues with that. First, see point No. 1 in this paragraph — are you really going to speak out loud for everything you need to enter? And second, how well does Siri work for you? Yup, thought so.

As for the health tracking stuff, that is a good idea. Integrating your data into one device is great — the iPhone replaced my iPod, and the iWatch would replace my Fitbit. If it’s just a wearable health tracker that’s fine with me, but I imagine that most won’t be happy with such a simple product from Apple. They want it to be revolutionary, not just another thing.

The iPod nano Argument

“But people buy the iPod nano and use it as a watch, why won’t they do that with the iWatch?”

OK, so how many of you bought a nano specifically because it was a watch. You probably bought it because it could double as a watch and your iPod, right? Well if you own an iPhone, what’re you doing with that setup? The iPhone holds more than a nano anyways, and who wants a pair of headphones tethered between your wrist and your head? Depending on the type of wristband you purchased, it might require tools to separate the band with the nano. And at the end of the day, Apple redesigned the nano, so it’s all a moot point anyways.

The Collector Watch People

I have a friend who collects watches. He has oversized ones, little ones, historic ones, memorable ones and so on. He’s got an old-school Swatch from sometime in the ’90s, which is right next to one that’s so expensive I can’t breathe in its presence. Oh, and there’s a Batman one in there, too.

One of the things he tells me about his collection is that he likes the intricate motions. The way that a finely tuned watch can run for decades, with only winding to keep it in check. And that it’s beautiful to look at. Plus, there can be decades of history behind it. I can’t imagine any iWatch design that would fit all of those criteria. The battery would die after a few years, and there would be no mechanical means to keep it functioning, either. Beautiful, sure, Apple can do that. But history? Not unless you’re an Apple guy. No, this watch wouldn’t be for traditional collectors, and if so, only for its novelty.

Side Effects

All that said, what’s fascinating to me about the iWatch concept is how many people are rushing to get something out the door that would kill it on arrival. Since so many phones have been labelled as “iPhone Killers,” it makes sense to get proactive about a device that may or may not exist, right?

Look at the Samsung Galaxy Gear. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

She's a beauty, ain't she?

She’s a beauty, ain’t she?

Now tell me you want it. If so, you’re the one. Look, Samsung has their fanboys as does Apple (I own two Samsung TVs and a fridge, for example), but this is just a horrible concept. Multiple reviews say that it’s garbage. The BGR review is particularly telling. From their article:

Using S Voice when anyone else is nearby is beyond embarrassing — my wife literally broke out laughing when I first began testing it — and talking to a watch is still uncomfortable even when you’re alone.

And then this:

In other private situations, I just can’t envision a situation where voice calling on the Gear is terribly useful. The watch connects to your phone via Bluetooth, which means the user has to be within about 30 feet of the phone in order for the Gear to function. My advice: Pick up the phone.

And now Google is working on one too, apparently. What makes this one so special? It runs Android, but otherwise, not much is out there about it yet. Still, if it can overcome the problems of the Gear it might be alright, but it has a long way to go.

Hands Down

I look at the iWatch in all of its various forms and I think, “Do I need that?” Right now, the answer is a pretty solid no. There’s nothing that is rumored to be on the iWatch that makes it exciting to me, or a must-buy in any sense of the phrase.

But Apple is famous for taking expectations and shattering them, so maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this iWatch could be an amazing tool that fills a void in my life. But today, the way we’re hearing about it right now, I just don’t see how it fits in.