iWatch / smartwatch ideas
As opposed to smartphones (which are nowadays all a variant of a slab of plastic/metal with a touchscreen), smartwatches are still somewhat undefined: no one has yet figured what the best design is, and there are many different views on what constitutes a smartwatch.
I think a smartwatch should be a tool that prevents you from constantly taking your smartphone out of your pocket... and also tells you what time it is.
Size and battery life are probably the most obvious constraints for a smartwatch. There are ways to work with these constraints :
Turning the face of the watch into a touchscreen usually requires the watch to be bigger and makes for poor interaction (i.e. small icons are hard to hit properly; fingers obscure most of the screen).
Instead the rim of the watch could be made touch sensitive to become the main navigation means.
Here are some gestures that could work well with a touch sensitive rim.
Two finger hold to bring up the main menu
Index scrolling to navigate through a list
One tap to select an item from a list
Double tap to cancel the previous selection and/or go back up to the previous menu screen (i.e. the equivalent of a back button).
Another way to expand navigation could be to enable the face of the watch to respond to swipes (because swipes do not require a lot of accuracy).
As opposed to a smartphone, whose screen is turned off when not in use, it would be really annoying to have to wake up the smartwatch every time one tries to look at the time. The problem is that keeping the screen on all the time leads to poor battery life. The pebble watch tries to answer this issue by using a low-power e ink screen, but at the expense of color, resolution, and screen refresh rates.
One alternative could be to put a transparent lcd screen in front of a regular watch. This way the "watch" component of the smartwatch is on all the time and uses very little power, and the "smart" component only comes when needed. I think this could also make for more compelling and diverse watch designs.
Here are four different uses of a smartwatch. Again the goal is to prevent you from having to take your smartphone out of your pocket.
Phone call: swipe right to ignore the call and direct it to your voicemail (if you want to answer the call, then this is a case where you’ll probably have to pick up your phone).
Calendar: swipe left to view more details about a meeting
Directions: this would be for someone walking down a street, with the watch alerting them whenever you need to change direction.
Facebook, Twitter: short notification messages.
One more thing…
A well-designed smartwatch should prevent you from having to take your smartphone out of your pocket. But what if there was something that allowed you to know whether you’re getting a call, a reminder, or a message without even looking at your smartwatch? this would be a unique feature possible because your wear the watch on your wrist.
All smartphones nowadays use haptic feedback, but there have been lots of progress in that area that allow a much greater range of feedback than the traditional buzz you’re used to (see some articles about Vivitouch and Immersion).
What if the bottom of the watch, the one in contact with your skin, had such an improved haptic device that enabled you to feel what type of notification you are getting. For example, a circular motion for a reminder (immersion says they can replicate the feel of a clickwheel), a left-to-right repeating motion when you are getting a phone call, or up-and-down for a tweet, email, etc.
For example, this could enable you to figure out whether someone’s calling you (if you are expecting an important call) or continue the conversation you’re having (if you feel you are just getting a tweet notification).