Apple's Wearable Device Will Be More Nike Fuel Band Than Pebble Watch
Lots of new information is beginning to come out about Apple's not so secret wearable computer in the works. Through new hires and reports of a "dream-team" being assembled, we're starting to get a glimpse at not only how important Apple thinks this new product may be, but what it's uses will be as well. All signs point to a wearable computer for the wrist, full of state-of-the-art sensors that can measure, record and share data about it's users to iPhones/iPads.
Apple sleuths over at 9to5mac wrote an intensive article chronicling all the recent hires Apple has made that seem to support a future wearable device. Some of those new hires include former CEO of high-end fashion brand Yves Saint Laurent as well as numerous scientists and executives from different sensor developers. These new hires come mostly from biotech, which leads one to believe Apple's plans for the "iWatch" are far greater than a device that simply relays notifications from an iPhone.
With a focus on fitness and health Apple will have to design the device to be, light weight, and appealing to wear in various settings. In fact I'd bet Apple would probably like this device to be worn all of the time (that includes showers). This would allow for vital signs, location and fitness information to constantly be tracked by the user for supporting apps. Following that logic, an Apple wearable device will have to be somewhat inconspicuous, similar to the Nike Fuel Band and less like a Dick Tracy watch.
If the "iWatch" is going to be as much a health and fitness device as tech gadget one would assume it will be full of sensors. Having sensors built all the way around the wrist, not only maximizes the use of space but could allow for pulse reading, temperature measurements and anything else Apple can manage to fit in the device.
This is another reason why the consistent "watch" assertions and mockups are so wrong. Telling the time will probably be the last thing you would do with such a device. I also find it hard to imagine a screen larger than 2 inches being anything most people would want to wear all the time, if at all. Instead of trying to shoehorn the iPhone UI on your wrist, it makes more sense for Apple to design a custom UI made specifically for the device. If the rumored use of curved glass is true, a horizontal touch screen that curves with the band seems more feasible than a square. Nike's Fuel Band has been relatively successful by being nearly invisible, lightweight, and the LEDs aren't noticeable when not on. Having a small screen that only powers on when needed will help preserve precious battery life that surely will be a luxury on a device this small.
There's also those rumors about the use of liquid metal as a material that started after patents were discovered last year. These rumors were initially attributed to the iPhone but makes more sense for a wearable device at this time. Manufacturing products with liquid metal has proven to be difficult and starting with a smaller device in less quantity than the iPhone may prove as an easier first step. Liquid metal is both stronger and lighter than aluminum making it a perfect candidate to use on a high end wearable computer.
Releasing a more polished version of the Pebble watch would've been a mistake and Apple knew this. Instead Apple is doing what Apple typically does when launching a new product. Let other companies release half baked products first so they can learn what worked and what doesn't. Then they'll release a product with superior hardware and polished software. By bringing together the sophistication and fitness of the Fuel Band, the notifications of Pebble and adding a layer for health monitoring, Apple could possibly make the first mainstream wearable computer for everyone.
Beyond the obvious notification uses there are very practical uses for wearable technology if the right sensors are included on the device. There are millions of people who suffer from diabetes and blood pressure problems. A device that could check and monitor glucose levels and blood pressure could have huge implications in the medical industry. Leveraging these new sensors with Apple's App ecosystem could create an entirely new class of apps. The possibilities for the uses of this type of data is incredible which is why there's no surprise Microsoft, Samsung and Google are all rumored to be making wearable technology as well.
The one demand I have....can we please stop calling these things watches?