The Apple iWatch is quickly becoming the Loch Ness monster of the tech world. I’ve heard rumours about its existence for as far back as I can remember (okay a year), but as of yet we’ve had no concrete evidence that it’s going to be an actual, real life thing anytime soon.
Of course a number of ‘unnamed sources’, who I imagine are skulking down alleyways and wearing trenchcoats as I type, have hinted at an Autumn launch date. However, I wouldn’t bet any of my other shiny, overpriced Apple gadgets that come October we’ll all be shimmying down the street with a brand new (and hella expensive) iWearable strapped to our arms.
But, that doesn’t mean we can’t waste countless hours speculating about which rumours we’d just love to be true, the design factors the team at Apple really must pay attention to and the features it’d need to be packing to make us hand over our hard-earned cash.
Because at the end of the day, the Apple iWatch is only really exciting wearable-lovers and those in the tech industry. To make waves in the hearts and minds of a mainstream consumer Apple is really going to have to pull its finger out, design a watch that’s truly beautiful and, most importantly, give every other smartwatch, fitness tracker and app currently on the market a damn good run for its money.
1. Different sizes, shapes and price points
Out of all of the rumours that have been circulating for more than 12 months about the iWatch, the one that has me most excited and most convinced that it’ll be an iSuccess is the fact it could well come in a number of different sizes, with different designs and… drum roll please… even different price points, for those of us who can’t splash the cash.
Wearable devices are hard to get right because we wear them all of the time. Yes it sounds simple, but tell someone they have to wear something all of the time and you’ll find they’ll throw comments, complaints and praise your way that’s completely different to the person stood next to them. This is because the experience is so personal. Even those in the same demographic who are into the same things could want a totally different experience from a wearable.
So how do you get it right? Create different options for different people.
Although Apple made history by launching the one and only iPhone with very little variation, the world of wearables and watches is an entirely different ball game and for Apple to please the big crowds it needs to show versatility, which means more than one model.
2. A design to rival the Moto 360 (because it’s well fit)
If you were to have asked me ‘which tech company will produce the most exciting, swoon-worthy wearable of 2014?’ way back at the beginning of last year, there’s no way I’d have said Motorola. (In fact I’d have probably laughed in the face of anyone who did.)
But lo’ and behold everyone from tech industry insiders to mainstream journalists are all fawning over the tech giant’s Moto 360 smartwatch. Granted no one has had much opportunity to play around with the Android Wear-powered device just yet, but its simple, circular design is a pretty big turning point, as it shows smart wearables can (for the first time ever) actually be, well, wearable.
The video released by Motorola last week also shows that smart wearables can be worn by women too! Well who’d thought it, eh?!! But SRSLY, the world of wearables has been pretty male-dominated so far, from the promo shots to the features to the design, which brings me nicely onto my next point…
3. To have women in mind
I know, I know, I’m in dodgy territory here as I’m sure there are plenty of women who love the smartwatches currently on the market.
But guess what? I really don’t.
Now it’s not that I don’t like massive, square-shaped devices, but they look ridiculous on me. And I don’t mean not bang-on-trend ridiculous, I mean actual OMG WHAT IS THIS MASSIVE BORG-LIKE THING STRAPPED TO MY ARM ridiculous. I’m a UK size 12 and a medium build, and yet my wrists are still far too small for many of the smartwatches I’ve tried on in the past. I’ve brought this up with others before and they tell me to just add extra holes into the straps. Personally, if I’ve invested a huge chunk of my pay check into a gadget I don’t want to be drilling home-made holes into it with a corkscrew to find it just sits all funny and looks even more out-of-place on me. I want a device that’s made for me.
When it comes to female focused design, we’re not just talking about size here either. EVERY female I’ve spoken to about wearables gets quizzed on the ‘square vs circle’ debate I’ve been obsessed with for months. Now I don’t know what the psychology behind this is (although would LOVE for someone to enlighten me), but I know the majority of women prefer watches and wearables with round faces. It could be as primal (and ridiculous) as the fact it mirrors our curves or it could just be that we like clean, round designs because most watches are shaped like that anyway, but either way it needs to be taken into consideration – and would certainly explain why so many of my colleagues have been swooning over the Moto 360.
4. Remote security for my phone
If current devices on the market are anything to go by, the Apple iWatch will have a big focus on bringing notifications from our phones to our wrists. However, to make this pairing worthwhile, security needs to play a key role as well.
We’ve seen wearables like the Sony SmartBand SWR10 build-in features that tell us when we’re too far from our handsets and Apple’s iWatch will need to do the same and a whole lot more. Given the success of Apple’s Find my iPhone feature on iCloud, we’re expecting the ability to remotely wipe and locate our devices if we lose them or they get stolen.
This will be a particularly appealing feature to people like me: young, lives in the city, often loses things. Sure my demographic is willing to splash the cash on gadgets, but knowing they’re now joining forces to keep each other safer and more secure is an added bonus that may sound small, but could actually make a huge difference when it comes to choosing between smartwatches.
5. Health and fitness tracking to rival the best in the biz
I’d bet my grandparents on the fact the Apple iWatch will be packing some state-of-the-art health and fitness sensors. In fact, if recent rumours are true the smartwatch will have more than ten sensors, including a heart rate monitor and accelerometer.
However, as the world of activity trackers and fitness apps becomes more and more advanced, Apple will need to ensure it’s offering customers something they can’t get elsewhere. Whether this is a better way of aggregating data (we imagine that’ll be Health?), more advanced tracking than ever before or a to-die-for app experience that changes the way you workout, it’ll need to have that wow-factor to convince those already die-hard Jawbone, Nike+ and Fitbit fans who have found their new favourite personal assistant and don’t want to give it up without a fight.
6. Smart directions
Another relatively small feature that could make a HUGE difference to the way you use your Apple gadgets: a smarter way of giving us all directions. I tend to use my phone to direct me around London more than three times a week. (Maybe I do too much stuff or maybe I’m just a little bit dumb, who knows?) However, it’s a pretty stupid experience. Look down. Look up. Look down. Look up. Look down. Nearly fall off the pavement. Look up. Look down. Nearly get run over. Look down. Look up. SMASH PHONE ON FLOOR.
If the Apple iWatch can make finding your way around more intuitive, with voice directions and maps on your wrist, then it’ll at least lower my blood pressure. And maybe flog more devices, too.
7. Decent battery life
It’s the ultimate #firstworldproblem, but come on, the rate most of our gadgets run out of juice nowadays is just laughable. I’ve just about got into the habit of charging my iPhone twice a day without going into some Hulk-style rage, but if Apple expects me to take my iWatch off every few hours to charge it then it’ll be in the bin after day 2. The iWatch will need to have a fairly decent battery life in order to ensure people keep it on their wrists and not in a smashed up heap under their feet.
8. Different kinds of juice
One way to combat the problem of battery life could well be different ways of charging up your phone. Now it’s one of the more ambitious (and unlikely) rumours circulating about the new Apple iWatch, but we would love to see a gadget powered solely by motion or sunlight. Not only would it make us feel better about the world, more likely to move and get out into the sunlight, it’d probably reduce the stress and anxiety rate in London by about 80%.
9. Advanced connectivity
We know the Apple iWatch is going to be talking to our phone, but we also want it to be BFFs with our other devices as well. If it could control everything else in the Apple ecosystem, like our iPad or our Apple TV, then we’d be delighted. If it could control our non-Apple products it’d be pretty life-changing (and not to mention very Matrix-y).
10. To be worth wearing
Okay it sounds ridiculous, but when many people tout the advantages of smartwatches they say ‘it brings your phone to your wrist’, but the problem with that is my phone is already very close to my wrist.
If all the iWatch is going to do is tell me what’s going on on my iPhone, it’s going to be pretty worthless. In fact, it’s going to have to be all-singing and all-dancing for anyone to buy into the idea that they need another type of gadget in their lives. Granted many people may have said the same thing about the iPad, but there’s a clear, definite argument for using a tablet over a phone or a laptop. The iWatch is going to need a huge inventory of awesome features, the capability to talk to other devices and things customers just aren’t going to get anywhere else.
So there you have it. They’re the ten things I’ll need to see Apple pull out of the bag for me to give a sh*t and splash out the cash on its highly-anticipated new wearable. The thing here is, I’m not asking the earth. Granted we haven’t seen all of these features and considerations rolled into one shiny package yet, but all of the points are possible and all of the points are necessary to get demanding, mainstream customers with high expectations interested in yet another iGadget.
The image at the top is an awesome concept design from Todd Hamilton.