According to the ever-busy rumor mill, Apple is preparing to start production of the long-awaited iWatch. While we know nothing official about this mythical device, the word on the street is that it will feature a 2.5-inch screen, wireless charging, and a heart sensor, and could hit stores as early as October.
Apple's been willing to take a gamble on devices for well over a decade now, starting with the iPod and finally culminating with the iPad, but the iWatch will be no different. There are several examples of smartwatches on the market currently — think the Pebble or the Samsung Galaxy Gear — but none of these have made it into mainstream circulation.
Can Apple make the smartwartch a mainstream product? If it is going to do that, the company has a number of challenges to overcome.
1 — Battery life
One of the challenges facing any portable device is balancing out power with battery life, and the smaller a device is, the bigger those problems become.
One of the biggest annoyances facing the smartwatches of today is poor battery life. Go out and pick up a standard digital watch and you can expect a battery life of at least a year. If that's not good enough for you, can pick up solar-powered models that have an indefinite battery life. But if you take the Pebble or the Gear, you're looking at having to charge it every few days.
But you might be wondering what the difference is between charging a smartphone or tablet and charging a smartwatch. Bottom line, it comes down to having to remember to put it on. I've owned and used a few wearable devices and after the initial happiness has worn off, it's so darn easy to forget to put it back on, and a few months later you find it gathering dust on a shelf or hidden away in a drawer somewhere.
2 — Durability
Apple makes some good products, but one thing the company is not known for is making durable products. Drop and iPhone or iPad on the ground and it will break, and drop it in some water and it will drown.
An iWatch is going to have to be a lot more durable than this. It will have to withstand sweat, water, being banged about and dropped on the floor a lot more than any current Apple product can and it will need to look good after this abuse.
It's can't be like my FitBit, which looked a mess after only a few weeks of wear.
3 — Siri powered?
One way Apple could dramatically simplify the iWatch user interface would be to integrate Siri into the iWatch, but this would make the device 100 percent reliant on an iPhone or iPad, and a connection to the internet.
4 — Features
The iWatch just can't bring iPhone or iPad features to the wrist. It has to bring more to the table, a lot more.
Health and fitness are obvious categories, but the strength of the iPhone and iPad is that they appeal to a broad swathe of users, from music lovers to fitness addicts to business users.
5 — Style
Type "digital watch" into Amazon and you'll pull up over 100,000 products. Narrow that down by gender and you'll still get several thousand to choose from, and they come in all manner of shapes and colors.
It' a thing called style, and coming out with a single product — or even a range of products — that has mass appeal is not easy, and that's doubly so when it's a product such as a watch that you wear in plain sight.
Another stylistic problem is making a device that's just as much at home in the gym as it is at work or a party. This is a tough call, but if Apple wants to make the iWatch sticky, they're going to have to make a device that people don't take off often.
6 — Price
Smartwatches are — so far, at any rate — companion devices to smartphones and tablets, but at around $200 to $250 they are not priced as companion devices.
While I an under no illusions that Apple will come out with a budget product — this is a company that sells simple cables for $20 — the price can't be outrageous given that the Pebble Steel is $250 and an iPad starts at $399.
As enthusiastic as Apple is when it comes to pricing, I can't see the iWatch going over $300.
7 — App ecosystem
Is the iWatch going to run third-party apps?
Apps are central to Apple's hardware ecosystem and it's hard to imagine the iWatch not having third-party app support. But if that is going to be the case, Apple is going to have a hard time convincing developers to adopt a new platform when there are easier fish to fry. But the risk is that if Apple decided to release the iWatch without app support, might potential buyers sit back and wait a year or so for an updated version to come?
What do you want from an iWatch? Join in the TalkBack and let me know!