Apple shouldn't squander its lead in wearables; an iWatch isn't enough

Apple shouldn't squander its lead in wearables; an iWatch isn't enough

Summary: Apple needs to leapfrog the watch-as-a-remote-control trend and turn the iPod nano into a standalone micro-tablet. iPad nano anyone?

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TOPICS: Hardware, Apple, CXO, Mobility
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Apple was a pioneer in wearable computer technology, the iPod nano was one of the first truly wearable music players. In fact, people loved the iPod nano so much that a cottage industry developed around turning it into a wristwatch. The problem is that aside from a few novelty clock faces, Apple hasn't innovated in the wearable computing space beyond miniaturizing the iPod.

iPod nano watch faces - Jason O'Grady

One needn't look farther than the rapid success of the Pebble E-Paper watch (below) to realize that wearables are arguably one of the hottest segment in technology right now. Pebble Technology raised more than $3.8 million in a few days, making it the highest-grossing project since Kickstarter was founded. Then there's the Motorola Motoactv, inPulse Smartwatch and the WIMM Watch.

Pebble ePaper wristwatch - Jason O'Grady

Another horse is the growing wearable field is the Sony SmartWatch ($149, below, video). I've been testing one and generally agree with the early reviews from CNET, USA Today -- it's mostly half-baked. But there's a lot that Apple can learn from the Sony SmartWatch and the scores of other wearables that are coming to market.

Is Apple squandering its lead in wearables? Jason O'Grady

Apple needs to add wireless technology to the nano so that it can communicate with iOS and Mac OS devices (Bluetooth at a minimum, Wi-Fi would be nice). Having to plug the nano into a giant USB docking cable to sync music is patently absurd. It's 2012 and high time that Apple embraces wireless sync with the nano.

The iPad nano 6G includes Nike+ functionality which tells you your time, distance, pace, and calories burned as you run, gives you feedback and the details of your workout when you’re done. (The $2 Nike+ GPS app for iOS does the same thing) but like the other the non-music functions on the nano, it's basically window dressing that Apple's chosen to ignore.

Nike+ Apple - Jason O'Grady

A next-gen Apple wearable (like the iWatch concept from ADR Studios, below) needs to do more than play music, much more. Most of the second generation wearables are simply surrogates to a larger host device (an Android phone) and are mostly one-way devices. They can read messages, emails and Tweets but they can't reply. Apple could make the next nano an extension of the iPhone, but that isn't enough.

iWatch concept - Jason O'Grady

An Apple wearable needs to be more like a miniature iPod touch, full featured and enabled with an app ecosystem (sound familiar?). A bunch of pre-loaded first-party apps that don't do anything isn't going to cut it. Apple needs to leapfrog the watch-as-a-remote-control trend and turn the iPod nano into a standalone micro-tablet. In fact, Apple could call it the iPad nano. Now that's something that I could get behind.

What's your take on the wearable trend? What features would you want in a smart watch?

Topics: Hardware, Apple, CXO, Mobility

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11 comments
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  • The rig of the future

    My dream rig is a combination of three gadgets: iPhone base unit that goes either into my pocket or on a belt clip, wrist-mounted display/remote that is a Retina 600x400 touchscreen, and a separate stereo headphone/mic unit. There could be multiple options for headphones, the one I'm wishing for would have a semi-rigid neckband containing the electronics and battery. And it would have binaural pickups that operate in both noise-canceling mode for travelling and pass-thru mode when jogging.

    Finally, Siri could get an upgrade to being more interactive with the remote control, combining voice commands with displayed options where the user can respond with a richer set of gestures to speed things up. With all of that, I would truly be a mobile warrior!
    terry flores
  • Moto actv

    I think the motoactv is way ahead atm, if they just did a slimmer version...... Already on it is Bluetooth 4, GPS, Hi res screen, Ant+ 8-16gb mem, Totally independant, Wifi, maps, worldwide golf courses built in, pedometer, it looks like it will allow plugins soon as well, notifications like calls and texts. awesome stuff, also have the smartwatch which is dam good. if the 2 were combined then it would be the ultimate watch!!
    jkwr
  • Grave Spinning

    Dick Tracy is spinning in his grave.
    Reggie S
  • Apple's Catchup Strategy

    Personally, I have enough trouble with my failing eyesight to read my normal analog wristwatch, and wouldn't buy one of these, no matter what it did. However, I do see the interest.

    If you look at how the iPod and iPhone came on the scene, you'll realize that Apple is probably waiting for others to make their mistakes. They'll come out late with a slick, well-designed, up-market version of what everyone else has been trying to make (even Sony's is, as you say, "half baked"), do it better, avoid the pitfalls others had to pay R&D money for, and make out like bandits as they steal the market yet again.

    Well, that is what we all expect, isn't it?

    Isn't it?
    techwriter@...
    • Then you should buy one...

      Clock faces aren't limited to the traditional face, and are also much brighter than what you are used to...
      mattmuir
  • all I need Is reminders

    the reminders app is the most used app on my iPhone. having it on the watch would be a no brainer.
    vidyman
    • Actually, I'd go for that in a watch

      My 1980s model gives me the date and day of the week and I can set it to beep on the hour, and also to wake me up in the morning (but , hey, all digital watches have these features!) but I have to rely on being able to hear my Mac's alert from the other end of the house for reminders. I downloaded a diesel train whistle for that purpose. Alas, to use it means I can't let my Mac go to sleep. I wish somebody would create a piece of software to make it wake up when an alert comes up, since Apple doesn't seem interested. And there goes my diesel train! No peace for the wicked.
      Laraine Anne Barker
      • Also a flaw in the Nano..

        It has alarms... But you would need to wear headphones or plug into a speaker to have an affect. It's disappointing there is no vibration or audible sound for alarms and alerts
        mattmuir
  • Apple shouldn't squander its lead in wearables; the iWatch isn't enough

    [i]Apple was a pioneer in wearable computer technology, the iPod nano was one of the first truly wearable music players.[/i]
    Wait, what??? When did this happen? I remember Sony and the walkman being the revolutionary one. Your suggestion of an iPod Nano is a terrible idea. You basically want to take a single purpose device and make it multipurpose all on the smallest screen possible. I can already see the problems with that.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • The Sony Walkman

      was a portable music player... not really "wearable" like a watch... although Flava Flav might have used one for a necklace... LOL I like the basic concept of an iPod Nano tied into an iPhone and have that Nano display calendar items, time, weather, phone calls, tweets (if one is into that)... Although I have to admit if HTC came out with something similar running the Sense UI I'd get that... HTC did something I find aesthetically pleasing with the Sense UI especially the clock/weather widget.
      NonFanboy
  • RE: Wearable Apple tech

    I like the basic concept of an iPod Nano tied into an iPhone and have that Nano display calendar items, time, weather, phone calls, tweets (if one is into that)... Although I have to admit if HTC came out with something similar running the Sense UI I'd get that... HTC did something I find aesthetically pleasing with the Sense UI especially the clock/weather widget.
    NonFanboy