A few people asked me to comment about the possibility that Apple is working on a new wearable piece of technology such as a smartwatch. According to The New York Times, Apple is experimenting with wristwatch-like devices made of curved glass, according to people familiar with the company’s explorations, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because they are not allowed to publicly discuss unreleased products.
Well, of course Apple is experimenting. Innovation comes from experimentation and design investigations, things that bring execution to what would otherwise be just an idea. If you’re lucky enough to own or have read the book AppleDesign: The Work of the Apple Industrial Design Group by Paul Kunkel, you can see there just how many designs, mockups, prototypes Apple produced internally from the early 1980s to 1997. It’s too bad there isn’t a second volume of such completeness to illustrate what Apple has been investigating from 1998 up to now. But it’s easy to imagine that the exploration processes inside the company haven’t changed much. In other words, the fact that Apple is “experimenting with wristwatch-like devices made of curved glass” doesn’t necessarily mean Apple will produce them.
Anyway, these past days I was gathering a few notes to write about this purported ‘Apple smartwatch’ and share my take on it (spoiler: I don’t think it’s a great idea), but Harry C. Marks, of Curious Rat fame, wrote a really interesting and thought-provoking piece for Macgasm called Candidly Speaking, An iWatch Is A Dumb Idea where he raises all the very same objections I had been mulling over recently.
A couple of quotes:
But the main use will be to provide a glimpse at recent notifications: the same notifications present on the iPhone in your pocket, less than one foot away. We’ll be able to see new text messages, emails, tweets, and other alerts without having to go through the arduous task of reaching into our pants and whipping out a cumbersome slab of metal and glass. Could someone explain to me how useful that would be? If I get an alert for a new text message, I’ll want to respond to it immediately. That’s what a “wrist computer” is supposed to allow me to do. It will be nearly impossible to type on a screen so small, so what forms of input will an iWatch take? Dictation? This speaks to the concerns about speaking at one’s wrist in public.
What’s the point of being able to see something flash on your wrist, only to have to pull out a second device in order to act upon it? Many of us would like to have better self-control when it comes to using our phones at the dinner table, but another expensive piece of machinery isn’t going fix the underlying problem. It may exacerbate it even more.
But I don’t want to anticipate too much. Go over at Macgasm and read the whole piece. It’s well worth your time and you can better understand Marks’ (and my) point of view on the matter.