Listening to the latest Talk Show podcast this morning as I was making bread, I was enjoying the speculation about what Apple might announce next week. Many possibilities, from new iPads to Mavericks and 4k displays were discussed, and particularly interesting were Mr Gruber’s thoughts on iPod Nano and/or Apple iWatch.
I had one of those square Nanos, and did indeed get a watch strap for it. I wore it as a watch for over a year, until the wake button failed, and since then I’ve just used it for music in the car. You can’t actually use it as a regular iPod any more, because you can’t wake it up from sleep. It has struck me since then that any attempt to make a “smart watch” would have to deal with such everyday issues.
The other thing about it was, people were always really impressed, with the whole idea. Especially young people. Personally, I found it a bit disappointing, but I was the one living with it. I didn’t like having to push a button to see the time, and although it would wake to the clock some of the time, quite often, it wouldn’t. So you had to faff about to get the time on the screen. Which kind of defeated the object. Also, you couldn’t really use it as an iPod while it was on your wrist without looking like a twat. And, of course, eventually all those button pushes led to hardware failure.
Still, the idea clearly attracts people. But as Mr Gruber pointed out, for the watch thing to take off, you’ve got to be making something that looks more attractive and elegant. And you’ve got to decide whether you’re in the “fine jewellery” business or the “high tech gadget” business. I found the Nano as a watch to be unwieldy: too large, too thick, and too prone to slide on the strap I bought. I’m coming from a position, by the way, of basically hating almost all watch designs, give or take those from Braun and Mondaine. (In a similar way, I can usually dismiss 98% of all the shoes in a shoe shop, or 90% of shirts and 95% of socks in clothing retailers.)
For a so-called smart watch to work as a watch, it needs to display the time all the time. I need to be able to glance at my wrist, not push a button. It’s not 1976, and we’re not Texas Instuments (I used to have one of those). And it needs to have a battery that lasts longer than a day. Which means it can’t really have an always-on display. Or a cellular radio, or a wifi radio. Even low-power Bluetooth might be pushing it.
If I was in charge of Apple, I wouldn’t want to be releasing something that was (a) ugly, (b) didn’t work very well as a watch, or (c) needed to be charged every day. I’d be knocked out if they solved all those problems.