Rumors have ramped up this week that Apple is developing an "iWatch." The success of wearable technology like the Nike Fuelband, and demand for the Pebble, the Kickstarter-backed smart watch, have fueled the speculation.
It's a logical move for Apple, which could use a new device to generate buzz and drive revenue. The iPhone and iPad are still selling almost as fast as Apple can produce them, but it will be hard to sustain growth and relevance by pushing out annual, incremental updates to them.
If Apple is working on some sort of intelligent watch, what exactly would it be? Here are a few concepts to consider.
1. A standalone iWatch
Following in the footsteps of the iPod Nano-as-watch, Apple could simply develop a more capable version of the iPod Nano, engineered to be worn on the wrist.
People turned the iPod Nano into a watch by creating innovative watchbands for the music player. Apple embraced the movement by incorporating a variety of watch face options into the iPod Nano, but then it created a new iPod Nano model that's a different shape and breaks its functionality as a watch.
The iPod Nano has an MP3 player and an FM radio, photos, a clock, and Nike+ fitness capabilities. Apple could incorporate GPS or Wi-Fi into such a small gadget to greatly enhance the functions. An Apple iWatch could handle maps and navigation, and allow people to connect with and check in on social networks like Facebook or FourSquare.
2. An extension of an iPhone
Rather than trying to build all of that functionality into a watch itself, Apple could make a watch leverage the power of the iPhone. An iWatch could be paired via Bluetooth with an iPhone and act as a wireless portal to a variety of iPhone functions, without making you take the smartphone out of your pocket or purse.
I suggested almost a year ago (about a month before the Pebble project took off on Kickstarter) that Apple should build on the iPod Nano-as-watch concept. It would be especially cool if an iWatch displayed maps and navigation information from the iPhone, or if you could push a button on it to query Siri.
One of the reasons there's so much excitement about the Pebble is that it does things that people wish the iPod Nano-as-watch could do. The Pebble connects to an iOS or Android device, and it can leverage smartphone-based apps to provide functionality through its e-paper display. It has the potential to display alerts and notifications, emails, incoming call details, social network status updates, weather information, and more from your smartphone via the Pebble on your wrist.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.