This is a post purely about tech – an indulgence away from education and a chance to just imagine!
Over a coffee last week a colleague and I mulled over the possibility of a wearable device from Apple. It was after the iPhone 5S and 5C event so we were discussing it in the context of the new features that they released, namely the Touch ID thumbprint scanner, iBeacon and the new M7 coprocessor chip.
While I’m not keen on falling into the trap of trying to predict what’s next, I though we had some good ideas something worth sharing anyway – and if it pans out and they’re on the blog I can then say I told you so!
- We don’t need another screen. An increasingly large number of the 1st world already have a phone, a tablet and a laptop/desktop. There isn’t a clear reason for another screen unless you’re bordering on the ridiculous… samsung?
- Apple offers technology with a clear sense of purpose. This is somewhat of a design mantra at Apple so it doesn’t make sense to just make a watch at a whim. All the new features they demoed in the 5S offer some thematically interesting opportunities – security, personalisation, monitoring, streaming, context aware, co-location, distributed functionality, payments. (yep positives and negatives there)
- Wearable needs to be fashionable. Casio calculator watches were ‘cool’ but they never looked good. It’s hard to make a screen look anything more than a black rectangle. Apple’s focus on good design lends weight for it to be a much simpler device – a few buttons and some feedback processes (like LEDs that flash and change colour)
- A whole array of sensors. The M7 is a reproducible low powered sensor array. By placing all these items on a single chip Apple have created something that could easily be spun off into its own device and without the reliance of a heavy-duty processor.
- The phone could stream and connect to the net. Tethering the device to a phone allows you to take advantage of it’s “always on” connection to the net. This would allow Apple to leverage its new iTunes radio and existing Match service to allow music to be played. So it might need a headphone jack 🙂
- The smartphone is our primary device. It makes sense for Apple to primarily tether a new peripheral to the iPhone rather than the desktop. It means they can simplify the device by using the power and processing from the iPhone to do all the heavy lifting. The phone provides all the actual ‘computing’ requirements to ensure any accessory could be kept simple and cheap. iBeacon and Touch ID though could pave the way for interesting uses with their laptop/desktop range – unlocking your MacBook using Touch ID for example.
- Everything old is new again. Apple could use the device to provide backwards compatibility for the new Touch ID scanner making it possible to retrofit it to all iOS (and potentially MacOS) devices. This means that developers and Apple would have the market to integrate this feature more and more – and increase the differentiation between Android.
- Capitalise on iBeacon. A wearable could make real use of the iBeacon feature to find, sync, play and interact. iBeacon could provide the handshake required to turn on the wi-fi or Bluetooth channels for the device to transfer data or connect to the web. iBeacon becomes the tool that allows essentially dumb technology to become smart and a platform for the “internet of things”.
- Use what you have. Apple doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel – just improve on it. The iPod shuffle is my favourite form factor EVER because of its simplicity and clarity of purpose. It would make a perfect design to work from and is incredibly suited to wearable applications – and its ripe for a reboot. It could easily be manufactured to match both plastic and aluminium form factors, is about the right size, with right control configuration and something that could easily be enhanced or evolved.
- Batteries Not Included. The biggest drawback of any screen related wearable is battery life. It’s something that Apple are acutely aware of so if you already have a smart device then linking in a dumb device makes sense. A device with a battery life of a week or more is going to get more use than one that only gets a day.
- Price Point. Apple would need to do all this for around the $99 mark and they are very capable of doing this. Samsung are dreaming if they think people are going to turn out $300 for a watch to connect to their phone.
Anyway that’s our 2¢. For the first time I can see some real potential for an Apple wearable – just not the one the techpress are presenting. Now it’s just a matter of wait and see what happens. There will be plenty of time to think through the issues and ramifications around wearable technologies – you could start with this lively conversation here we had at the mTech: Wearable technologies in an Educational Context meetup.