Apple is due to unveil new products at a media event on 9 September
Apple’s upcoming event is almost certainly going to feature an iPhone upgrade (or two). But most now anticipate the unveiling of an additional product next week – namely a wearable device or ‘iWatch’.
Should that come to pass, it won’t be the first to enter this burgeoning market, but many anticipate Apple will follow the same ‘late but great’ formula that gave it success in the worlds of smartphones and tablets.
But in order for that to happen, and in order for Apple’s wearable to blow away its rivals, it will need to…
Be more than an accessory
Many of the early Android wearables have been little more than a second screen, hijacking a phone’s connection and presenting the data on a small, wrist-based screen. There are people who will pay money to avoid the hassle of taking their phone out of their pocket, but not very many.
Be more than a fitness tracker
A lot has been made about the potential of Apple’s HealthKit feature, which will debut on iOS 8 to help users track all sort of health-related metrics. It makes perfect sense that a wearable would tap into this – in fact, you would imagine the device being central to the process. But if that’s all Apple offers, it will prove a huge disappointment. This is not least because of the niche appeal that comes with a premium fitness tracker, but also because the space is so well represented already.
Offer plenty of power
Decent computing power goes without saying – but perhaps more important is decent battery power. Few people are crying out for another device they need to plug in every day – or every half-day – and when it’s a device that’s meant to be worn that prospect becomes even less appealing. Any wearable that hopes to please rather than frustrate a user would need to be looking at battery life in terms of days – not hours. Doing this on a miniature computer would be no easy task and almost certainly involves compromises in size, functionality or both, but better that than shipping something that becomes a very expensive bracelet half way through the day.
Get the price right
Apple is a premium device maker, so it would be naive to expect its wearable to be anything resembling cheap. However, as its sales figures show, it has generally managed to price products at just the right side of expensive without making them unattainable. It needs to make sure it does the same with its wearable, especially because such a product will probably be seen as less “vital” to a consumer as a phone or even tablet no matter how fully-featured it is. Sure, there are many who would pay hundreds – even thousands – for a plain old analogue watch, but they don’t tend to face issues of obsolescence like a piece of modern technology does. (Many commentators expect the Apple wearable will be priced significantly higher than other entrants – but bear in mind that there wasn’t much of a price-gap across flagship devices in the early stages of the modern smartphone or tablet… it was only after a few iterations, and a broadening of other companies’ ranges, that non-Apple devices offered much of an upfront saving.)
Get the software right
Apple’s iOS is a huge asset – it looks good, has a huge amount of apps and is entirely in control of the company itself. It would be insanity if the company did not leverage that when entering the wearable space. But porting all of iOS into a significantly smaller – and likely weaker – device is not practical either, either from a UI or UX point-of-view. Looking to the last two generations of iPod Nano does not endear a lot of confidence in Apple’s ability to squeeze a nice interface into a small touchscreen, but hopefully the company will get the balance just right when it comes to this new product category.
Be… well… wearable
Apple excels at design and, along with all the fashion and wrist-watch experts it’s hired in the past year, you’d expect it to create something that looks well at the very least. Less clear is whether the company can create something that people will be comfortable wearing as they go about their day. Will it be able to take a knock or two without breaking? Will you be able to wear it in the shower or swimming pool? Can the company create something iconic that’s subtle too? These will be the details that could make or break Apple’s first foray into the wearable space.