Friday, February 15, 2013

Can the Apple iWatch Revolutionize the Wearable Device Trend?

Apparent leaked reports of research teams at Apple Inc. (AAPL) working in secret to develop a new “smart” wristwatch have been circulating for months. While the idea of a discrete, multi-functional wearable device has been around for decades, and a few companies have recently announced successful projects, the trend never really took off.

Considering that Apple is probably the leader in digital innovations, it’s not hard to believe the rumors that it is aggressively working on an “iWatch” product. I can’t think of another company more likely to release such a device. If the rumors are true, it would appear that Apple is near the final stage of development and could release the iWatch sometime this year.

Together with Intel Corporation (INTC) and Corning Incorporated (GLW), the major physical parts may have already been successfully created. Collaborating with Intel to develop a lightning fast chipset and Corning to develop a paper-thin version of its famous Gorilla Glass, the only remaining significant component for the iWatch would be the software, a challenge which Apple could undoubtedly handle with its usual panache.

However, I can’t help but wonder if, despite the completeness with which Apple would undoubtedly deliver such a timepiece, can they bring it into the mainstream and sell enough units to make the project profitable? Will an Apple-powered Bluetooth-enabled smartwatch become the starting point to a shift toward wearable communications devices? Will the iWatch be an innovative new device capable of transforming the way we utilize existing technology? Or, will it be another impressive attempt that just didn’t take off?

Looking at the recent success of the Pebble watch, a wearable device that connects via Bluetooth to your iPhone or Android and pushes calls, text messages and email to the wrist-sized display, it’s obvious there is a demand for this type of technology. The Pebble Kickstarter project has received over $10.2 million in funding pledges to date and has been called the most successful Kickstarter project ever.

Conversely, a brief examination of the Sony Corp (SNE) SmartWatch, released around this time last year, shows what could be a similar product to the rumored iWatch, but one that failed miserably. Regardless of the lack of interest in the SmartWatch, it’s still listed as an available accessory on the Verizon Wireless (VZ) website.

Perhaps the main reason products like this might not have much success is the fact that they are only accessories designed to extend the functionality of an Android or iPhone. They are not standalone communications devices, but instead rely on a constant Bluetooth connection to a nearby smartphone. With the cost of cellphones already in the hundreds, it’s not surprising that people haven’t jumped to spend even more money on a wearable accessory that provides no extra functionality and is instead just an expensive conversation starter.

If Apple is really planning on releasing the iWatch later this year, and if the company hopes to get the wristwatch-communicator trend off the ground, it had better come up with something truly amazing, something new that will revolutionize the industry. Without a doubt, Apple has the people, resources, money and marketing reach to do just that.

This article is a Twisted Nonsense Exclusive! (02/15/2013)

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