iWatch: The Next Big Thing From Apple?

Is this the new Apple iWatch? Image courtesy of Mirror.co.uk

For months now, the geeksphere has been buzzing with word that Apple is working on a smart watch. Since CES this year, the rumor mill has gone into overdrive. In case you haven’t heard, smartwatches are basically extensions of smartphones that you wear on your wrist like any other watch. The difference is that a smartwatch can display incoming phone calls, body metrics like heart rate, appointments, email, respond to voice controls and — gasp — even tell time.

The idea of Apple rolling out a smartwatch product makes total sense: wearable computing is an idea that is long-overdue in the consumer electronics sector and the Cupertino giant has shown a game-changing MO for improving existing technology. In the meantime, small start-ups and a least one big consumer electronics firm (Sony) have already launched the new product category that Apple will characteristically innovate. Just last month, the cool Pebble smartwatch started shipping to consumers after setting a new record at the popular crowd-funding website Kickstarter by raising $3 million. It works with both Android and iPhones (see video below).

Then there’s i’m Watch which runs on a version of the Google mobile operating system, Android; the stylish Meta Watch and the elegant but ironically named Martian watches. There is also the Sony device (also runs on Android) simply called SmartWatch . Here in Canada, one of the coolest smartwatches Neptune Pine, was developed by a Montreal startup, Neptune Computer. Aside from its gorgeous design, the Neptune Pine is distinct in that it operates without a smartphone (and even receives/sends calls).

For Apple, a smartwatch is a no brainer given the instant Nano-watch revolution that started after users snapped up straps and watch interfaces to convert their tiny iPods into wrist-wearable computers (until the seventh generation design made it impossible). The advantage Apple will have in this new area will be its ecosystem (like apps modified for the tiny screen or the ability to find your missing iPhone), marketing savvy and, of course, its history of beautiful design. Also, the tiny screen would fit nicely into Apple’s family of digital products ranging from iMac desktops, the ultra thin Macbook Air to iPads and smartphones (and perhaps one day the oft-rumored Apple TV).

Plus given the recent nose-dive in Apple stock, CEO Tim Cook desperately needs a post-Jobs digital hit. Even for non-visionaries like Cook, it’s quite obvious the next big thing in computing will be wearable.

Update: The New York Times and several other media outlets are now reporting Apple is developing a curved glass wristwatch.

Pebble smartwatch demo:

Pebble Kickstarter Video from Pebble Technology on Vimeo.