It has yet to launch and in typical style Apple has given very little away in terms of product information or launch date, yet the hotly anticipated iWatch is being discussed across the web in fervent fashion. From gadget blogs to digital health influencers, Apple’s expected foray in to the wearable technology market is exciting the great and the good across the internet. And rightfully so; Apple is a disruptor of industries, a technological innovator of great magnitude and a company that can generate wide-spread publicity by doing very little or nothing at all.
Apple certainly won’t be the first to market its wearables offering. Competitors Google with its head-mounted wearable device Glass and Samsung which is already selling the second generation version of its smartwatch, the Gear 2 have been on the market since 2012 and 2o13 respectively. But then again, Apple is very rarely first to the table with a new consumer device; taking a first-mover-advantage has never been the Apple way. Designing beautiful products that work seamlessly and have real value is.
So why is there so much information on the iWatch? Quite simply, it’s down to two things: 1. Pure speculation of what Apple may or may not do and 2. Interpreting the company’s moves such hiring of key staff, acquiring specialist companies or registering patents which Apple has done plenty of recently.
Over the last year Apple has been making a number of acquisitions and hires in what has been assumed as the company forming the iWatch team. Some rumors suggest that the iWatch team is now 200 people strong with Jony Ive leading the project. Whether this is true or not no doubt some of the people listed below have been involved in developing the product and helping to bring it to market.
Feb 2013 – Files patents for wearable technology and “movement monitor devices”
July 2013 – Hires Paul Deneve, CEO of luxury fashion company, Yves Saint Laurent, to work on “special projects.” Could this be Apple bringing in expertise on how to make wearable technology for the fashion conscious?
Oct 2013 – Announces hiring of Angela Ahrendts, CEO of Burberry, who joins the company in the middle of this year as head of retail and e-commerce. Or perhaps to assist with bringing wearable technology (including wearable clothing) to the masses?
Nov 2013 – Acquires Israeli based motion sensor company, PrimeSense, for a reported $360m. PrimeSense makes technologies for a range of industries including healthcare and Microsoft’s Kinect is notably made by the company
Nov 2013 – Hires algorithms architect Nima Ferdosi who previously worked at digital health company Vital Connect on “algorithms and firmware for embedded bio and motion sensors”
Jan 2014 – Hires hardware engineer Nancy Daugherty from digital health company, Sano Intelligence
Jan 2014 – Apple executives meet with the FDA allegedly to discuss the forthcoming Healthbook app in iOS 8 that monitors health, fitness and workout information, via the iWatch
Feb 2014 – Hires sleep research expert Roy J.E.M Raymann from Philips who is thought to be helping with the introduction of the iWatch
Feb 2014 – Hires sensor expert Marcelo Malini Lamego who previously spent eight years as CTO of medical device company Cercacor
Feb 2014 – Patents fitness tracking earbuds that can monitor heart rate. A connection to the iWatch? Most likely while participating in exercise
March 2014 – Apple rumor site 9to5Mac gives a detailed look at Healthbook, an alleged new Apple application incorporated in to iOS8, the next mobile operating system update
March 2014 – Patents wrist-based activity tracker which “vastly” improves accuracy on wearable step counters, by determining where a user is wearing it and adjusting the way it analyzes movement as a result
Consumer Search Interest Alongside Google Glass
Using Google Trends we can see that the Apple iWatch has been on people’s minds for a number of years and people have been searching for the device since back in 2009. The increase in searches (the blue C peak) of the iWatch and the resulting flow of queries since seems to have been started by this article in the New York Times’ Technology section where undisclosed “people familiar with the company’s explorations” tipped off the reporter on Apple’s experiments on a “wristwatch-like device made of curved glass.” This was subsequently picked up by other mainstream media and social media and has been riding the speculative hype wave ever since.
In comparison with Google Glass however, the search giant’s head-mounted wearable device was unheard of until its announcement in early 2012 and has since enjoyed considerably more search queries for it than the iWatch. Let’s not forget however that Google Glass is an actual product available (to some) and being used in numerous settings including for health whereas any discussion around the iWatch is completely unofficial thus far.
Media and Social Media Interest Alongside Google Glass
Analyzing online media and social media mentions for both the iWatch and Google Glass over the last 12 months tells a similar story to the Google Trends analysis where Glass is enjoying the majority of mentions across online mainstream media and popular social media channels such as blogs, Twitter and forums. This is purely from a coverage volume perspective and doesn’t cover what is actually being said about both products. Google Glass has been notoriously good at dividing people on whether it will be here for the long-term (I think it will) so no doubt a proportion of these mentions of it will be of a negative disposition.
Looking at both wearable devices the iWatch receives 29 percent share-of-voice among the mainstream media alongside Glass’ 71 percent. The iWatch is mentioned slightly less in social media channels where it receives 25 percent share-of-voice on Twitter, blogs and forums combined. Interestingly when looking at Twitter by itself Glass receives the lion’s share of mentions with 81 percent share-of-voice. This may be likely due to people more inclined to share information about a product that’s on the market rather than one that’s due to be released which means this data is likely to change once the iWatch has launched.
The iWatch is a Health Watch
All news is alluding to the iWatch being predominantly for health and given the recent hires of health, sensor and data specialists from a number of digital health start-ups, it wouldn’t be a wild stab-in-the-dark to assume that the iWatch will be all about monitoring and measuring the individual’s body data. Integration with the recently (though not officially) announced Apple HealthBook seems very likely and according to 9to5Mac Healthbook will allow users to track the following variables:
- Nutritional consumption
- Bloodwork (biomarkers)
- Blood pressure
- Blood sugar
- Heart rate
- Oxygen saturation
- UV Exposure sensor (one analyst claims)
It’s very unlikely the iWatch will be able to accurately measure all of the above (bloodwork is notoriously difficult to analyze outside of a lab for example) but may integrate with a range of third-party apps. The iWatch may be one of many wearable devices that form part of the Healthbook ecosystem and it may be the case that some data may have to be manually inputted in to Healthbook, such as hydration and blood sugar. We are still in the first generation era of wearable devices and while the technology is advancing exponentially and sensors are becoming more innovative accurately reading how much of the stress hormone cortisol is in the blood by overlaying a watch-like device over the skin is still a long way off.
The iWatch Will Become Personalized Recommendation Device Matching Individuals to Brands
Longer term Apple will have bigger plans for the iWatch other than being a fitness device. Integrating its indoor positioning system iBeacon in to the technology could be a smart move and one that’s mutually beneficial for both consumers and the brands that want to market to them. Consider the following scenario:
It’s 2017 and the iWatch 3 has launched with a range of new features including the new and improved iBeacon technology. Your iWatch, along with Healthbook and with support from the iPhone, has been tracking your body data for the last three years. It’s learning algorithm understands a whole wealth of information about you from your nutritional consumption information and when you consume it; the locations you visit regularly such as work, home and recreational pursuits; your body’s biometric data such as high cortisol and heart rate (when you’re stressed), your body’s Vitamin D levels and the subsequent poor sleep it’s causing you and when your body’s blood sugar – and thus energy – levels are low. This information is fed in real-time to iBeacon which in turn can make recommendations based on your current state.
You’ve just finished a stressful week at work; cortisol levels are high, you’re dehydrated, over-caffeinated and sleep quality hasn’t been great due to trying to nail the client document you’ve been working on all week. You’re probably still running on adrenalin so you’ve yet to suffer the crash. The iWatch knows differently however and alerts you that you’re in need of a de-stress and using iBeacon pinpoints the nearest massage place and books you in. It recommends a nutritional meal plan (using only foods you like) for the next couple of days based on your body’s needs and makes a number of recommendations based on its understanding based of past experiences of when you’ve received good night’s sleep. It also serves up new sleep related apps from the App Store. Fatigue is high and heart rate variability is low so the iWatch recommends you cancel Sunday’s gym session and advises you to relax and have fun – iBeacon serves up a number of recreational activities based on your personal profile and weekend schedule, and of course your iWatch serves as a secure biometrics authentication and recognition device so you can pay for all of these activities.
KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo with a reputation of predicting (but not necessarily always accurately) Apple’s unannounced hardware moves says the iWatch will come in two sizes and be able to operate independently of the iPhone or iPad but will feature functions that are iOS exclusive such as health monitoring apps.
Reports state that the screen will be bendy and the glass can “curve around the human body” according to gadget blog Techradar. According to other reports Apple has received flexible print circuit boards intended for the iWatch.
Kuo predicts the iWatch casing and band will come in a variety of materials with the most expensive model in the lineup will carry a price tag $3,000, placing it in the luxury brand mechanical watch category, though this has been heavily rebutted by The Unofficial Apple Weblog.
Some investors speculate that Apple may be looking at a way of subsidizing the iWatch with health insurers. Analyst Kuo thinks the price will vary depending on the range but anticipates a top-of-the-range iWatch will go for upwards of $1,000. Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty thinks it will retail for around $299 and believes sales of the iWatch would top $17.5bn in its first year.
Our guess: The first generation Apple iWatch will retail for $399 to $499.
As always, there are bunch of concept iWatch designs around across the web and here are some of our favorites.