iWearables : The Invasion of the iWatch ?

Sonya Glyn NICHOLSON

iWearables : The Invasion of the iWatch ?

A concept image of how the iWatch could look, with the capability to track calories, steps, and heart rate.

The Apple iWatch has been delayed for a 2015 introduction with Apple stock hitting an all time high this week, despite the delay.

About 100 engineers have joined forces to put together the iWatch,  in a male and female version. The question remains whether these watches, dubbed as “the next big thing” will become a sight as common as the perennial iPhone.

Pascal Koenig of the Smartwatch Group (an independent research company based in Zurich) predicts smart watch sales of a staggering $2.5 billion this year alone, with six out of 10 of all watches sold being internet-enabled by the year 2020.

Who can say whether men will pack away their Cartier tanks to be worn only for special occasions, in favor of wearing an iWatch most days of the week. Developers expect that the watch will soon be able to do everything an iPhone can do and more, including body-function-monitoring for health and sports, and may eventually even work as a credit card (with a fingerprint identification system in place for security).  Other uses include interfacing with “smart” lightbulbs, climate control sensors, and cameras—all of which can be adjusted with an iWatch.

While information about the introduction of the iWatch is still sketchy, an Apple patent has surfaced describing a wifi-less device using Bluetooth to share another device’s network connection. This causes speculation that the iWatch connects to an iPhone to get enough internet juice to get news, messages and push notifications displayed on your wrist.

WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY ?

iWatch Concept

Previous concept images of a rounded screen, no longer thought to be the chosen design of the iWatch

Classic menswear includes suits, shirt, shoes, ties/scarfs, belt/suspenders, handkerchieves, cufflinks, boutonnieres/lapel pins, eyeglasses and watches.

With Google Glass tackling the eyewear arena, Apple is primed to blitz the smart-watch market, with high public expectations that the iWatch will be the belle of the ball.

The smart watches available now look more like technical gadgets than stylish accessories. Apple is aware that a “geeky” iWatch could cause a style revolt. Already, there’s speculation that many will grow weary of donning the same iWatch design that every third person is wearing, creating a feeling more akin to wearing a gaudy nametag at a sales convention rather than a stylish accessory.

The style of the iWatch could be more important that we might imagine. Grown men do not want to look like teenagers wearing techie gadgets, and elegant men will be adverse to a device that looks tacky when paired with a good suit ensemble.

To avert a style catastrophe, Apple has hired sales director of the luxury watchmaker TAGHeuer, Patrick Pruniaux, for the iWatch marketing role. Jean-Claude Biver (Hublot and now head of watchmaking at LVMH), has confirmed the hire and has stated that the watchmaker’s sales director did indeed leave the company to take a contract with Apple in order to launch the iWatch (LVMH owns Swiss watchmakers TAGHeuer, Hublot and Zenith).

 

Apple has also hired ex-Burberry chief Angela Ahrendts to sort out its shops, while suspicion is stirred that her fashion background has something to do with her involvement with the iWatch. Add to this,  last year Apple hired the former CEO of Yves Saint Laurent, possibly to explore breaking away from its sleek and minimalist design, according to Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research. He projects that customers should be able to customize the band, face, and materials of the iWatch to create a variety of different looks. In addition, for people who prefer to wear classical watches, Dawson predicts that Apple will offer the device in different forms, ranging from a necklace to a design for placing the watch [like a pocket watch] inside the clothes.

RESISTANCE

Taiwan’s Quanta Computer Inc is rumored to be gearing up to begin mass production of Apple’s first smart watch. Here, another concept design of what the iWatch may look like.

Of course, there will always be those who refuse to give up their classical timepiece in favor of a smart watch.  And although it’s too early to know what type of impact the iWatch will have, as a first attempt, we can project a few pros and cons of the iWearable invasion:

Downside of iWearables

The iWearable revolution is heightening the awareness of the subject of personal style. Will the hands-free convenience of these iWearables mitigate the desire for personal elegance in favor of convenience? And, will the “appearance” of these wearables directly affect how many iWatches are sold?

Hands-free capability is a convenience that seems to be a focus amongst developers today.  Using our hands to perform a task wasn’t questioned in the past, but now efforts are being stepped-up to hone in on how voices and eyes can do what that hands once did. For example, Tobii Technology, a pioneer in eye tracking (that makes it possible for computers to know where users are looking) is working with SteelSeries to launch a gaming system that lets gamers play video games simply by moving their eyes–which makes the iWatch seem vaguely obsolete.

Technology is progressing exponentially faster– so fast that even the life of this article will be short-lived.  But, how wearable technology relates to style is a more recent phenomenon that will have to be unearthed and observed in order to be understood.

Video of Mark Bell’s iWatch Concept

Early on, we notice two key issues with iVersion wearables:

1. Loss of Individualism (Clone Watches Worn by the Masses) — With people choosing from only a handful of iWatch models, the watch can quickly become redundant among the public. This redundancy can make iWatch users look like large groups of people wearing theme park bracelets at Disneyland, which can be intriguing for a little while but at some point, we are ready to remove our handy bracelets and go home. Will the iWatch be here to stay, or will its popularity rise and fall ?

2. Distractibility — It is a topic that has endured since the time of the Motorola Razr with the chief complaint being that even the dinner table is no longer sacred, with texting (and these days, Facebook checking) becoming ever present at mealtime. Of course, wearables will now be attached to the wrist from morning until bedtime, so expect more attention towards the topic of whether too much screen-gazing is rude or not.

 

Iwatch 5

Upside of iWearables

Among those who have never worn a watch, iVersion wearables may generate new interest in classic timepieces where no interest existed before, as well as inspire stronger entrepreneurship ventures among timepiece companies who view the iWatch introduction as a competitive threat.

1. More People Introduced to the Watch Market – Mario Ortelli, Senior luxury goods analyst at Bernstein, says that while the iWatch poses a competitive threat to lower-end watch brands, it is likely to be an opportunity for high-end Swiss brands to introduce a new generation of people to the watch market – most of whom do not currently wear watches.

2. A Catalyst for More Innovation of Traditional Timepieces – The iWearable invasion could be a catalyst for timepiece companies to innovate more, in order to keep up with technology benefits of iWearables. Since Apple will likely sell iWatches in jewelry and department stores where watch buyers frequent, instead of only in consumer-electronics departments, this will cause iWearables to compete directly with traditional watches.

3. Health and Emergency Assistance – With the ability to instantly send/receive emergency information, the smartwatch can increase response time to emergency situations.  Further, the ability of the watch to monitor vital body functions can be particularly beneficial to those with health concerns and the elderly.

4.  Fewer “Lost and Damaged Phone Incidents” – Enough said.

Concept photo from 9to5mac.com

As timepiece makers step back to observe the flight or plight of the iWatch , if the returns look good, companies like Rolex or Patek Phillippe could collaborate with Apple to introduce iWearables of their own, in more classic designs to appeal to those who prefer a more traditional look. Dawson says Apple could also link up with an established watch brand in order to market a more traditional-looking watch, but he doubts that the iWatch will ever reach the quality of a high-level timepiece, as customers refuse to spend the same amount of money on an iWatch that they would spend on a luxury timepiece.

concept_curvedlabs_rolex_iwatch

A concept picture on how a Rolex smartwatch could look.

This time next year, we should have a good indication of whether an iWatch revolution will occur, or not. If the iWatch takes flight, we can expect many more discussions on the merits and pitfalls of iWearables…that is, until the “next big thing” comes along.

Sonya Glyn Nicholson, Senior Editor.

sources:

Smartwatch Group, Zurich, Switzerland: Top 50 Companies, 2014

Apple’s iWatch delayed until 2015 – but stock still hits an all time high ahead of iPhone 6 launch, August 19, 2014.

The News Tribe: Apple iWatch, release date, price, specs and more, August 17, 2014

Business of Fashion, Week in Review | The iWatch, August 15, 2014

JCK Online, Why the iWatch May Be More Beneficial to the Industry Than Previously Thought, July 11, 2014

Laptop Mag, Forget Kinect: Tobii Wants You to Control Games with Your Eyes, January 2, 2014

9to5Mac, iWatch “an opportunity for high-end watch brands” says analyst as Apple hires TAG Heuer exec, July 4, 2014