Apple wearables and bringing the iPod into the iOS and iCloud age
There's a rumor going around that the iWatch — or whatever Apple ends up calling their wearable line — will have at least one model positioned around the $400 price point. I'll just preface all this by remembering that right before the iPad launched a rumor hit that it would be positioned around the $1000 price point. It shipped starting at $500. Nothing is official until Apple says it is. With that in mind. it's interesting to look at iWatch rumors in relation to Apple's existing line of wearables — the iPod. Those venerable music and multimedia players have had several incarnations that leant themselves to everything from tie clips to wrist watches. Yet their sales have fallen in recent years and their technology is more than outdated. They're pre-post-PC devices. They are not of the iOS and iCloud age. At least not yet...
Traditional iPods — meaning all models with the exception of the iPhone-without-cellular iPod touch — still need to be tethered to iTunes. They still need to be updated, managed, and have content transferred to and from them using a wire and a computer running Mac or Windows.
They can't tie into iTunes Match or iTunes Radio — or Beats music. They can do some health and fitness logging, thanks to Nike integration, but nothing on the scale of HealthKit. They can't serve as any form of control, much like tie into HomeKit. They can't relay notifications, and they certainly won't be able to tie into any mobile payment system Apple might be planning in the future.
But what if they could? What if Apple had a range of small devices that were based on iOS instead of Pixo and that tied into iCloud instead of iTunes desktop? Whether or not Apple ultimately has a next-generation wearable without a screen, say a band or a clip, starting at $50, and one with a display starting at $150 or $200, and one with more features and better materials starting at $400, and perhaps even a high-end luxury version at $1000, it would take the essence of what made the iPod so great and bring it fully into the modern era.
With HealthKit as a spoke, with HomeKit as a spoke, with PassKit or PayKit or whatever the new mobile payments framework is called as a spoke, with Siri as a display-independant interface conduit, and with iCloud as a hub large amounts of features become decoupled from the hardware. You get as much wearable as you want or need, as much mobility or functionality as best suits you, and Apple makes sure that everything that can work just works.
Apple is really good at obsoleting their own products. The iPhone is their best iPod yet, and the iPad mini is arguably a better choice for many than the iPod touch. The iPhone 6 is supposedly going to be bigger than ever, though, and as much as that might create opportunity for bigger iPads above it, it might also reignite opportunity for smaller wearables below it.
Whether they launch as iWatches or iPods or some new name we've yet to hear even in whispers, having a new line of wearables born of the iOS and iCloud age just makes too much sense not to happen eventually. Perhaps we'll see its first signs at Apple's special event on September 9?