iWatch dreams: What iMore would like to see in a wearable iOS device from Apple

iWatch dreams: What iMore would like to see in a wearable iOS device from Apple

2007 wasn't the introduction of the iPhone. It was the introduction of iOS. Apple didn't so much re-invent the phone as they did the idea of computing That's why the iPod touch was "just" an iPhone without a phone, and the iPad was "just" a big iPhone, and the Apple TV "just" iPad guts in a box. The instances can and will change and multiply, but for the foreseeable future, it will be iOS that drives them.

Enter the "iWatch". While iMore and others have heard Apple is going ahead with their wearable iOS device project, the crux here is that they're also continuing to push the future of mobile. Of what's next. Trying to predict what or how exactly that will manifest is difficult, just like trying to predict the iPhone before January 2007. You get iPods with click-wheel dialers. The iWatch could be to existing watches what the iPhone was to existing phones, and the iPad was to existing tablets. Just like Steve Jobs took the stage and made the case as to why the iPhone was better, and where the iPad fit, Tim Cook or Phil Schiller will prove the iWatch deserves a place in our lives.

Or, instead of a product, the iWatch could be an extension. Instead of an iPhone or iPad, it could be an Apple TV. It could be a hobby meant to expand the overall value of the Apple ecosystem, rather than a new business meant to further expand Apple's mainstream market.

Given Apple's recent work on Siri, Notification Center, Passbook, and other secondary interfaces to Springboard, and telephony like iMessage and FaceTime, it's easy to see why projecting those things from iPhone or iPad to iWatch is so tempting, as is the idea of Apple continuing the fitness-related partnership they began with Nike.

Mostly, however, an iWatch might just be a glimpse at what's next for iOS. There are very few phones in sci-fi, after all, and Apple's just exactly the kind of company that likes the will the future into the present.

To round out the discussion and get some idea of what the current expectations are, to delve into more diverse flights of fancy, I asked the iMore and Mobile Nations community just what exactly they want in an iWatch.

Here are their answers...

Georgia, senior editor, iMore

I want an iWatch with Siri built in. I want Notification Center on it. I want to be able to answer my phone with it, like it was a Bluetooth speaker. I want to be able to read/hear messages and dictate/reply back. I want videos and music to stream and play on it. That would be awesome. I want GPS and maps, and Reminders with location. I want it to be insanely great.

James Falconer, community manager, Mobile Nations

When I think of an iWatch, a few things come to mind. The ability to make and take phone calls would be a must. Seems super-convenient to me to tap on my watch to answer or initiate calls. Built-in GPS as well. Having a GPS strapped to your wrist would be the ultimate in portable navigation solutions. I like to explore on bike and foot a lot, so this would be handy.

An exercise-friendly iWatch would be great too. I do a lot of running, and having the ability to run the Nike Running app, or other fitness tracking apps while out on a long run would be amazing.

Killer battery life. Needs to have… best… battery… life… evar. I don't want to add another device to my charging 'pile'.

As for style… I'm honestly not too sure how I'd like to see the thing look… I would like to see multiple styles available for purchase. I'm not talking colors here. Perhaps a men's collection, a lady's collection and a smaller collection for kids.

Anthony, videographer, iMore

Since Tim Cook took the helm at Apple, people have questioned their ability to innovate. If Apple goes ahead with an iWatch, they'll need to show they can dent even a post Steve Jobs universe. It would have to be more than a simple Bluetooth interface to your existing devices. As much as the original iPhone made even the original Star Trek communicators seem sated, an iWatch would have to make the Next Generation ones look last gen.

Given the current size of radio chips and the current capacities of batteries, I'll understand if the first iWatch is severely limited. More of a companion device. But it'll have to be evident that one day, and one day soon, it could become a self-contained iPhone replacement.

I'd like to see complete Siri messaging/email interaction. Reading, listening to,and creating messages via your watch. Complete phone interaction as well, answering, calling, and talking to people through the iWatch has to be an option. This means a decent speaker as well. Also, it will need easy to switch from the iWatch to the iPhone and back, as needed. Native apps are the end goal, but a good beginning would be second-screen functionality. Apps on the iPhone or iPad should just be able to use it to show extra information or as an extra, extended interface. All that would require some hefty batter life as well, and in a small package, that won't be easy. But, we already need to charge our phones almost daily, adding another device would be annoying. The dream would be 1 month per charge, but the reality is they'd probably need to overcome low battery capacity with high convenience. A wireless charging solution for all Apple devices would be ideal. And, of course, an SDK so third-party apps could run on, and use the iWatch and enhance the feature set.

If the iWatch can aspire towards these goals, I think it will be a slam dunk.

Ally Kazmucha, how-to editor, iMore

I've always got a phone or another device in my vicinity that shows the time. In order for an iWatch to sway me, it'd need to be able to add some kind of value I don't already have in the devices I currently use. I wear a Nike+ FuelBand on a regular basis to track steps and calories. It also doubles as a watch. The iWatch would have to do at least those things.

I'd probably have to see more than step counting and calories, however. If it pairs with my devices and provides me information in a more meaningful way than what I already use on a regular basis, I'd consider it. If it's just a watch with some additional features with an Apple logo, I'd probably pass.

Chris Oldroyd, news editor, iMore

I never wear a normal watch. My iPhone is always with me wherever I go so it would be surplus to requirements. Added to that, my wrists seem to be allergic to every imaginable watch strap material ever used so the prospect of an iWatch is not something that excites me at all to be honest.

I have toyed with the idea of getting one of those fitness bands that can record your movements and sleep patterns; so if the iWatch included some of this technology it may make it slightly more appealing to me. Having said that, I just can't see how looking at your watch to read a text message or email is much easier than looking at your phone. It would just be another thing that needed charging and another expensive item that you need to look after.

As it stands today with the rumors that we have heard, the iWatch wouldn't be something that I would want or need for that matter. Of course Apple has a great knack of releasing a product and soon enough you realize you just have to have it and can't find a reason not too. If Apple wants to produce that level of want again, it will need to offer something a bit different than a wrist mounted notification system and audio controls for your iPhone.

Kevin Michaluk, founder, CrackBerry

I love watches. Always have. Always will. It actually kind of annoys me how smartphones have for many people replaced wearing a wristwatch. Watches have always meant so much more to me than just telling the time. For men especially, we don't have a lot of jewellery we can wear, so a nice watch is a must! I have several watches - I like to change them up based on my mood or the occasion. Like most watch aficionados, these days I'm a fan of Swiss-made mechanical timepieces. I love that the brands I wear are in some cases from companies that have been around since before the automobile was invented. That said, I'm not a watch snob - I embrace all watches - cheap or expensive, mechanical or digital. A cool watch is a cool watch.

I do love the fact that the watches I typically wear don't have a battery -- there's something I don't like about the notion of wearing acid on my wrist. And when it comes to the automatic self-winding mechanical watches I wear, I like that they are powered by my movements. I don't need to worry about changing batteries or charging them once I'm wearing one on a regular basis.

And this is what I want to see Apple address in an iWatch. I'm sure whatever Apple comes up with will be cool on the software and functionality front and will have a trendy design as we'd expect from Jony Ive. Where I really want to see innovation though is on the hardware / power supply front. Can they build a smart watch that I don't have to plug in and charge up every day or week? If I need to charge it up on a regular basis, it's still less of a watch and more of a gadget in my eyes. Either way, I'll definitely buy one and give it a solid go!

Derek Kessler, editor-in-chief, webOS Nation

I've worn an analog wristwatch every day for the past fifteen years. It's both a way to tell time and something of a fashion statement. I like to think of the analog nature of my watch as keeping my tech side grounded. Plus, analog watches by their very nature just look better than digital. Any iWatch will have to not just be useful, but it will need to be visually clean, simple, and unobtrusive. In short, if I'm wearing an iWatch I don't want it to be obvious that I am.

Apart from that, an iWatch has to be useful. It needs to show me all of my notifications, it has to let me read texts and emails and tweets, control music playback, and -- most importantly -- show me the time at a glance without constantly glowing in my face. Throw in a slim profile, conservative design, a classy watch band or the option to swap out my own, multi-day battery life, and easy, rapid recharging and Apple just might end up on my wrist. Until then, that spot is occupied by Skagen and Nike.

Ashley Esqueda, host, Monday Brief and Techfoolery

Unlike Derek, I've actually never owned a watch I've wanted on my wrist for longer than a couple of hours -- I have small wrists and get annoyed by a watch's tendency to loosely flop around my carpal bones as the day drags on. At the present moment, it's definitely more of a hassle than a boon to wear a watch. So what would Apple need to do to get me to buy an iWatch? Well, it would probably have to be E-Paper, for one. I know that's sacrilege in some areas of techdom, but after seeing how Pebble looks in bright daylight, it feels like Apple will either need to adopt similar screen technology, or create something similar to provide a matte, easily viewable screen.

Notifications are key with an iWatch, but I think I'd want ones designed specifically for the device as opposed to just "here are your phone's notifications, go read them." Heart rate notifications, a pedometer, reminders, and VIP texts (all set by an iOS app with a full docket of choices) would be the kind of things I'd want to know on my iWatch. Basically, I want the iWatch to tell me the things my phone can't (or can, but with more granular control over it). The at-a-glance nature of a watch is what Apple should keep in mind while designing it, and if Apple can do that with the iWatch, it might have a place on my wrist.

Joe Keller, writer, iMore

I’m still skeptical about an iWatch because I don’t really understand its purpose. I don’t find taking my iPhone out of my pocket to be a hassle. But if I were to use it, it would have to provide more than just notifications and music playback controls. What I’d like to see is something that would replace my iPhone for things that need to be done quickly: a text message, a short email, sending a tweet, that sort of thing. Navigation would be nice. Siri is a must. Again, I don’t know if I would actually use this device, but with these features, I’ll definitely consider it.

Leanna Lofte, app editor, iMore

In today's world, where we carry a smartphone with us at all times, I've always viewed wristwatches as a fashion accessory, not an necessary one. Because of this, if Apple were to make a watch, it would need to be more than a simple fashion statement to be desirable.

To appeal to me, an iWatch would need to be a companion to an iPhone and look amazing at the same time. The biggest thing I want is for it to send me color-coded notifications and even snippets of text from Messages and Email. As a mom who carries around a huge purse with her everywhere, it would be nice to be able to leave my iPhone in my purse as I go about my day without the fear of missing an important call or text message. With an iWatch, it would simply vibrate to let me know that there is activity on my phone. And if I have a bluetooth headset, I want to be able to answer the phone with my watch so that my phone can continue to remain in my purse.

Sure, other features like being a pedometer would also be nice, but to be a compelling buy for me, an Apple iWatch needs to improve the experience of my already existent iPhone that I would grow to be unable to live without.


We've had our say, now it's your turn. What do you want to see in an iWatch-type device? What would make it compelling enough for you to add it to your digital life?

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

iWatch dreams: What iMore would like to see in a wearable iOS device from Apple


I really do agree with Kevin, (and most of you guys!) an iWatch will have to be very innovative on the hardware side. I would not use a watch that will have to be charged every day, or other day in fact. I would also need features that would give me something more, enhance my iOS experience, not just extend it. To me, the watch will have to be useful on its own, Not always remain glued to my iPod / iPhone because if that is the case, the iWatch becomes obsolete.

I dont think it has to really be "innovative", but rather has to do a number of obvious things very well.

My question is "what exactly is an iWatch supposed to be?"

- The iPod was a music player.
- The iPhone was a evolutionary shift in the way people looked at and used Smart Phones.
- The iPod Touch is the evolution of the iPod into the "hand-held computer" portion of a Smart Phone.
- The iPad was the first mass consumer acceptable tablet.
- The AppleTV is a affordable media set-top box.

Most peoples thoughts on an iWatch sound more like an accessory to all of the above rather than an independent device, other than a watch function.

My thoughts on possible features...

- A watch: duh

- Music Player: This would only really be useful if you also included a bluetooth headset, as a wired headset tethered between your wrist and your head seems very uncomfortable. And with Bluetooth 4.0 High Speed (which is based on Wifi according to Wikipedia) overall audio quality is not an issue.

- A notification display: very obvious, but only makes sense when tethered to a device that is already connected to the internet, either via Wifi or more importantly via 3G/4G/LTE.

- An app platform: with the size of screen that the square iPod Nano had, i find it difficult for an iWatch to be a platform for dedicated apps. Instead, Apps from Apple's other real platforms (OSX and iOS) would be able to AirPlay to the iWatch, and the watch could relay back multitouch input. This could also make it a very small AppleTV remote-on-your-wrist. Another remote feature would be Siri, but that again is obvious.

Expanding on the "App Over Airplay" idea, we already can do this with the AppleTV, but that is just for display (since a TV has little "involved" input). The iWatch, obviously, would have full two-way communication with your other devices, much like how AirDisplay allows touch input via an iPhone or iPad being used as a monitor. A Photos "app" on your watch would connect to your iDevice's (or desktop's) photo library. Music & movies would be the same (and yes, i believe, depending on the situation, people WOULD watch videos on an iWatch). Skype could implement this features as well, sending a user interface to the iWatch with relevant information and the possibility of pulling audio from the iWatch's microphone.

I am not sure how small Passbook codes can be to still get scanned reliably, but that could be a possibility as well for quicker checkouts. Tap the Passbook icon, it shows you the codes for the store you are in (based on GPS, if enabled, via your iPhone), then just wave your wrist in front of the scanner.

To me, these are all obvious features that make use of the current infrastructure Apple has. There could be some memory inside of it so it had dedicated features to make it stand-alone, but keep in mind the more flash storage, battery and processing power you put inside of it, the larger the device will need to be. Instead, keeping it streamlined, almost like an "AppleTV on your wrist", and farming out the more advanced features (app streaming) to the more capable iPhone/iPodTouch/iPad, Apple could make this the "must have accessory". On its own it would be little more than a device in between the iPod Shuffle and iPod Nano.

One feature that just came to me that I would find highly useful would be the ability to see the current battery percentage of my iPhone (in my pocket) simply by looking at my wrist. And not in the sense of "hmm, i wonder how much power my iPhone has left", but rather, "I casually look at my iWatch... its 4:30pm, no calls received. Hmm, my iPhone has 25% power left. i should charge it soon."

As a happy Pebble backer, I'd like to see something really new. Answers calls from my watch? Reading messages display on my watch? Other products already do that.

If Apple launch a watch, it must be awesome. It must come with something anyone ever thought about, like the iPhone and iPad.

like i suggested above, i dont think an iWatch has to do anything amazingly different or new, but rather just has to do the most obvious things (especially the "its so obvious why didnt I think of it first" things), and do them well.

First of all iPhones come with Bluetooth 4 now so an IWatch could connect through Bluetooth and still leave room for your headset. So I would want that. I don't need many features but caller ID and notifications with vibration so it's not chiming all the time and Siri already works with Bluetooth so it wouldn't need anything extra there. But a must would need to be nice looking and not bulky. Some watches are to big.

This is why I believe the iWatch will be more of an accessory that extends iDevice functionality, as opposed to a full-fledged independent device. It would still have independent features of its own that would not require an iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad or AppleTV, but the real power and usage would come from a constant connection to those other devices.

By the way IWatch auto corrected. I have never typed it before so its not in my iPhones memory. Maybe that says something too

This is so stupid. One of the most stupid things I heard in my life. Ipad is a big iPhone ? Really? Don't make me laugh. Ipad can do 100 things that iphone can't. The iPhone can do 100 things that any shitsung phone can't. But really ipad is a big iPhone is a joke. Here is example:can you plug camera,keyboard,flashdrive,headphones into iPhone ? No. You can on ipad with camera connection kit. You can also plug sd card in ipad. You can't on iPhone. So please don't tell stupid things. Imore was my favorite. Now I will never open it. Ipad is not a big iPhone. Apple the best.

Um... Chimichanga. So anyways, I think an iWatch only really has to be an extension (or accessory) to the iPhone. Cuz really, do you wanna be reading your messages and surfing the web on that tiny screen?? *bleep* no!! At best, they should extend the functionality of the iPod Nano to become a close friend to the iPhone with a strap to put it on your wrist.

just a phone that you can wear on your wrist: call and receive voice and FaceTime calls and text.... Eventually interact with all other services via Siri. Have emails read to you.. Get travel directions read to you. Not an accessory to the iphone... A replacement where the primary means of interaction is voice.

Basically pare down the concept of the phone further by ridding it of most of the display.

An iWatch would be useful to me. I stopped wearing a watch when I bought my fist mobile phone as it had the added benefit of showing me the time and haven't worn one since. As with most things Apple do there would be a progression with each device adding more features. The first iteration may be nothing more than a small remote second screen and possibly limited to notifications and the ability to read messages / emails / tweets only. It's becoming socially unacceptable (like smoking) to be glued to your smartphone screen, the iWatch would provide a discreet solution to stay up to date with your communications and as with the initial decline in watch wearing due to mobile phones there would be the added benefit that it would showing you the time of day.

I wear a watch on a daily basis and am very excited about the prospects of an iwatch. While I can see its use in limited situations, I'm really not looking for it answer calls. There's nothing more annoying then then when Nextels were the rage and people would have conversations held out in the open for all to hear.

I'm looking for something that can deliver glanceable information such as texts, notifications and emails. Siri would be a must so i could respond with short messages. I'd be excited with some health type applications such as nike plus etc. GPS would be really cool also.

The only thing that would kill an iwatch for me is if they put a cell chip in it and required another data package. This must act as a 2nd screen using your existing phones data. I will not sign another contract or pay another monthly fee.

I think an iWatch is a fascinating idea that is the precursor to wearable tech. I'm excited about it, and I'm sure as soon as people start to wear and use it, it will prove more an more popular. When u look back at the original iphone it changed the way phones were used and considered in our daily lives. Maybe the iWatch won't do this straight away but I'm sure it'll be the start of a new era in technology.

For the life of me I don't understand this hatred of charging a phone or now perhaps a watch. I own a Pebble and an iPhone and each night I just plug them in on my bedside table. What is so horrible about that? This is a deal breaker for some of you people? Seriously? Are you even really interested in tech stuff?

I agree with you. A watch has to last the day but much beyond that I don't have much expectations. I can understand the argument if you're going out of town for a week and you don't want to carry an extra charger, assuming there would be a slight challenge trying to keep a phone and watch charged off of one lightening charger. In normal use though, a good day would be all that I'd expect. For mass adoption though, they'll have to do better and probably make sure it can last a weekend on a single charge. Maybe they can make it to where the rest of the features shut off but the actual time telling part of it can go for a very long time. That way you always have an effective watch available.

I would like it to be water proof so I could swim with it and still be connected. Also have a good enough range to leave it in my golf bag and still be able make or receive calls

Why not make the iWatch; a complete and total iPhone; with all your apps; except that it is curved around your wrist. It will replace the iphone. However; with one slide of the screen face; you create a gorgeous stunning watch. One more slide; and you reveal your entire iPhone app desktop! Its all there. You "hide" your iphone by simply sliding down your preferred customized watch face; digital or swiss; ... naturally; there are sensors underneath the interior "band back" for things like heartrate... and NFC. So ONE DEVICE; as Steve would say; why would you want to carry an iPhone AND a watch. ONE DEVICE. "These are not two separate devices"....

Besides the fact that I wouldnt want to type with one hand all the time, the idea sounds fascinating. lets get a kickstarter going.

LOVE the ideas.....won't happen yet, but give it time (ha, watch/time, I'm a moron). I can see a lot of the ideas you stated being the future of mobile tech, just not yet....probably 3-7 years

Hmmm... An e-paper band that alternates between time, weather, next appointment, patterns, etc. A remote for an enhanced Apple TV that enables me to control any device – TiVo or whatever. Secondary display for other iOS devices. Secure login that has to be re-authenticated if I take it off, but replaces all passwords for my Mac and idevices once I have authenticated as long as it stays on my wrist. Love the passbook idea – gimme coupons wherever I shop, and let me compare prices of what I'm buying.

It should be focused on shopping, as well as on personal monitoring. Using an iPhone to read a list at the grocery or home improvement center has the risk of dropping it, getting it dirty or wet, or forgetting it. An iWatch takes no hand space and can tie a shopping list to a location so it just shows up when I walk into the market.

I'd also like to have a clip-on external battery that I can attach to recharge the internal battery while I'm on the go or sleeping without having to take the iWatch off my wrist.

I don't understand why people want to be able to take phone calls directly on the watch. I get the bluetooth pairing with a headset, or even having a 3.5 mm output; but why would you want to have a conversation with someone holding your wrist up to your mouth? Maybe I'm missing something..

I'd be happy enough if the iWatch was just a Bluetooth extension for the iPhone, providing a remote camera, audio streaming and phone use, even a touchpad. But, I don't think I'd want a tiny screen for apps nor a replacement for my iPhone.

All of the above (GPS, step counting, notifications, second-screening for fitness apps while biking or running, waterproofing/sweatproofing, silent alarm), plus wireless charging.

I had a MotoACTV until a week ago, and it did most of these well, right up to the point of being a truly useful watch (had to press a button to see the time), but Moto gave up on it after gen 1. I think it had a lot of promise, and Apple's ability to integrate it with iCloud and direct connections to the iPhone would make it that much better.

Real simple, be an extension of my phone that allows basic functions like Siri so I can do simple tasks without having to drain my phone battery by turning on the screen for every notification. Easiest way to improve battery life is to reduce screen time.

No matter what features an "iWatch" may offer, the only feature I am hoping for is Water Resistant. I use to wear my 6th Gen Nano as a watch, and nearly ruined it (washing my hands)...Oh and the futuristic "Apple" design we know and love.

I'm with newmac. What's the purpose of having an additional device that does the same thing? Is your phone that inconvenient? I'm sure it is for some. But is inconvenient enough to where Apple sees a need for yet another device that does all the same things? Unless of course, it was meant to be a total replacement. I think it sort of goes hand-in-hand with the idea of an Apple TV that can replace my cable box, Xbox, DVD player, etc. If Apple is aiming for an accessory to the iPhone, it's a terrible idea. Let third parties handle those projects.

While on the subject, what about an icamera? That makes more sense!