No one is really sure when Apple’s long-awaited iWatch smartwatch will actually be introduced by the company, or when it will be available for sale in the United States and around the world. The latest rumors call for a possible announcement on Sept. 9 at an Apple event that the company isn’t even confirming at this point. That event is also rumored to be the launch event for the upcoming iPhone 6.
But the lack of information about the iWatch and the lack of a schedule for its release and eventual sale certainly haven’t kept the wheels of rumor and innuendo from spinning wildly. Even the industry analysts at Forrester Research got into the iWatch rumor spirit on Aug. 25 with an online newsletter post about the watch and what it will mean for Apple and for consumers.
“Will the long-awaited and ballyhooed iWatch make its debut at Apple’s event next month?” the Forrester newsletter asked. “If it does, Apple will position itself in the center of the expanding wearables market.”
J.P. Gownder, a Forrester analyst who covers wearables and mobility, told eWEEK in an Aug. 26 interview that he is already thinking that the iWatch will have a great impact when it is unveiled.
“I think that Apple is going to define wrist-based computing,” said Gownder, “because they’re going to create an eco-system of value. So that as you walk through the world of retailers where you like to shop at … it will reach out to the world” and interact to make purchases for you and more. The iWatch will also likely be tied into health care systems and facilities to provide information back and forth for its user, he said.
“This all makes me think it will be much more than just another consumer gadget,” said Gownder. “We do believe there will be an iWatch, and we think it will be quite big.”
One thing that will be critical for Apple to have success in the marketplace with such a device, he said, is for the iWatches to be presented as very different from the smartphones that consumers already have and use. “These devices shouldn’t just be an example of the miniaturization of smartphones.” Gownder feels so strongly about that statement that he even wrote a recent Forrester blog post on that exact topic.
For Apple, the company has historically entered device markets when they were already being established, said Gownder. “There were MP3 players before the iPod and smartphones before the iPhone. There were tablets before the iPad. Apple isn’t late to this game in smartwatches. It’s an immature market.”
In fact, most smartphones that are offered today from companies such as Samsung, LG, Timex, Sony, Martian and Android Wear aren’t fully developed yet and are still being improved, redefined and refined, said Gownder.
One of the key expectations for the iWatch is that it will allow its wearers to track their health and fitness information because those features are not available on smartphones, he said. One of the things it need not do is allow users to send emails and texts, he added. “There’s no purpose to doing it on a watch. You have your phone for that stuff.”
Also probable is some kind of authentication application for mobile payments that users can use to make purchases while wearing the watch, Gownder added. “It will differentiate it beyond a smartphone.”
What’s Up With Apple’s Coming iWatch?
Rumors surrounding the iWatch mention that Apple is allegedly talking with health care providers about making it work seamlessly with their systems so that users can track their health and fitness information, he said. “Apple looks at what would solve user needs, where other vendors put a device out and see what people will do with it,” he said.
Even Apple’s acquisition of the Beats Audio and Music company in May could be tied into an iWatch feature, according to Gownder. “Maybe there will be an interaction between the watch and the headphones in a way,” he said. “There are a lot of possibilities.”
Another mobile analyst, Dan Maycock of OneAccord Digital, told eWEEK that his early impressions of Apple’s moves toward the smartwatch segment is that the company will likely bring its expertise, clean designs and clever features into smartwatches, changing them for everyone.
“Apple tends to come in to a category and do it better than everyone else,” said Maycock. “It’s where they are going to disrupt the current wearables space. I think that some people are holding their breath to see what Apple does.”
The big question, said Maycock, is how many features the company will put into its first version of the iWatch. “They’ll do 10 features to start and add 10 more each year so you’ll want to keep buying these things,” he said.
What Apple will do well is choose a screen size and features that work well together, he said. “I think that some of these wearables today try to do too much and you’re limited by screen size. Apple is pretty good at doing just enough.”
Maycock said he’s not so sure that we’ll even see the iWatch this year, though. “My money is on them launching it next year,” he said. “Launching the new iPhone 6 alone is enough to get them through Christmas. My money is even if the iWatch is ready to go this year that they’re going to wait until maybe around the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference [WWDC] or next summer, to space out the launches.”
Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, told eWEEK that the market will be ready for Apple’s entry whenever it arrives because so far smartwatches that have come to market have been lacking in features and functionality. Existing examples also suffer from poor battery life and nonintuitive or inelegant interfaces and screens, he said.
“I think there are a lot of opportunities for Apple to come into the space and define the space and what a smartwatch would be,” said King. “There are plenty of enthusiastic potential buyers out there.”
Apple has never really been good at creating markets, according to King, but the company is skilled at transforming existing categories. “Where they’ve tended to be successful the most is when they take a look at an existing market, subtract all the shortcomings of existing products and then deliver a really stunning product that solves all of those shortcomings,” he said. “We saw it with MP3 players, in the smartphone market and somewhat in the tablet market. It will be interesting to see what Apple does. It always is.”
An eWEEK report on the coming iWatch back in June said it will likely include a display that measures 2.5 inches on the diagonal and is nearly square, and that Apple expects to ship 50 million units in the first year of the device’s release.