Apple’s iWatch is almost certainly coming soon, according to a host of recent reports, and the latest from the Wall Street Journal is that it’ll be offered in a variety of designs and screen sizes, and be loaded with over ten sensors including those that track health and fitness. Apple plans to sell a lot of them – between 10 and 15 million before the year ends, according to WSJ, and the key to that optimism might be Apple’s focus on design, and a desire to release something other than a one-size-fits-all take on the smartwatch.
Earlier this week, a report from Reuters claimed a 2.5-inch diagonal, rectangular screen for the iWatch. The WSJ’s information suggests multiple screen sizes, which would be a good way to address critics who immediately came out of the woodwork to criticize how large a device with a 2.-5-inch diagonal measurement for its display would look on the average wrist. Much of the criticism of existing smartwatch designs focuses on how they only offer one option, and how those can be far too big and imposing, especially for slender wrists.
Remember that Apple hired away Yves Saint Laurent CEO Paul Deneve last year, to work on “special projects” in a new VP role reporting directly to CEO Tim Cook. At the time, many speculated that Deneve’s experience in the high-fashion world is what brought him back to the fold (he’d worked at Apple in Europe between 1990 and 1997). The Financial Times also reported around the same time that Apple was “aggressively” recruiting new talent to focus on iWatch design. There was likely a push to source more engineering talent, but it makes sense that they would seek new design expertise for a project so outside their normal realm.
The fact is that no one yet has managed to create a smartwatch that has mass appeal, and design has a lot to do with that. A wrist-worn computer is very different than a smartphone or laptop, because it’s something you’re expected to have on you, in plain sight, touching your skin for all-day wear. Creating something that succeeds based on those parameters, for a range of potential customers that’s gender- and age-inclusive is no small task.
Lastly, the sensor package that WSJ describes could also give Apple the edge. Even if users aren’t crazy about the look of the accessory, they might be willing to wear it anyway if it provides a huge amount of additional value over and above what their smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices offer them. Pulling in a host of new data sources, provided they can actually enable new things on devices like the iPhone connected to the iWatch, could help make a convincing argument that yes, we do need another gadget in our tech-filled lives.