Apple’s iWatch will run full-flavored iOS, according to a new report, and the company is indeed targeting an end-of-year launch, but will first have to tackle battery life issues. According to sources speaking to The Verge, Apple’s prototype watch hardware is currently getting only a couple of days out of its battery, and the company is targeting at least four to five (around what the Pebble gets) before ramping up for a public release.
The news that Apple is opting to go with a reworked version of iOS on the iWatch instead of an alternative system is very interesting, if true. In the sixth generation iPod nano, which was released in 2010, Apple used a separate mobile OS that resembled iOS but was actually a lighter-weight and much more limited platform. Using iOS instead of the nano’s operating system has some advantages for Apple (a single code base across its mobile line, more potential for third-party developers, and a familiar system for new users), it also comes with big challenges, and potentially adds one more degree of fragmentation to Apple’s mobile OS.
It’s worth noting that Apple originally launched the iPhone’s operating system as being the same as OS X, a somewhat confusing move that they eventually went back on when they began referring to it as iPhone OS, and later iOS. The company could be taking a similar approach to the iWatch at launch, with an OS for the wrist-top computer that ends up diverging considerably from the version on the company’s phones and tablets, once modifications are built-in to account for its different features.
If the reports are accurate, Apple is making the right move in pushing for better battery life. The value of a watch-based computer depends largely on its ability to operate inconspicuously: the reason wearable computing is attractive to begin with is that it promises to be less conspicuous, and easier to integrate into your everyday life than smartphones or tablets. An iWatch that needs to hit the charger every day loses a lot of that value.
The Verge also says that Apple has work to do in terms of building in the proper pathways for transmitting information and notifications between an iPhone and an iWatch. That could prove the single-biggest source of information regarding the device and its development going forward; you can bet devs and Apple watchers will be going through iOS developer builds with a fine-toothed comb for evidence of any changes on that front.