Apple has announced an event for September 9th — and predictions are that it will include the unveiling of the mythical iWatch. Patrick Gray shares his feature wish list.
Apple's annual iPhone event is just around the corner, and iWatch is supposedly inevitable. Here's what I'm hoping for in the product.
1: Excellent notifications
The notification system in iOS, which lets users know they've received anything from a new email to a weather alert, is lackluster at best. I rarely check my notifications save to clear out the accumulated cruft. Sure, I could do a better job configuring my various notification-capable apps. But Apple will need to improve this function and offer tight integration to iWatch, lest my wristwatch get flooded with everything from Amber alerts to election results for the Peoria school board.
2: Portable inductive charging
Inductive charging allows a device to be charged without physically connecting a cable, letting the user place the device on a pad or special stand to charge. Having owned several sports watches and fitness trackers, I know cables are cumbersome and often a source of water entry, which eventually kills the device. I'd like to see iWatch offer a small charging "pad" that plugs into a standard micro-USB or Lightning cable, making it easily portable.
3: Strong fitness functions
Apple seems to be making a strong move into "health," but much of the vision it has articulated is around sharing information with healthcare providers. Rather than letting my doctor know I spend too much time sitting on my derriere in front of the computer, I'd like to see Apple incorporate strong fitness support that would replace a running watch, fitness tracker, and general sports watch.
4: Ability to play "dress up"
Most smartwatches and fitness watches, save for the pending Moto 360, look like an MP3 player with a wristband and are decidedly "geek chic." Apple is often lauded for its industrial design capabilities, and with any luck, it'll produce a device that's functional and stylish. Ideally, iWatch will be compatible with various accessories, perhaps a rubber watchband and "bumper" for athletic activities, a stainless steel or leather band for formal use, and other interchangeable components allowing it to be customized based on use and environment.
5: Functionality as an "orphan"
I occasionally like to go out without my smartphone, perhaps on a walk with the family, a run, or sitting on an airplane with a phone that's "gone dark" due to rules mandating connectivity features be disabled. In these cases, it would be nice if iWatch could continue to function in a "smart" manner. An ability to play music stored on the device, act as a fitness watch, provide navigation based on directions previously downloaded from the phone, and to inform the user of upcoming appointments and weather would be technically possible and very helpful.
6: Developer-driven eye candy
A major driver in the success of the iOS and Android platforms is the universe of apps available. For iWatch to grab attention (and market share), it should open core functions of the watch to developers. An obvious example would be allowing developers to create new virtual watch faces, offering different functionality and visual designs. I might want a stripped down multi-zone digital clock on my wrist during the workday and a fancy analog face on the weekend. Providing the ability to change various elements of how the watch displays information to the user would make for a personalized and highly functional experience.
7: More intelligence
For a device that knows my schedule, whom I communicate with, where I am, and where I am going, the iPhone offers surprisingly little in the way of intelligence. Siri successfully does what I ask her about 70% of the time, and only recently has Apple started offering basic "intelligence," like providing travel times to the next appointment in your calendar. A market-leading watch experience would use increased intelligence to anticipate the information I need and display it on my iWatch, rather than forcing me to dismiss several irrelevant notifications or scroll through a dozen apps.
8: Sensor sharing
A body-worn device, combined with the array of sensors already present in a smartphone, presents some interesting potential applications. My phone may know I'm at home, while sensor data from my watch might indicate I'm mowing the lawn or brushing my teeth. Similarly, combining data from these devices could determine when I'm at work and in a meeting or walking to lunch. From a safety perspective, sensor data could even determine if I've fallen down or been in an accident.
9: Easier developer entry
iOS and Apple development in general has been a somewhat complex and costly affair, with the comparatively difficult Objective-C programming language powering the platform. While Apple recently announced an "easier" language called Swift, it would be interesting for Apple to offer a stripped down programming language based on web technologies for some aspects of iWatch. If the platform takes off, it would be great to see elementary school-age children being able to program their own watch faces or creating a rudimentary iWatch app without struggling through pointers and objects. The BASIC language got me started in IT as an awkward fourth grader, and a device as exciting as the iWatch, combined with reduced barriers to entry, could do the same for a new generation of technologists.
10: Payment integration
It's a stretch for version 1.0 of iWatch, but with much of the Apple-related speculation centering on release of a mobile payment platform, it would be interesting to see iWatch get in on the action. Despite experience in the industry, I'm still not sold on a mobile phone, with requisite passwords, battery, and signal issues, as being the ultimate platform for mobile payments when compared to the old-fashioned credit card. However, a wrist-worn device that could perform a payment transaction with a flick of the wrist would be far more appealing.