Apple’s wearable future – tech giant experiments with smart watches

11 Feb 2013

iPod nano MP3 players converted into watches using watch straps developed by Frontal Concepts

Apple is reported to be working on designs for a watch that interacts with smartphones or includes certain smartphone-like features and capabilities. The timing of the news is interesting as arch rival Google prepares to launch its smartphone-powered Google Glass specs.

Perhaps Apple has been inspired by the trend that arose in recent years when it launched its small square iPod nano device, which was quickly hi-jacked by savvy peripheral makers who created straps to convert the devices into ‘watches’.

Is the future going to be about smart devices that blend into our lives – and clothing – to keep us constantly informed and entertained?

The rumour mill kicked into overdrive at the weekend with both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal reporting that Apple is experimenting with designs for a watch-like device that would perform some of the functions of a smartphone device.

The company is understood to have been in discussions with manufacturing partner Hon Hai Precision Industry to produce new categories beyond the smartphone and tablet.

The wrist-watch device in question is understood to be made of curved glass and would perform on Apple’s iOS platform. It is also expected to work with Apple’s voice assistant Siri and could have all kinds of health and sport-related functions, not to mention NFC and e-commerce payment capabilities. Imagine paying for coffee with a wallet on your wrist?

The future of computing is wearable

The move makes a certain kind of sense. Device makers, like Samsung, and material makers, like Corning, the maker of Gorilla Glass, have been trying to steer the industry in the direction of bendable glass.

I also recall when the ill-fated MIT Media Lab Europe was first announced for Ireland in 1999, and one of the demos at Dublin Castle by an MIT professor involved a future where watches and necklaces with built-in wireless radios and data storage capabilities would be part of our digital lives. A future where technology is ever-present but also invisible and less obvious as smartphones and computers are today.

Don’t forget Google is about to go to market with its Google Glass technology, smart glasses that have a built-in Android smartphone and that inform you with a panoply of information on who or what you are looking at. Talk about going beyond Google Goggles.

So, while Google focuses on smart specs, Apple may focus on the digital jewellery, each offering a tantalising glimpse of the future of gadgets.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years