The “Watch” and the “Phone”

The buzz has been building for months, but seems to be reaching a crecendo across the pond at mobile world congress this week. The message: THE SMART WATCH IS COMING!

Some are showing. Some are telling. But all the of heavies from Apple and Google to Samsung and Motorola are touting a fresh take on, of all things, a wristwatch.

Check email. From your wrist.
Get Text Messages. From your wrist.
Tweet. From your wrist.
Check the time. From…

Some are beautiful. Some less so. But all seem to have the same take. That the act of pulling out ones phone is too heavy a burden when a flick of the wrist ought to suffice.

Which is fine.

Pushing functionality from a phone to a wrist is a clever trick and maybe there is demand for it. But, my guess is this move by the heavies is less about market demand and more about market saturation.

This rush to the wrist was kicked off last year when rumors began circulating about an iWatch from Apple. I’ve not seen the company confirm the existence of an iWatch. But, if the market’s reaction to this speculation is any indication, we could be in the midst of the greatest troll of all time.

To date, all attempts to beat the iWatch to market have been met with an actual watch. Some with cameras. Some with a new sensor. All with displays for creating or consuming content from the wrist. But all in the general shape, size and characteristics of watches.

This seems to be shaping up just like the “smart phone” market before the iPhone.

At the time the iPhone launched, it looked nothing like any phone prior. It did and enabled things no phone prior to it had.

If you’ve been paying attention to who Apple has been hiring and what job reqs they have open, it’s pretty clear that they’re on the cusp of making a “watch” in the same way they made a “phone”.

From MacRumors:

Apple has now hired employees with expertise in pulse oximetry, vasculature visualization (vein finding), non-invasive glucose monitoring, blood chemistry monitoring via microneedle, heart/breath rate monitoring, and fitness. Notably, several hires have also had experience with low-profile, non-invasive biosensor devices. 

I don’t have any inside knowledge of what Apple is building, but it most certainly is not a “watch”.

My hope is that it will have the same effect on wearables that the iPhone had on other handset manufacturers. Even more importantly, my hope is that it will be a device, or set of sensors, that collects data to enable a whole new generation of app developers that move us beyond Flappy, or Angry, or whatever kinds of birds.

I’ve long felt we’re in the 56k modem stage of the march towards wearables with external pedometers,  heart rate straps and sleep trackers as our detached dial tones.

If Apple does for “watches” what they did for the “phone”, we might see wearables hitting the broadband era.