Stuart Jackson, former communications director of Orange and EE, and CEO and co-founder of UP, a London-based corporate communications business, gives his thoughts on the rumoured launch of the iWatch. Stuart was part of the team which launched the SIM-based Orange Watchphone in 2009
This evening, Apple will launch the latest iteration of its iPhone complete with a new operating system.
It’s rumoured to have a larger screen, an integrated mobile payment system and will herald the evolution of Apple’s iOS operating system.
But it’s the much-anticipated, yet still unconfirmed, companion-product that’s getting the many excited. Will this be the day that Apple finally reveal their so-called iWatch”.
The industry has been bracing itself for Apple’s move into wearable technology for some time. It’s not a case of “if”, but “when”, with huge returns and opportunities ahead. Analysts at CCS Insight recently forecasted that shipments of wearable technology will grow from 9.7 million in 2013 to 135 million in 2018, and the sector is on track to become a billion dollar industry in its own right within a decade.
Apple dipped its toe into the water with its Nike Fuel Band partnership some years ago, and since then, Apple’s rivals have launched their smart watches. Stylish, but somewhat clunky, I doubt these products have troubled the engineers and designers in Cupertino. In fact, today’s range of smart watches have done little to move the wearable technology sector forward.
In 2009, I was part of the team that launched the world’s first ‘watchphone’ at Orange. Manufactured by LG, it had its own SIM, enabling calling and texting on the move, with or without a companion phone. Half a decade ago, the idea of the smart watch was still science fiction to many, and our job was to inspire and educate on what was possible.
It caught the imagination and the Orange Watchphone, sold out within 24 hours. To this day, five years on, it remains unrivalled in the mobile watch category.
Tomorrow, I expect – and hope – that will change. And in a world that is becoming more and more accustomed to – and accepting of – wearable technology, the appetite is likely to be insatiable.
As the pioneers of the world’s slickest touch-screen mobile experience, Apple has the uncanny knack of fusing together elegant industrial and software design with a near-perfect user-experience, creating a magical infusion of technology that excites, delights and has helped open up the once complex and unfriendly technology market to the masses.
I predict that any announcement of an “iWatch” will see a product equipped with three things:
- A design focus that majors on both the digital and physical interface, combining touchscreen glass software with more traditional static features – hour and minute markings, or bevels and buttons – giving it a depth that the current smart watches simply don’t have.
- The new Apple iOS 8 that will enable true connectivity via a hard-link between the watch and phone, enabling you to open not just messages and contacts instantly, but a whole new world of “wrist apps” (many of which will be controllable via Siri’s voice recognition technology).
- And, significantly, the capability to deliver tap and go payment across hundreds of retailers, making the need to pull your phone or wallet out of your pocket redundant.
In fact I believe that if such a product is announced, it will not be positioned as an iWatch at all. Apple, as they so often have, will augment and re-define what already exists, and in the process, create a new category – in this case, a magical wristband that allows you to interact with the people, places and things around you. It will allow you to check the tube times, call a friend, pay for your dinner, and, yes, even help you check that you’re on time.
With the correct integration of software, design, build-quality and app integration, could today be the day that Apple’s mobile ambitions move beyond black slabs of glass in your pocket and onto the wrists of millions?