The Future of the Apple Watch

So the Apple watch has received its first reviews, and they are tentatively positive.  Tentative, because most of the reviews caution that unlike most Apple products, it’s a device with a steep learning curve.  And it has fairly limited capabilities at present.  However, like technology reviewers throughout history, they can’t help but factor in just how cool the Watch will be when it, uh, works better. 

Nuremberg-Egg-watchBut that optimism is simply because technology reviewers also know that if the first generation of a product is promising, relentless engineering plus the acceleration of technology means that the subsequent generations will inevitably be much better.

MontreGousset001In my brief experience with the Apple Watch, however, I had a different response.  I found myself staring at the white fluoroelastomer “Sport Band” that held the Watch on my wrist, and wondered, why aren’t we using that space as well?

I suspect that the “wrist watch” form itself is a problem.  When you look at a smartphone or tablet, the entire device is the screen.  Smart watches inevitably give up more than 50% of their real estate to the strap, which just sits there.

First-Wristwatch-300x225Bendable LCDs, batteries and circuits are already well along in the laboratories and showing up in prototypes.  By the end of this decade, the “smart bracelet” may become the preferred wrist display, in which the entire object is a curved touch screen that can display anything from video screen to a numeric keypad to a list of emails. The bracelet form would also allow a larger battery, a key problem in today’s smart watches. 

And, when you weren’t using it as a display, your wrist bracelet would be a new fashion opportunity.  The entire band could display any kind of color, shape or pattern: designer screen savers for smart bracelets.

After all, even the shape of the traditional watch evolved as the technology improved.  The first personal timepiece was the size of a large egg, worn around the neck.  Then came the pocket watch.  Finally, watches became even smaller, and the rest was, well, wristory.

We may seem the same transition for the smart watch in the years to come. and someday the Apple Watch will seem as quaint as those timekeeping eggs once worn around the neck.