Smartwatches are a tough category to nail. If CES 2014 was any indicator, a flood of smartwatches and fitness bands will try to convince us this is the year wearables finally go mainstream. While smartwatches such as the Pebble and the Galaxy Gear are actually available for people to buy and use right now, the funny thing is everyone seems to be waiting for, Apple, the elephant in the room, to announce its long-rumored "iWatch."
Out of all of the iWatch concepts that we've seen over the last few years, Todd Ham's actually makes sense. Ham's iWatch concepts calls for a wearable that resembles the understated Nike FuelBand, but with obvious elements from iOS 7.
Made from rubber, the iWatch concept would be as simple as an iPhone; it would only have a home button and volume buttons. The curved touchscreen would display a vertical column of four app icons, with more apps accessible on separate homescreens. Basically, Ham's design doesn't deviate from Apple's existing user interface. If you know how to use an iPhone, you won't have to relearn anything.
It's a clever design and one that we'd actually buy and use ourselves, but before we get all gung-ho over Ham's concept design, let's consider the chances of his design becoming real.
Nobody outside of Apple has a clue as to what the company's smartwatch will look like. But if we look at the clues, it's not hard to imagine what kind of device Apple is interested in. The biggest hint of the type of smartwatch/smartband Apple is considering came from Apple CEO Tim Cook during last May's D11 Conference.
When asked by former AllThingsD journalist (now ReCode co-founder) Walt Mossberg whether wearables will have a place in the post-PC era, Cook said (bolded statements emphasized):
"I wear a Fuel Band…Nike did a great job. It’s integrated well with iOS. There are lots of wearables, but of the ones doing more than one thing, I haven’t seen anything great out there. Nothing that will convince a kid that’s never worn glasses or a band to wear one. Or I haven’t seen it…so lots of things to solve here. The area is ripe for exploration, and it’s ripe for us to get excited about. Lots of companies will be in this space."
Cook also added (bolded statements emphasized again):
"I think the wrist is natural. I think there are other things in this space that could be interesting. Sensors are exploding." It will become clearer over time.
If we're reading the clues right (and Cook isn't misleading us), he's fond of the Nike FuelBand form factor and is laser-focused on releasing a great product that does either one thing really great, or only a handful of things really great. Add this to the fact that Apple now has one of Nike's top FuelBand designers and suddenly a FuelBand-like wearable — like Todd Ham's concept — sounds more realistic.
But would making a FuelBand-like wearable fly in the age of patent wars and court battles over alleged "copying"? Sure, why not? Razer's newly announced Nabu smartband resembles a FuelBand and nobody's whining about that. Besides, everything is a remix anyway.