The Secret to Apple's iWatch Success: Self-Sufficiency

So far, many futurists have looked at the smartwatch as an extension of the smartphone. It would, for example, receive important information from the powerful smartphone in the pocket. What if there's a better way? What if that's not the key to success at all?


The basic problem with a smartwatch is its small size. That means a small battery, and that means modest processing power. Constantly charging a smartwatch is bad user experience.

Next, the current working concept for a smartphone is that it's tied to a smartphone for its networking and data processing. We saw how that failed with the Samsung Galaxy Gear.

What if a company, like Apple, were to break free of these two constraints? What if the operating ecosphere of an iWatch is broader? What if the utility of the Apple smartwatch, the iWatch, were orthogonal to the iPhone such that it's 1) a stand alone device, needing only a Wi-Fi connection and 2) Could operate effectively without an iPhone?

In other words, it becomes another essential device the way the iPad became an essential device, even though we didn't think that was possible when we had both an iPhone 3GS and a MacBook back in 2009.

Concept by Martin Hajeck

Just exactly what kinds of activities are special to a smartwatch? It's in contact with your skin. That means it can work with physiological data in a way that an iPhone generally cannot on a routine basis. Monitoring personal health is now mainstream. Plus, could it use the heat from the body to charge the battery? Also, it can tickle you when the iPhone is out of pocket, sitting on a desk somewhere else.

Of course, not only should the Apple iWatch work as a standalone device, useful for anyone, not just an Apple customer, but it should also solve problems related to the logistics of living with a smartphone -- as an additional, complementary service.

Concept by Martin Hajeck

For example, when I'm working in my home office, my iPhone 5s sits on my desk, charging. I can't tell you how many times people have called when I was in the kitchen or another room and did not hear it ring. An Apple iWatch would alert me to a call in that situation. I might even be able to tap an icon on its display: "I'm busy, I'll call you right back."

A good smartphone should be able to send an encrypted message to your Mac to log you on. No iPhone needed.

I strongly suspect that any remote smartphone function that simply duplicates what you can do by pulling your iPhone out of your pocket and looking at it will result in a contribution to product failure.

Concept by Martin Hajeck

When I think about these things, I think about the working environment in which the smartwatch resides. It may not be a mindless extension of the smartphone, which already does so much. A good smartwatch should also integrate with a smart, connected home. For example, what's the best way to turn down the lights in the living room when your iPhone is parked in an office far away? Or access a Nest? Or arm the burglar alarm? Or operate an Apple TV (or its rumored successor)? None of these functions depend on having a smartphone in your pocket. Or owning one at all. Instead it becomes an equal partner in Apple's evolving infrastructure.

My guess is that Apple is looking at these kinds of scenarios in order to make sure that its iWatch does things that solve a very human problem in a pleasing fashion. That will make the Apple iWatch self-sufficient and therefore essential in a way we hadn't considered before. Then, unlike the Samsung Galaxy Gear, Apple will sell many millions of them as the smart home, iBeacons, and pervasive Wi-Fi and Internet services develop in the future.


Inline images and teaser image via Martin Hajeck.