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

| John Martellaro's Blog

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.

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I like this line of thinking, John.

It’s the kind of thinking (although any thinking at all would have sufficed) that should have happened at Samsung prior to that misfire so dubbed the Galaxy Gear.

For the Apple iWatch (or whatever it may be called) or any future product developed by Apple, I’ve argued before and still, it must serve a dual purpose.

First, it must solve a problem, however known or unsuspected, for the consumer, and thereby enhance the user experience.

Second, it must be integral to the Apple ecosphere while extending the functionality of that system and the consumer’s access to it, again contributing to an enhanced user experience. I concur with you here that, although fully integrated and contributing to that system, it must have stand alone functionality, as do all of Apple’s hardware products. This is an implicit pact that Apple have made with their client base, and any departure therefrom would be tantamount to a violation of trust. All Apple hardware to date are not simply stand alone functional, but best in class all around (yes, the competition may beat it on the odd spec - but not build quality or the total experience). If they fail in that latter category, the critics will rip the device to shreds and burn the remains.

If it fulfils these two criteria, that is, possesses these two attributes, then those with that need will recognise the solution to their problem in the device and it will sell; not simply because it’s made by Apple, although there are those who fit that description, or new, and there are those first-release buyers who love the novel, but because it solves a problem, makes life a little easier and because it is an Apple product, is a joy to use and a pleasure to own.

As they have with their hardware to date, including the iPhone, iPad, MacBook line up, and even the new Mac Pro, (as opposed to their software rollouts) I hope that Apple will continue to take time to think through not simply the wearables but all new products, refine them, and make sure that they are consumer ready prior to release.

Good thoughts.

Neil Catapano

Think of it this way: your hands are full getting food for your two dogs, you use some kind of basic home automation like Insteon and your schedule your lights go on and off automatically based on sunrise and sunset, and you can use your iPhone or iPad or Mac with a program like Indigo to control all of your lights and fans and things smile Today it is a pain in the ass to pull out my phone while my hands are full, to stop what I’m doing, to find the app on the phone, to turn on the lights so I can see. iWatch solves all that without me having to think about it. That’s what I’m going to love about it.


But Apple doesn’t even have a smart Watch. It’s easy to learn from other’s mistakes i.e. Galaxy Gear, but don’t you think Samsung is learning too? Their watch had great sound for calls, the camera kicked ass - it’s the integration of software where they fumbled the ball -and I expect that to be fixed.  Apple has zero imagination anymore, they are like GM - sell a lot of the same old stuff and take no chances. Snore.  Let’s fix iOS’ apps first before we make fun of products you don’t even offer.  Personally a smart watch is a dumb idea, imo. A watch isn’t the piece of needed tech anymore as it was in the past century. A watch is too small to be useful for reading anything except time but I COULD see it integrating with Google Glass in awesome ways someday.


First of all, any watch that looks like that above will fail. Most who wear watches today, wear them for fashion, not function - all the functions of a watch are on phones now. A phone can look like anything because it’s usually put away and out of sight, but something on your wrist is always visible. Unless your a geek, you’re not going to want a clunky bulky thing hanging off your wrist. If an iWatch is supposed to replace the watch on your wrist, for it to succeed, it must come in several styles that appeal to more than one type of person’s sense of taste (or lack of).

It must offer all the functions a regular watch does and additional functions that a watch never could. And I’m not talking about “apps”. Every one in this industry for some reason thinks “smart” means “capable of running apps”. It’s ridiculous. Shoehorning apps onto a device of this type (or even a TV for that matter) doesn’t make them “smart”, it makes them more complicated and they usually end up with a horrible user interface and experience (e.g. Galaxy Gear). Functions and interfaces need to be refined, deliberate and make sense for the product they’re designed for.

It should be a stand-alone device that can also be used as a peripheral for a more powerful mobile computing device…

1. It’ll have time, motion, proximity, and bio based features.
2. It will be able to connect to a mobile device to gain access to databases and specific apps, and receive and display “context- based” information and notifications that someone can quickly glance at.

Anyone who tries to make a “smart” watch do anything more than that, will fail. Plain and simple. A mobile phone or computer on your wrist will only appeal to the geekiest of geeks. Interface and interaction would be way too limiting. For the foreseeable future, these “wearables” will mainly be peripherals designed around the mobile computer in your pocket or bag.


I really think that Apple will not do an iWatch in the way we think, i.e. worn on the wrist. I mean, Apple already has wearable tech products. They’re called the iPod Shuffle and the 6G iPod Nano. Both are “worn” by clipping them onto your clothing. Of course with the 6G iPod, it can be also be worn on the wrist with a strap. In that sense, I think the next iOS device could well be something in line with the 6G iPod.

This may explain why it was taken out of the market, even though it is very popular among people I have spoken with. I suspect Apple saw the immense form-functionality of the 6G, quickly took it out of the market, then at a later date, re-introduce it as the next generation iOS device.


I would be disappointed if the iWatch actually looked like a watch.  A sporty looking band like the Nike fuel band but wider and thinner would be much more sexy, and just as functional as a squarish shape with a band. I would like the watch and the band to be one and the same. The Samsung Gear has too much of the watch look that looks backward in design not forward to the future of what the iWatch could be.


Cudaboy, you say it’s easy to learn from others’ mistakes, and Samsung is learning too. I have never seen any evidence that Samsung is capable of learning from others’ mistakes. They learnt from Apple’s iPhone, and from Dyson’s vacuum cleaners, and from many other sources, but where do you have evidence they learned from someone’s mistakes? When or if Apple releases a smartphone, will you then claim that Apple involved in negative copying by not copying Samsung’s mistakes?

Seriously, Apple knew that this kind of watch wouldn’t work, or they would have released one a long time ago.

Marija Petreska

I’m sure Apple will not disappoint the costumers:

Occams Whisky Bottle

I imagine the the iWatch will be closer to the Nike Fuelband, FitBit, and Jawbone rather than the smartwatches on the market. The current smartwatches are ugly, expensive, and undesirable. While the different bands on the market have been successful. The iWatch doesn’t need to replace my iPhone it just needs to enhance the user experience.

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