September 10, 2014

You want to make a watch? Here's some ideas, Cook.

I've been letting the discussions about the iWatch simmer a bit, and the more I see and learn, the less I like.  There are a few problems that turn this supposed game-changer into a deal-breaker.

The first is the most obvious.  It's ugly.  It's not ugly on the grand scale of all things made by people, but it's horrific in the world of sleek Apple products.  It's thick, way too thick.  It looks thicker than my four year old smartphone. 

Numero dos, it's screen is too small.  Right, I realize women wear smaller watches than men, and they probably wouldn't want to offer two versions.  Getting the interface right between the two would be a monumental headache.  However, if you make it just a little higher, and give it enough width to display in a 16:9 ratio found on almost all TV's and monitors today (the ratio is steeper still on smartphones), it would still be within acceptable parameters, and provide a lot more real-estate.  Not to mention giving R&D more room to fit in actual... electronics.  Which brings me to problem three.

It's worthless without a paired and charged phone nearby.  Because I like to store my phone just inside my coinslot, it's often awkward to take it out to check my tweets.  Finally Apple has delivered a solution to this problem.  Where exactly is the value for the $350 dollars this device will cost?


I wouldn't have written this, unless I thought I was smarter than everyone else.  Given that, here are some ideas.  Keep in mind, technology is always advancing, and if we haven't come far enough to make a watch that gives users an experience that will thrill them, then we can wait.  While we wait, we can use slightly older tech.  This is what game consoles do when they move from the living room to handheld, and people love it.

Does anyone remember the Kindle?  I don't mean the Fire, and those very awesome tablets that are practically given away at Amazon.  I mean the original Kindles.  They still make them you know.  What many don't realize is that they were an important part of the eBook revolution.  You know what was great about them?

The screen.  Yes, that shades-of-grey screen that you could view perfectly in direct sunlight for hours and hours and hours.  Using that screen, with an activated backlight, would not have been the prettiest thing, but I would argue the battery, cost, and usability benefits would make it much better than a bright screen that's useless except showing off for the first six months to randoms.

Independence.  That is my second idea.  Along with a longer Paperwhite screen, actually put a phone in it.  If not a phone, processor of some type.  It's really alright if it's a generation behind where the parts can be shrunk to keep it thin.  In fact, older processors on smaller die tend to save juice.  Let it pair with an iPhone (or heck any phone) for more intensive apps.   Give it simple Wi-Fi connectivity.

Price.  Reduce it to $199 to $299.  Still expensive.  Subsidize it with a deal where the user also buys a new iPhone 6.  There, now they are trapped in your ecosystem, congratulations.

Disclosure:  As you can see from my portfolio, I'm long $AAPL.  This is noise.  It's probably very insightful noise, but you can't trade it.  Let price direct your moves.

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