By Jim Karpen on Wed, 02/05/2014
A lot of the interest in smartwatches has been stimulated by Pebble, which is the most popular one so far. So what's a smartwatch? They run apps and they typically communicate with your smartphone, such that alerts and other information from your phone appear on the watch's face.
As I understand it, you use the Pebble app (free) on your iPhone to establish communication via Bluetooth with your Pebble watch so that it can alert you to incoming calls, emails, messages, and alerts. In addition, the Pebble watch can run a wide variety of apps, getting information online via your phone's cellular data connection. Apps include news, weather, and stock information; notifications from your favorite apps and web services; games; utilities for counting, calculating, and measuring; fitness; remote apps for controlling your thermostat, auto, or camera; and a gazillion choices in watch faces. The big news on Monday was that all these apps—over 1,000 of them—are now available in an app store from within the Pebble app for iOS. In the past, you had to go to various developer websites to get the apps. Plus, you can use the Pebble app to manage the apps on your Pebble watch. In order to optimize your experience, you're limited to 8 apps on your Pebble, so it's a convenience to have a way to quickly load and unload apps from the device.
As you can see, the Pebble is a really cool device. And it gives you an idea of the sort of functionality that an iWatch may have.
And rumors about the iWatch just keep popping up. On Sunday the New York Times reported that Apple is investigating using solar and inductive, wireless charging for the iWatch. They say it may have a curved display. Citing a former Apple engineer, the report said that Apple has long investigated options such as solar charging, but it just wasn't practical for devices kept in a pocket. But an iWatch would be different. Still, it would be hard to generate enough power to operate the sort of device that Apple would come out with.
A more feasible solution would likely be wireless charging. According to the Times, "Apple has been testing a method to charge the battery wirelessly with magnetic induction, according to a person briefed on the product. A similar technology is already used in some Nokia smartphones—when a phone is placed on a charging plate, an electrical current creates a magnetic field, which creates voltage that powers the phone."
All of this—the Pebble example, the bounty of apps, curved display, wireless charging—suggests that an iWatch has the potential to be really cool. And if Apple comes out with one, they'll likely do it right.