Yesterday afternoon, Apple finally announced its long awaited “iWatch” at the annual Consumer Electronics Roadshow, alongside two new iterations of the iPhone. It was a good pairing of new products on Apples part, better than, say, a new iPad, because many consumers will likely be buying these two items together. As it turns out, utilizing the new wearable device will require the possession of an iPhone. Having two iDevices together may look nice, but is this the right path to be taking?
It makes sense for a lot of reasons, as the wearable device genre has been particularly focused towards phone integration. The potential problem is that by requiring an iPhone, Apple then alienates the majority of smartphone users who may be interested in trying it out. That, combined with the fact that one-third of wearable devices get left off of the wrist after around a six months, may hurt this product’s survivability. That’s not to say it might not catch on, the iPad faced a great deal of criticism when it came out and brought tablets into the mainstream. The iPad, of course, didn’t have such a prerequisite.
What I am finding highly interesting though, is the increased role of the cell phone in everyday life. So much so, in fact, that there is now a market for products that help cope with phone separation anxiety. In a lot of ways phones have become like our second brain, housing the information that we cannot immediately remember in the cloud and performing tasks that are too complicated to be done on our own. It really is the perfect device to do it though, highly portable, extremely connective, and best of all, convergent.
Hot on the heels of this most recent announcement from Apple, I wonder if the smartphone is really to be the most important thing we can own in our lives. Twenty years ago, no one would have imagined that we could have our music, television, phones, games, and computers all together in one device. And now with the rise of the cloud in play, this connectivity is reaching out in all directions—not just towards our watches.
Nearly everything we use has found some way to integrate the smartphone: our cars, our climate control, television, etc. ad infinitum. Perhaps we’ll soon see encrypted digital locks in our homes that require a phone to open them, or a bar that will accept my phone as an ID. It’s a future that excites me, and feels very sci-fi, but it isn’t without potential problems.
What worries me is that many products could follow a similar suit with the Apple Watch. In a world where the phone I have is the deciding factor in whether or not I can buy a product, my freedom of choice becomes far more restricted. If there is ever an iHome I can actually live in, will I need an Apple ID to open the garage door to park my Apple Car? Maybe it would just come with the house…
It’s a future that isn’t entirely likely, but is worth considering on this small, present scale. In an era where everything and everyone is so tightly interwoven, it’s good to have a choice in what you’re tying yourself together with.