The Case for an Apple iWatch

The latest rumors make the smart-watch sound like an impending reality, with a report that Apple has a 100-person design team working on a Dick Tracy-style device. And there's plenty of evidence from growing niche markets that there might be iWatch fever after all.

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The latest iWatch rumors make this Apple smart-watch sound like an impending reality, with Bloomberg's two sources "familiar with the company's plains" claiming Apple has a 100-person design team working on a Dick Tracy-style device. But do people really want this thing? Looking back at the gimmicky and failed history of the computer watch, as New York's Kevin Roose did, would suggest not. But, that was then and this is Apple. There's actually plenty of basic evidence from growing niche markets that suggests there might be smart-watch fever after all, or at least one that could use a nice Cupertino finish.

The Kickstart Smart-Watch Bubble Goes Mainstream

Pebble's $10 million crowd-sourced funding success story is one hint that a lot of people actually want some sort of synced-up device on their wriests. The Kickstarter smart-watch bubble that followed proved the idea wasn't so niche after all, with thousands of others giving money to projects like MetaWatch (pictured right), the CST-01, and SYRE, all variations on a more intelligent, wearable timepiece. Kickstarter dreams turned to legitimate product realities at this year's Consumer Electronics Shows. Just a few weeks before shipping its first devices, Pebble showed off its smart-watch at the gadget convention and the techies liked it. The Verge called it the best watch in show. "The Pebble smartwatch is a pretty darn good whistle," wrote Dieter Bohn. Oh, yeah, and that's the other thing — there were a lot of these things at CES, which is always full of silly products that will never make it to market. But with so many watches originating as Kickstarter campaigns, the consumers seem to have spoken... by funding the watches all the way to market. Many worry that crowd-sourced products will never make it much further than an initial launch, but that's where corporate entities like Apple come in. What these start-up designers can't do, Apple very much can. And then some.

The Fitness Band Revolution

In tandem with this smart-watch bubble for the cool kids, your average American workout junkies have helped another wrist-hugging smart device explode: the fitness band. From the Jawbone Up to the Nike+ Fuelband (pictured at left) to the Fitbit One, health-tech timepieces have caught the attention of consumers and tech reviewers alike. Some gadgeteers love the things — " I liked both products very much," The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal wrote of the Fitbit One and Jawbone Up. Fast Company named Nike one of this year's most innovative companies because of its use of technology to improve fitness. Five million people used Nike+ before Nike released its band, according to CNBC. Nike predicted the same exponential growth for the accessory.

Still others, like The New York Times's Jenna Wortham and David Pogue, haven't quite bought into the trend — in part because of the apps therein. "The corresponding iPhone app has had some work done, too," Pogue wrote of Jawbone. Imagine, then, what would happen if a tech company — the one that happens to create the software that houses those apps — gets into this game. The app problem goes away, and better apps probably arrive very soon. And that would likely be just one of the functions of a potential iWatch.

The Apple Touch

The basic thinking goes that, well, it's Apple, and whatever Apple makes will be different — and better. "Like other breakthrough Apple products, its value will be underestimated at launch, then grow to have a profound impact on our lives and Apple’s fortunes," wrote former Apple employee Bruce Tognazzini on his blog last week. Apple makes things both pretty and pretty useful, two necessary features for a wearable computer. Many have noted that the iPod Nano makes for a "stylin' watch" — and it's not even supposed to be one.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.