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Managing Editor, Mobile Commerce
Bet you didn’t know Apple Inc.’s iWatch is for sale for only $98 on eBay. In fact, I bet eBay didn’t know, either, even though there is a product listing complete with picture on the online marketplace. It even comes up in Google shopping search results. (EBay says the product listing does not violate its terms because it does not mention a brand name, it just says iWatch. An eBay spokeswoman would not comment on the authenticity of the item in the product listing.)
That iWatch is a PhotoShop mock-up that has been circulating the web (see image). Apple is rumored to be creating an iWatch to be debuted sometime in the next year. Last month the New York Times reported on Apple’s plans to craft a watch that would run the iOS mobile operating system and through Bluetooth wireless networking links work in tandem with iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad devices. Apple did not respond to a request for comment.
Samsung joined the fun when Lee Young Hee, executive vice president of the No. 2 smartphone maker’s mobile business, told Bloomberg News, “We’ve been preparing the watch product for so long. We are working very hard to get ready for it. We are preparing products for the future, and the watch is definitely one of them.”
Deal aggregator BuyVia today released results from its Apple Rumors Survey. The survey reveals that the five most coveted Apple iWatch features are—in order of preference—e-mail/text message capabilities, incoming calls, GPS/maps integration, Wi-Fi and weather. 26% of respondents say they are interested in purchasing the watch, 38% are not interested in purchasing, and 36% are unsure if they would purchase such a device.
I have to admit, the concept of a smart-watch is very cool. But what would an iWatch or Samsung watch do that an iPhone or Galaxy S4 couldn’t do? I imagine that an iWatch would jam into a somewhat clunky form factor the best of the iPhone, and through a Bluetooth link to your iPhone enable a full calendar and other smartphone features.
But my question is, Why buy an iWatch when you already have an iPhone? Because of the tiny form factor of the iWatch you are extremely limited in what you can input and how you can gesture through content. I can see sci-fi geeks and gadget freaks buying the iWatch, but will other consumers dish out what would surely be a hefty price for another device that does smaller versions of the same things done by an iPhone?
Apple and Samsung will need some very convincing marketing to sell these smart-watches. But who knows, maybe an iWatch is a stepping stone in the evolution of mobile technology. The same could be said for the Google Glass eyewear that boasts smartphone-like functionality. Will wearable smart-devices replace smartphones? I don’t think so. You need a screen at least the size of your typical smartphone screen today to browse the web and enter data on an onscreen keyboard.
So what role will an iWatch or Samsung watch play in mobile computing? We’ll have to wait and see what features and functions the manufacturers include on their watches and whether consumers embrace the new technology. I’m skeptical.