Apple has been working on a wristwatch for years.
In fact, its first wristwatch, arguably, came out exactly four years ago.
That was the now-discontinued 2010 iPod Nano, a small MP3 player with a tiny touchscreen.
Although Apple didn’t market the Nano primarily as a wrist device, some consumers quickly latched onto that possibility.
“People attached a strap to the minuscule media player and wore it on their wrist, listening to music while jogging,” an unnamed former Apple designer noted, speaking to the New York Times.
This use of the Nano was obvious enough that, when I reviewed it for Wired, I called it “Apple’s newest watch.” I’m not claiming I was prescient; I just liked this way of looking at an otherwise fairly prosaic MP3 player. I liked the fact that it included a variety of watch faces (including a cute “Mickey” one), and I hoped that Apple would build onto that promising start by adding new features.
Most people, to be fair, clipped the tiny touchscreen device onto their gym clothes or pants pockets, but a few of us more dorky types bought wrist band accessories (available in a wide range of styles, materials, and colors — just like the forthcoming 2015 Apple Watch) and wore the Nano on our wrists.
Then, as now, the device was a little too large and a little too square to feel perfectly normal. But for $180 for the device and another $20 or $30 for a wristband, it was affordable enough to be worth considering as an alternative to a “dumb” watch.
But will people be willing to pay $350 for the more modern version, the Apple Watch? And will they like its looks enough? After all, it is still fairly blocky and inelegant.
“It’s very hard to make big things small,” the former Apple designer also said, and criticised the new Apple Watch design for seeming “like it was designed by committee.”
It also has a relatively short battery life. While the 2010 iPod Nano could run for days, the new Apple Watch will probably need to be recharged daily, based on hints that Apple is giving.
That’s probably because it’s an immensely more capable device, with wireless Bluetooth connectivity — for connecting wireless headphones, for instance — and an array of sensors, all of which the Nano lacked.
One of the reasons it lacked Bluetooth, the designer noted, was because Apple’s hardware team felt it would sap the device’s battery life.
In an alternate universe, Apple would have steadily upgraded the iPod Nano year after year, gradually adding features and building it into a more capable smartwatch. Instead, the company abandoned the touchscreen Nano and then entirely left the wristwatch market for several years.
When it returns to that market, shipping its Apple Watch in 2015, will people want to wear the device any more than they wanted to wear the Nano on their wrists? We’ll have to wait and see.
One thing Apple has learned: People don’t really want to wear a mere MP3 player on their wrists.
And running cables from your wrist to your headphones never did work all that well.