After attempting for years to create a wearable device that would focus on health and fitness, Apple was forced to fundamentally change its vision for the Apple Watch when many of the features simply didn’t work.
That news comes via a report today in the Wall Street Journal in a story that asks: “What exactly is an Apple Watch for?” It’s a good question that Apple is still struggling to answer. However, it’s worth noting that the same question was being asked between the unveiling of the first iPad and the start of its sales a few months later.
Once people got their hands on an iPad, they stopped asking. The question now is whether the same will happen for the Apple Watch when it goes on sale in April.
The versions of the device people will be able to buy represent a different set of use cases than what Apple set out to address when the project officially began development in the fall of 2011, according to the WSJ story.
Initially, Apple wanted to created a gadget that monitored users’ heart rate, blood pressure, and stress. But the various sensors that Apple tried over the years failed to provide reliable information due to issues like hairy arms and dry skin, the WSJ says. Ultimately, those bigger ambitions were abandoned.
The time and resource suck involved in attempting to realize the original vision apparently bred some resentment and skepticism within the company. According to the WSJ:
“It’s not unusual for Apple to experiment with many technologies or shift focus during product development, but the watch was especially challenging, people familiar with the matter said. Internally, the project became known as a ‘black hole’ sucking in resources, one of these people said.”
The Apple Watch still contains some fitness and health features. The company touted these at the unveiling last September, saying that it developed new apps to leverage the device’s activity monitoring features.
“The companion Fitness app on iPhone collects your activity data so you can see your activity history in greater detail. Apple Watch uses this history to suggest personal, realistic goals, reward fitness milestones and keep you motivated,” the company said in a press release.
Earlier this month, Apple chief executive Tim Cook also highlighted the fitness features while speaking at an investors conference.
“If I sit for too long, it will actually tap me on the wrist to remind me to get up and move, because a lot of doctors think sitting is the new cancer,” Cook said. “Ten minutes before the hour, it will remind you to move. We have a lot of people using the Apple Watch at Apple, and ten minutes before the hour, suddenly they all get up and move. It took a little to get used to, but it’s great.”
But more and more, Apple is emphasizing the wide range of things the watch can do. That breadth, from notifications to communications to Apple Pay, appears to be the big selling point now.
“We want to change the way you live your life,” Cook said at the investors conference. “And just like the iPad has changed the way you work, and hopefully the way you live, and the iPhone has done that, we see the Apple Watch doing that.”