Apple isn't interested in the accessory market, or is it? On Wednesday, acquired Beats Electronics, putting it squarely back into the world of ancillary products. Couple the Beats purchase with rumors of Apple developing a watch-like device, and one would think Apple is also about to re-introduce the iPod Hi-Fi (okay, personally I wouldn’t mind). With all the talk of a wearable Apple product, often described as iWatch, it would certainly mark many firsts for Apple.
New Product Category: Apple has never built a full-on wearable product. There was the 6th generation iPod nano, which quickly became a watch-like device for the exercise enthusiast, but Apple quickly morphed the 7th generation nano into un-wearable form factor. Although the 6th generation was wearable, Apple never intentionally designed it to be a 24/7 wearable product. The 6th generation nano simply took on a 3rd party wrist strap life of its own, and for a while, Apple complied by delivering several watch face choices within the software.
Display: To-date, Apple has used LCD's in all of their display products. TFT LCD’s continue to outpace OLED displays with color and white point accuracy (just look at any Samsung vs iPhone display and you'll see what I mean), and are ideally suited for the iPad and iPhone, but a small wearable display does not require such display performance. An iWatch would often be utilized outdoors, which is ideal for OLED displays due to their superior contrast performance when used in conditions like direct sunlight. Recent rumors have Apple using a round face for iWatch. If this recent rumor proves to be true, then Apple has virtually no choice but to go with OLED, as LCD displays, by their very nature, would be cost prohibitive to produce in a circular form-factor due to their wiring interconnects. Apple has also revised much of their iOS interface to include circular solutions. From buttons to imagery, circles a consistent theme within iOS 7 and would mate well with a circular iWatch display.
Liquidmetal: Apple has used its license for Liquidmetal before, but not within a an actual product. Liquidmetal, nearly twice as strong as titanium, and lighter than lighter than aluminum, was used to make Apple’s SIM ejector tool to open the SIM slot on iPhones. Using Liquidmetal to manufacture an iWatch frame or even its exterior would be the first time the material would have made its way into an Apple product.
Processor: Apple could step backwards using an older A-series processor, but for power consumption, size and overall efficiency an iWatch is likely to require a completely new type of A-series processor design. A semiconductor that is light on graphics and sized into something that more closely resembles the thickness of a flex circuit may be the required direction. Whatever processor design Apple shoehorns into a wearable, it will be a first of its kind.
Battery: Never before will Apple have had to stretch a Li-Ion battery in both performance and form factor quite like it will need to do for iWatch. If the watch takes on a round design language, it would not be likely to use a standard square or rectangular shape for the Li-Ion cell. Rather, a new form of 3v watch style battery may be required.
There are likely to be many other firsts for Apple if an iWatch-like product ever arrives. We can't wait to see what they've come up with. Solar charging anyone?
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