Mark Bridge writes:
Apple is rumoured to be planning a wearable mobile device: the iWatch. Whether it’s an iPhone accessory or a stand-alone mobile phone… or a figment of overactive imaginations… remains to be seen, although press reports suggest it could be launched by the end of 2013.
However, the idea of a wearable communications device certainly isn’t new. Fictional detective Dick Tracy was wearing an equally fictional two-way wrist radio in 1946, yet it took another 50 years before the wrist phone entered mass production. Samsung’s SPH-WP10 hit the shops stateside a decade and a half ago, following the appearance of calculator watches in the 1970s and the programmable digital watches of the 80s. It was soon joined by the Fossil Wrist PDA, which ran the Palm OS, but neither the Wrist PDA nor the WP10 was a truly ‘smart’ watchphone.
Next came the Bluetooth-enabled watches of Sony Ericsson and others. These provided Caller ID and text message notification, enabling users to keep their phones in their pockets until they needed to make a call.
Then in 2009, LG revealed its GD910 3G-enabled watch phone with the ability to make video calls - while Hyundai chose a very similar model name for its MB-910, which had an internet browser.
Sony Ericsson’s LiveView in 2010 worked with Android-powered smartphones to bring a variety of smartphone features to your wrist. It’s since transformed into the Sony SmartWatch and has been joined by rivals including Pebble - described as an e-paper watch for iPhone and Android - and the i’m Watch, which as well as offering on-screen notifications can also be used to make and receive calls via Bluetooth.
Today, searching eBay for ‘watch phone’ offers hundreds of results with many devices priced at under £50. Yet the watchphone has failed to become anything like as popular as the smartphone or even the non-smart ‘feature phone’.
The big question is whether the Apple iWatch will become a must-have accessory for anyone who uses an iPhone - or whether it’ll be a superfluous fashion bangle for smartphone users. After all, now that everyone’s smartphone is also a timepiece, that’s arguably what the wristwatch has become!