The likely change Apple will make to smartwatch design

Google formally announced the software development kit (SDK) for Android wear, the OS customised for smart watches and wearable computing. As expected, they have a cute ad to go with it.

Alongside, Motorola announced Moto 360, a neat form factor that surprisingly looks like a regular watch, available this summer. Their site also shows a variety of ways people could use the smartwatch.

These follow the efforts of Pebble and Samsung Galaxy Gear.

All rumors point to Apple entering the market with an iWatch. Cool concepts already abound on its expected functionality.

However, as per its history, I think Apple will make a simple change to the concept. One that will leave people ecstatic about how it really gets what users want where other companies fail.

It will turn the face of the watch towards the palm rather than the wrist.

While reading the article, try it out – just turn the face of the watch towards your palm.

Ready? Read along.

Apple Smartwatch

Watches are not about time

No one buys watches just to tell time.

We all have our mobile phones, and today, I bet most check time on the mobile rather than the watch.

We buy watches because they are jewelry. They adorn our wrists. A watch brand, more than any other, tells the world about who we are (or who we want the world to think of us). This is why we lust after Rado and Omega.

Watches are designed keeping this in mind.

The face of the watch looks to the world, allowing others to glance wistfully, but at all times making ownership clear. Anyone can glance at the screen and see time for free, but that’s not why I bought the watch for anyways.

My wrist, my watch, my style.

But the smartwatch is not just watch++

Now let’s see the fundamental premise of a smartwatch. It bubbles up information that’s personal and useful – want to call someone? See notifications? Read email snippets? – thesmartwatch can do it all.

All these are private, so much so that we often put a screen lock on our smartphones to prevent others from eavesdropping.

Would you be comfortable with anyone else being able to see this at a glance?

Of course not.

Then why would we go about having this on our wrist for anyone nearby to check out?

At one hand, the watch needs a public face that shows the world who we are. At the other, it has to display private info that we don’t want the world to see.

Engineers may try multiple solutions to fix this. However, I think the Apple way will be just to realize this disparity of function and turn the face inwards.

Think about it for a moment. Glance at the watch (you did turn it inwards, didn’t you?) and see how logical it is.

The palm is faced towards you and is the more private section. You can quickly bring your palm up and ensure only you can read info on a smartwatch.

Ergonomically, it’s easier to raise your palm towards you face than to twist you wrist.

It’s also easier to bunch up a fist and talk into the smartwatch, if you want to use the voice recognition.

It’s easier to play games, change song tracks, glance at info during a boring meeting and do anything that deals with the screen.

It also exposes the screen to much less harm than having the face outwards, where the chances of hitting something and damaging it are higher (don’t tell me that just because you haven’t faced the problem with your current watch, you won’t see it on the smartwatch. If you end up doing what most smartwatches want you to do, this will most certainly be a risk!)

Wearing watches with the face towards the palm is not new. Many women have been doing this for a long time. It’s just not a macho thing to do.

I’d wager not for very much longer.

With phones, all of us are anyways conditioned to look at a screen on our palm. The smartwatch will just be an extension of a habit we have already built.

If you have the face of the watch towards your palm, the part facing your wrist – the public part of the watch – is still a great place for branding. And of course, show the time.

That would be such an Apple thing to do.

Shrinath V

Shrinath has over a decade of experience creating technology products with brands like Nokia, Motorola, MapmyIndia and Texas Instruments, some that are still used by millions of users worldwide. He has extensive experience across the product lifecycle - from ideation to product launch, product marketing and post launch activities. He loves traveling and understanding different cultures, and writes about his travel at his blog http://www.shrinathv.com. He can be reached on Twitter at @shrinathv or at his LinkedIn profile: www.linkedin.com/in/shrinathv