Woz thinks wearables like the iWatch could be ‘a hard sell’

Gadget-loving Steve Wozniak sounds like he won't be queuing for the iWatch on its day of release.

Gadget-loving Steve Wozniak sounds like he won’t be queuing for the iWatch on its day of release.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has called the wearables product category — of which Apple’s eagerly-anticipated iWatch will be one — “a hard sell.”

In an email exchange with CNet on Wednesday, the routinely outspoken Woz (who recently turned 64) noted that smart watches are “go-betweens for your smartphone, but are an extra piece and need special advantages that the smartphone doesn’t have, in my opinion. If they are just a Bluetooth go-between then it could wind up in the category of Bluetooth headsets: Fun to wear and show off for a day.”

While Woz says that he is “holding [his] breath” to see what Apple will come up with next, he points out the problem that exists with certain smart watches which have already come to market, such as the dud Samsung Galaxy Gear, which arrived to pitiful sales and miserable reviews.

“I personally want a larger screen that can do more of what my iPhone does,” Woz wrote. “The small 1.5-inch by 1.5-inch screens don’t hack it for me. If it serves as a speakerphone, the speaker had better be good. My Martian watch is usable for phone calls but not my Galaxy Gear, for this reason.”

Woz also touched on the potential health-tracking applications of the iWatch, which Apple apparently views as a “moral obligation.”

Woz, for his part, says that “I would be turned off slightly, but I’m sure millions would be astounded, if [Apple] become another to build in an EKG display” — noting the rumors that heart-reading technology could be on the menu for mainstream wearables.

“I would not be surprised to find some personal health aids built in, Fitbit style,” Woz concluded.

Certainly big things are expected for the iWatch, which will be the first major new product category for Apple since the iPad arrived in 2010. Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty has previously suggested that the iWatch could achieve sales in the region of 30-60 million units in its first year on the market, thanks to the “halo effect” of brand loyalty to Apple that will drive sales of the as-yet-unannounced product.

The iWatch — will will reportedly come in a range of sizes and feature a curved sapphire display, numerous sensors galore, and will pair with the iPhone — could well arrive in less than a month, at the same September 9 event Apple is expected to unveil the iPhone 6. Other reports have stated that it will come later, maybe even in 2015.

  • darylayala

    Once again, Why Woz is not part of the Apple team.

    • CelestialTerrestrial

      He has an opinion, he may be right, he may be wrong. Just because Apple does something, doesn’t mean it’s going to be an automatic hit. AppleTV wasn’t an automatic hit the first year, it took several years for that product to catch on. Some products Apple has come out with in the past weren’t hits like the Newton. Don’t let your Fanboyism blind you to that. I know you like Apple, but like anything, NO ONE, NO PRODUCT or NO COMPANY is perfect.

      • darylayala

        It’s 2014 and nearly 13 years later since the iPod Apple sales are always in the millions with a lot of products they sell. Why bring up the Newton when you and I know technology has exceeded exponentially since 1987.

  • AAPL_@_$101_Is_A_Done_Deal_:)

    I tend to agree with him this go-round. I can’t imagine what would induce tens of millions of consumers to put on any wearable device from Apple or anywhere else. A few hundred thousand consumers, maybe, but millions seems like a huge stretch. If it were a health device, I’d happily strap it to my ankle and let it run daily data feeds from its bio-sensors. That’s what I’m looking for. As for what the rest of those consumers out there are looking for, I haven’t a clue. Clever marketing might sell the device but that’s about it.

    • acslater017

      Health, fitness, sleep, medical records. Home automation, Apple TV remote. Authentication, mobile payments. Indoor navigation.

      If you’re thinking text messages on your wrist, you’re thinking too small! :)

  • Pedro Nuno

    If the watch is made the proper way, it could be an extension to the phone.
    If you receive calls, emails,etc, you wouldn’t go for the phone, you could do that on the watch. You could receive gps directions on the watch and many other useful things. You could be at home and not carrie your phone and still do all those things with the watch.
    Again, if the watch is made the right way, it can be successful. It probably will cost as much as the iphone it self but thats another story.

    • Adam

      Don’t look at it as an extension to the phone. It’s an extension to the Apple ecosystem.

  • AllTheAnswers

    IPhone thefts are problem, watches would be even a bigger theft problem.

  • Chuck McGinley

    I agree with the: “go-betweens for your smartphone”,

    But must adamantly disagree with: Bluetooth headsets: “Fun to wear and show off for a day.”

    There is nothing fun to wear, cool or fun to show off about a bluetooth headset. ;-) Even when the hot chicks had them in both ears in the Dr. Who alternate Cyberman universe episodes a few years back.

  • Marcus Winchester

    The Great Woz has spoken

  • erehwon53

    Woz is right, take a look at the current sales of these devices by Samsung, LG, Moto. No one is buying. Unless Apple can pull off some sort of gee wiz twist I don’t see it as a big seller. too much redundancy out there.

    • lucascott

      So the other models aren’t selling. That doesn’t mean that an Apple one won’t. Just might mean that no one has done the right one yet. We’ll see what happens if Apple releases one

      • erehwon53

        I agree wait for Apple but I think its a small market device, not a big seller.

    • Adam

      The problem is with the way Samsung, LG, Moto, whatnot has sold their wearables. It just doesn’t make “sense”. There is no integration, nothing beyond what is basically a watch with some smartphone functions and standalone applications. Just like how watches with a calculator on it never caught on.

      • erehwon53

        even if you have the integration why would you need a watch and a phone, too much redundentcy

      • Adam

        Well, there’s the health monitoring aspect of it- which a phone is terrible for. Some people may prefer a watch in lieu of a phone – for the kind of work they do (security, hunting, etc), or perhaps for sports (jogging, cycling comes to mind). It’d make an excellent personal safety device [GPS tracking, health monitoring]. Combine that with integration into the iCloud, other iDevices [e.g. OSX and iPads] as well as other aspects of the Apple ecosystem (developer support and applications have typically been iOS-first and added to Android as an afterthought).

  • digitaldumdum

    “Woz thinks wearables like the iWatch could be ‘a hard sell’

    So says the guy who hasn’t produced anything for years. Woz is cool, but he’s a hard sell himself. Of course, much of what we read about him is just snippets like these, gathered (and manufactured) by Cult and others, and often a misrepresentation of what he really says and thinks. Still, for such a brainy guy, he’s pretty uninvolved these days.

  • Guest

    Woz isn’t relevant. He worked on the first product and that was it. He didn’t even know what he had. He doesn’t know anything about the consumer industry- otherwise he’d be out there making an impact.

About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, And Create More and The Apple Revolution, both published by Penguin/Random House. His tech writing has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, Techmeme, and other publications. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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