Can Apple bring back the wristwatch?

A wearable device with iPhone capabilities could allow consumers to tap into their inner James Bond. But who actually wears watches these days?

By Aimee Picchi Feb 11, 2013 12:58PM

The Apple Inc. logo is displayed on the back of the new MacBook Pro David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesOnce the realm of Dick Tracy and James Bond, the wearable communication device is one step closer to becoming a reality for fanboys and consumers alike. But if Apple builds them, will people come?

Apple (AAPL) is working on wristwatch-like devices made of curved glass, reports The New York Times' Bits. The "smart watch" would run on the iOS platform the company already uses for its iPhones and iPads. Apple has talked with its biggest manufacturing partner, Hon Hai Precision Industry (also known as Foxconn), about the device, The Wall Street Journal reports.

But aside from technological hurdles, the toughest issue might be overcoming consumers' abandonment of wristwatches. Ironically, it's a trend hastened by the iPhone, as consumers have ditched watches in favor of relying on their smartphones to provide the time and much more. 

It's a trend documented by consumer research: In 2011, only 42 million Americans bought a watch, compared with 55 million in 2004, according to Experian Simmons.


It's not clear what capabilities the so-called "iWatches" would have, according to reports. For instance, would they include Siri, Apple's voice assistant? Would they also include the exercise-tracking capabilities popular with technologically advanced wristwatches such as Garmin's (GRMN) line of Forerunner watches, which is targeted to athletes and combines heart-rate monitors with GPS capabilities?

Others have sought to introduce wearable gadgets, including Microsoft (MSFT), which introduced a line of "Spot" watches almost a decade ago, but discontinued the device in 2008. (Microsoft is the publisher of MSN Money.)

Still, some are hopeful that wearable technology could be the next thing for Apple. Google (GOOG) is also experimenting with the idea, developing eyeglasses with a computer inside them and a display on the lenses. Time Magazine named Google Glass as one of the best inventions of the year in 2012.

"We believe technology could progress to a point where consumers have a tablet plus wearable computers, like watches or glasses, that enable simple things like voice calls, texting, quick searches, navigation,” Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, said in a report last month, according to The Times. He added such devices could help Apple expand into emerging markets. 

As for Apple CEO Tim Cook, he's already used to wearing technology: He's said he wears a Nike Fuel Band, an exercise-tracking device that looks like bracelet and is designed to be worn all day. 

More on moneyNOW

Tags: AAPL
Feb 11, 2013 3:30PM
I wear a wristwatch.  It's much more convenient than checking my smartphone for the time: that's essentially acting like you have an old pocket watch.  Additionally, when I exercise I wear a GPS wristwatch (Garmin Forerunner 305) that records my distance, time, route (running or cycling) and other things and can be uploaded and plotted on a computer.  And the GPS function also quickly directs me on how to get back to my car OR retrace my route if I try a new trail and get lost much better than smartphone apps.
Feb 11, 2013 9:54PM
Why can't they make a 2 way wrist radio that is a clock and telephone that you wear on your wrist?  You would not have to look for the phone when it rings, you could talk without holding it to your ear, unless you wanted to, and have a hands-free conversation or snap if off the wristband and hold it to your ear or text.  then you could pull out your Android or whatever and google or do stuff on it after or while you talk.  Much better than sloshing through a purse or pockets for your phone or discovering you left it home.
The size of the screen would limit too many applications.  I  think it wouldn't work.  Is Dick Tracy even in the comics anymore?
Feb 11, 2013 7:05PM
I am a 50 year old man, and I have worn a watch since my first job as a 14 year old freshman.  After college I spent a whopping $200 on a nice stainless steel watch, the old swiss army style popular in the mid-late 80's. 

My industry overvalues dress and image versus knowledge and performance, so I wear nice suits every day, ties 2-3X week, and polished shoes.  In 1996 I received a classic Rolex Submariner from my boss as a bonus, he had worn one for years.  I could feel more respect from older clients almost immediately. Other than my two rings (wedding & college) it is the only piece of jewelry I wear.

In contrast, my 22 year old college senior son has several watches, but only wears them on special occasions. 

Real Men Wear Watches.
Feb 12, 2013 1:52PM
62% of Apple stock holders say they wear a watch. So the upper class is still wearing them.
Feb 11, 2013 10:13PM
I'm Watch already makes a smart watch. Android OS.
Feb 11, 2013 9:49PM

Yeah the whole thing smells like "Dick Tracy" to me also...

Another new product to WOW the ignorant masses, that isn't new at all..

Cut a deal with Rolex.
 Come on guys , who is the market ?
Feb 12, 2013 12:42PM
I like my Timex.Its the best for the buck.
Feb 12, 2013 9:01AM
I can think of many ways a watch/phone/computer device would be great for a lot of professionals. I don't see it being a big thing in general. But, it does not need to be the next big thing. Many companies make huge amounts of money selling small amounts of niche products with high markups. How many people involved with financial markets would love having a device on their wrist that they could look at to get constant updates on stocks, currencies and futures.
Feb 11, 2013 11:26PM

masher...That's what Delmar and I eluded to...


Dick Tracy's wrist watch was also a communicator or 2-way radio...50-60 years ago..

It is not a "new idea"...


Ever watch StarTrek......In the early days.??

Feb 12, 2013 9:08AM
It amazes me how many stupid people there are in this world like the a  s  s at the bottom who thinks Android is a thing or company. It is a system, nothing more. The sytem is not an issue, it's the product itself. I'm sure Apple could have released a wrist computer years ago if they wanted too, but I don't expect Apple to release one unless there is a specific need, and it will look nothing like a watch you picture in your mind. If there is a watch type product, I expect the face to be more like a bracelet then a standard watch face.
Feb 12, 2013 5:30PM
As a few people have already alluded to, if the device only has tiny print it will NOT be a seller for the more mature crowd.  As a 50+ year old techie and early adopter an example, forget the iphone, I got an ipad!
Feb 11, 2013 7:16PM

Wristwatch ? You must be kidding ! Apple better work on the idontwork Phone!                                  I have been with Apple  i Phone forever, So why do I hate them ? battery life really sucks bad ! A hotswap battery DUMMY !

No memory card !   Give me an extendable antenna,  Connection is what it is all about ,Free heavy duty case , I have been complaining about this for years ,I dont give a damm if it feels good in my hand I want it to WORK!!  I like the operating system . or did until they put the camera backdoor in so the government can shut your camera off Screw Apple

My complants are an easy fix DO SOMETHING   Steve Jobs did not do it ,  He lost his edge years ago

Feb 12, 2013 11:47AM
It's all about expectations.  What would an iPhone/iPad user expect to do on a watch sized screen?  Take a call, play an MP3 and look at the time.  That's about it.  The screen would be microscopic - you aren't playing any games or bringing up a map or much else on a screen that small.  Pics would be useless.  Video?  Please.  Would it come with a magnifying glass?  How would you manipulate or maneuver around with your finger with any precision?

Wear a watch everyday.  Men should.  It's much faster to glance at it than dig in my pocket for my phone.
Feb 11, 2013 3:19PM
For years my non-Apple friends have accused me of being a follower; saying that I am some kind of sucker who buys trendy but inferior products simply because they are made by Apple.  This seems to be the theme song for the non-Apple crowd. 

In point of fact, I was won over by Apple years ago because Apple products work perfectly,  Each time, every time.  They are simple and intuitive to use.  None of the crashing and stupidity that is the prime component of non-Apple computer products.   I want the best tools I can afford, and that's Apple; every time.  

Apple products are simply better than everyone else's.     And while Apple may not invent every product, they certainly know what works, and they do it right.  

And as far as catching up to Android, I don't think so.   I currently have and use two phones.  One iPhone and one Samsung Galaxy S3.    I wanted the S3 to be better after reading all of the hype, but the truth is that it's not even close.   The iPhone is head and shoulders better than the Galaxy.    Unlike all of the haters who don't like what they don't use, I use both.    It is Android that has been playing catchup for years.    Like it or not, the iPhone is the yardstick by which all other cell phones are judged.  The iPad is the yardstick by which all tablets are judged.    the iPod is the yardstick by which all MP3 players are judged.    The same goes for personal computers.    You'll never catch anyone with a Mac saying "gee, my computer is really slow today".    That's the mantra of the windows crowd.    

Any person who will give all manufacturers an even chance will never talk smack about Apple.   They have built a better mousetrap and continue to do so with every new product.    

Feb 11, 2013 9:46PM

NC Scott....Real men don't wear jewelry....Except RINGS that mean something..?


Funny when you ask what time it is in today's world, 6 people pull out their phones..


Last watch I wore for anytime; I found in a bathroom in Laredo, Texas.

A  cheap $10 Timex..Wrecked it in the South China Sea, while swimming.

Have a few wrist and 2-4 pocket watches, never wear them..Clocks everywhere..

Exception: Vegas and other Casinos..


Feb 11, 2013 2:31PM

Yes, time for Apple to play catchup to Android again.

There have been Andriod powered smart-watches on the market for how long now?

And Apple is supposedly going to "Invent" and "Revolutionize" this market?????

Apple has long since fallen by the wayside with no hope of catching up or being a frontrunner anymore, plain and simple

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