Wearing An iPod Nano As A Watch And Prototyping The Future

by Randy Murray on January 31, 2012

I am so predictable.

When Apple released the 6th generation of the iPod Nano and Steve Jobs joked that people would start wearing them as watches, I instantly went on alert. It made perfect sense. And very soon many adapters/bands/cases became available to do just that. I’ll review one later this week.

But I drew a deep breath, told myself, “You don’t need one of those,” and went about my business. I lusted after them frequently, but it the inner demand never raised itself to an outright requirement.

Until one fell into my lap. Literally.

Recently Apple recalled the 1st generation iPod Nanos for some battery problem. I noted it in passing, paying special attention when the reports indicated that after initially replacing the recalled units with 1st gen models they quickly ran out and began suppling owners with current generation models. Interesting.

And then my oldest daughter brought me a box of cables and adapters to deal with or dispose of. In the box was her 1st generation iPod Nano.

And a few weeks later, I had a brand new (OK, probably factory refurbished, which is actually better than new) iPod Nano.

After playing with it for a few moments, I bought it off my daughter and ordered a watch conversion kit.

It is both very cool and not a very good watch. And I think that Mr. Jobs wasn’t joking as much as he was conducting a wide scale experiment. He was prototyping the future and letting us do the testing.

Once it’s on my wrist, I have to push a button to display the time. I immediately had a flashback to a Timex digital watch I had in the mid-1970s. You had to press a button to see the glowing readout digits. That is not very convenient. But my new watch displays an elegant face or any of the 18 available, including a classic Mickey Mouse watch face. That’s very cool. Frankly, even when dark it looks great on my wrist.

What’s even better it that it’s a touch screen. A very nicely sized touchscreen. I can swipe to display the other built-in apps. You can load up pictures, music (it is an iPod), listen to the radio using headphones, and track your walking or running progress with the Nike+ app. I’ve found myself using it to listen to the radio, podcasts, and tracking my daily steps (I’ve been falling short of the standard 10,000 steps per day and working on that).

All of that is very cool. It’s comfortable to wear, looks good, and provides interesting and useful functions.

But it’s not a great watch. It needs to be charged every few days. You have to press the button to see the time. You can’t add new apps. And most important: it looks like a sports watch but it is in no way water proof or water resistant and it’s not built for active wear. Don’t get it wet and don’t knock it into things.

Frankly, I like wearing watches. I wear no other jewelry and I’m used to having a watch on my left wrist. But now I work mainly from home and I always have my iPhone in my pocket. I don’t need a watch to tell the time. Using the iPod Nano as a watch puts something comfortably on my wrist and it adds functions. Useful function.

I like the classy watch display and access to other features right on my wrist. I have almost all of the same functions (except the radio) on my iPhone, so my net gain is minimal, but there’s something about wearing it versus carrying it. I’m not quite sure what the different is, but it is changing the way I think about this particular technology. It feels right.

I still wear my old, cheep and tough Timex Explorer watch and I have two dressier watches that rarely make it to my wrist. This one is fun to wear, and at least for now, I’m really enjoying getting a glimpse of the future of computing and access.

What future?

Imagine this: a new device that has the exact same size and shape as the iPod Nano, but it is completely sealed. The watch face, or whatever you choose, is displayed continually—no buttons to push to light the display. There are no holes, ports, or openings. In fact, it is waterproof to 30 meters. It wirelessly connects to sync music, photos, and more, and to connect to wireless headphones. It recharges itself through the movement and heat of your body and the light it receives through its screen. It’s a tough little solid-state piece of hardware.

And it’s Siri voice controlled. It is, in fact, an iPhone. And it is always online.

It’s also the digital key that makes any Mac or iOS device YOUR device with all of your software, settings, and files.

Wear this device, then pick up a nearby iPad. When you enter your passkey, it’s your personal iPad. And it’s connected to the Internet, through your watch. Sit down at a Mac and you have the same thing, if you want it.

This form factor is ideal. It’s something that almost everyone can wear on the wrist, clip to clothes, or slip into a pocket or bag. It is inconsequentially small. If it’s lost or stolen, it’s relatively useless without your passkey, and because it’s wireless, you could wipe it remotely. I’d prefer a Mission Impossible-style self destruct, but the lawyers would probably overrule that. Pity.

I don’t see the future as being iPhones or iPads or even Macs in their current incarnation. I see it as a largely cloud computing, ubiquitous access future where virtually anything, anywhere, can be your interface, your personal work  environment, and provide access to all your stuff. We’ll just need some token, some object, that will connect and identify us.

The iPod Nano feels just right to being the thing that connects us.

Copyright © 2012 - All Rights Reserved

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