A Brief History of Apple's iWatch
[For context: This piece was written two years before the Apple Watch was released, when rumors began to ramp up.]
A brief timeline of Apple iWatch’s entrance to the market.
- September 10, 2013: As key members of the tech industry and trade press gather on a clear Tuesday morning, Tim Cook leads much of Apple’s senior management in the introduction of a simple, wearable touchscreen device. Priced around $300, it immediately attracts complaints that it’s too expensive, since wearable fitness devices are less than half the price; Supporters claim its support for a tightly-defined app platform differentiates it enough to justify the higher price.
- September 10-11, 2013: Key members of the tech blogosphere and Apple analysts weigh in on the new device. John Gruber offers 900 words essentially explaining that this is just a first version of the watch, so it’s okay that it’s very simple since it will gain features later. MG Siegler raves effusively about it, but his TechCrunch post is strikingly abbreviated, leading industry insiders to speculate his knowledge of Google’s hardware roadmap has led him to rein in his enthusiasm. Frank Shaw gamely tries to remind people of the Spot watch, declaring that Microsoft has always been interested in wrist-based PCs.
- September 16, 2013: The makers of the Pebble watch write a pleasant “Welcome to the market!” post on their company blog, and then go back to chewing on their fingernails absentmindedly.
- September 18, 2013: The maker of an iOS clock app writes an impassioned post on Medium, claiming Apple ripped him off, based on a single screenshot from the product’s landing page. The article gets to #3 on Hacker News.
- October 16, 2013: Walt Mossberg’s preview review of the iWatch goes online, boldly declaring it to the best watch Apple has ever shipped. The Washington Post’s tech review team realizes they are never, ever, getting an Apple review unit again.
- October 17, 2013: iWatch goes on sale. People lined up at Apple stores carefully keep track of how many hours there are until they can enter the store by watching the time. On their iPhones.
- October 18-20, 2013: Through the first weekend of its availability, various gadget aficionados weigh in on the experience of using the device. Marco Arment is very optimistic about the device as an app platform, but pronounces the first version a mixed bag as it only works with the limited edition imported luxury car he drives during the day, not the one he drives at night.
- October 22, 2013: Less than a week after launch, Apple’s perennial inability to make software that properly handles timezones pops up again, earning iWatch its first late night talk show mentions as Jay Leno bumbles through a punchline about “at least it’ll tell you when it’s time to upgrade!”
- November 1, 2013: iOS for iWatch 1.01 ships, fixing the timezone issue and arbitrarily changing the color of four icons. Dribbble crashes.
- November 29, 2013: iWatch is named one of the hottest gifts of the season on Black Friday by USA Today. Nike will quietly sell twice as many units of its FuelBand as Apple sells of its iWatch.
- December 2013: Rumors of a very cool Microsoft xWatch from the xBox team begin to circulate, with concept designs and even leaked photos of parts making their way to an excited crew of bloggers at The Verge.
- January 7, 2014: Just ahead of CES, Google puts together a short-notice press event and introduces its upcoming Google Pulse watch, based on Android, which is priced at $249. Availability is described as “late Spring” and its biggest differentiating factor is display of Google Now info cards.
- January 9, 2014: At CES, HTC announces its partnership with Rolex, showing a watch device with a robust set of features. It weighs 7 pounds.
- January 15, 2014: A little more than a week after the announcement of Google Pulse, a separate Google event launches the Google Chromeband watch. It has a completely separate API and app store from the Android-based device, which Google describes as showing the robustness of the opportunities it creates for developers.
- February 3, 2014: After months of rumors that they were considering buying Jawbone, Samsung announces its acquisition of FitBit as an entry into the watch space. A new generation of the FitBit Flex product eventually comes to market in the fall as the Galaxy Flex 2, and includes a Macklemore album.
- March 12, 2014: The simmering tensions between Apple and Nike finally reach a boiling point as iWatch begins to reach scale in the market. A quiet update to iOS7 removes integrated support for Nike+ throughout Apple’s iPhone and iPod product line.
- June 17, 2014: Microsoft’s rumored return to watchmaking ships not as the leaked xWatch, but as the Surface Band. It has a beautiful UI, but the most prominent app at launch merely shows any xBox achievements as you earn them.
- October 5, 2015: The Ubuntu community announces Wrist, an effort to begin to port a lightweight version of the popular Linux distro to as-yet-nonexistent open source wristband computers.
- February 13, 2016: Oracle begins to talk about its Enterprise Cloud Platform for wrist computing.