Photo by John Mithcell

The iPhone 5S Holds the Key to an Apple Smart Watch

The M7 Processor may reveal future plans concerning an iWatch. 

The iPhone 5C and 5S were all but confirmed leading up to the recent iPhone event via leaked images and reports. Both of the most compelling new selling points of each phone were no surprise to anyone. A leaked photo of the iPhone 5S confirmed the fingerprint sensor and pictures of the 5C packaging confirmed a cheaper plastic iPhone in various colors. So CEO Tim Cook had nothing “game-changing” to reveal to us.

How much longer do we have to wait for something new? What happened to the magic that Steve Jobs supposedly left behind? Didn’t he tell Walter Isaacson that he cracked TV? It’s been over two years. So why isn’t there a 60 inch iPad hanging on my wall? Where are the innovations Apple is so famous for churning out? Although we don’t seem any closer to an Apple TV, the latest iPhone event may have revealed some developments concerning another future product.

We know that Apple has a team of over 100 designers and engineers currently working on a “wristwatch device” and Tim Cook has said that Apple is working on new products coming out in the fall. Some attribute this comment to the next version of the iPad releasing in time for the holiday season. But it could also be alluding to a brand new product.

At the iPhone 5C / 5S event, it was announced that the iPhone 5S will have a new motion processor called the M7. This new feature has gone somewhat overlooked because you can’t see it from just looking at the phone and it really doesn’t have much immediate application.

The M7 is an iPhone 5S only component that is able to process motion data from the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass. It does this without sacrificing resources from the main A7 chip or compromising battery life. Charlie Sorrel at Cult of mac theorized all of the possibilities that the M7 could accomplish. He pointed out that the M7 will fuel more robust fitness applications and crunch location data without sacrificing power. These two points may allude to a forthcoming iWatch.

Watches have aided fitness geeks for a long time. Heart rate monitors have been talking wirelessly to watches since the 70's. This is hardly a new concept, but the desire for a smart and lightweight device to aid in training has been alive for decades. The Pebble smart watch can already display heart rate information through the use of a bluetooth enabled heart rate monitor and the Heartbeats app. It can also help golfers determine the range to a hole or runners track distances.

So where will the rumored iWatch excel that the Pebble or any other smartwatch has not already? The M7 processor. The M7 will be able to deliver more accurate and reliable fitness and location information to an Apple watch without sacrificing battery power from an iPhone.

Rather than relying on GPS data, the Apple watch can leverage the bevy of new data crunched by the M7. The inclusion of a processor solely dedicated to motion data is a pretty reliable sign that Apple is gearing up for a fitness related device. Which would almost certainly be a watch.

Not only limited to fitness application, the M7 / Apple Watch combination could work in tandem to deliver other applications. Indoor location data was worth $20 million to Apple when they acquired indoor location startup WIFI Slam back in March. So indoor location guidance may be another practical application an iPhone and watch tandem could aid in.

Using a phone mounted to a dashboard or beaming information to a second screen in a car works for road guidance. Pulling your phone out of your pocket and wasting battery life to navigate indoors is very cumbersome. Glancing down at a watch guiding you through a giant mall, office building or convention is a much more seamless and efficient experience.

Apple’s wild success with the iPhone was due in part to being the first to market with a useful touchscreen smart phone. Pebble has already proven the desire for a wearable smart device by consumers and they capitalized by being the first to deliver a well made and functional smart watch. Samsung, has jumped on the opportunity to beat Apple by rapidly pushing out their version of the smart watch. But thankfully for Apple the Samsung Galaxy Gear has faced some pretty bleak reviews. Possibly due to a rushed development cycle.

Since Apple missed being first to market with a useful smart watch, it is almost a sure bet that their new device will be able to accomplish something that no other existing smart watch can. The M7 is a small clue of what Apple may reveal to us in the coming months.

Predicting what features or devices Apple may or may not release may be a futile effort. They might not even reveal something we want. But not because it is not desirable, but because we don’t know what is possible. If the company still has a little bit of Steve Jobs’ lasting legacy left in them, they may follow what he said, “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

Image by John Mitchell used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

Product Manager, SpotX

Product Manager, SpotX