I was hugely disappointed when Apple (AAPL) announced the new iPod Nano. The previous generation was masterfully designed. The small square shape, the ingenious clip on the back, the look and feel, it all demonstrated how brilliantly thought-out the device was.
I cannot say the same thing about the new iPod Nano. The new Nano is a smaller, less attractive, and less capable version of its larger brother, the iPod touch.
I was at a loss as to why apple would take a step backwards with a very popular product like the Nano. I didn’t think adding Bluetooth connectivity forced them to increase the size and change the form factor. There had to be another reason (or so at least I hoped).
I was talking to a friend about the Pebble Watch and its tremendous success on Kickstarter when the idea hit me. Maybe Apple is planning to make a its own smart watch.
Apple took note of the potential for iPod Nano to be used as a smart watch when accessory makers started making watch straps that would fit the Nano. Apple even encouraged the trend by adding a few different watch face designs to their software. All of that changed when the Nano was redesigned recently to become a larger, rectangular device.
This would make sense if Apple wants to make its own smart watch. If Apple is working on an “iWatch” design, it wouldn’t want to compete with its own “Nano-on-straps” watches.
Think about it. A smart watch is a perfect product for Apple to showcase its famous hardware and software design skills. To the extend they are available today, smart watches suffer from some or all of these shortcomings: uninspired design, bulky and heavy body, short battery life, screen glare outdoors, unintuitive user interface, lack of third-party applications, and limited water resistance. The Pebble Watch’s success comes on the back of effectively tackling some of these issues. But Apple can do better. This is Apple’s forte. It is what Jonathan Ive and his team do best.
A watch also fits in Apple’s portfolio of products rather nicely. Apple products are not just about their functionality. They are objects of desire. They make a fashion statement. A Samsung Galaxy S III is probably even more functional than an iPhone, but it doesn’t make a strong fashion statement like an iPhone. Same thing holds true for almost any Apple product. A beautifully designed smart watch can further solidify Apple’s position as what I call a “functional fashion” brand.
Time will tell if there was a good business reason why Apple replaced a brilliant device with the very mediocre new iPod Nano. I for one certainly hope so.