Burning Question

Why Apple's rumored curved-glass smartwatch would be a hit

Anyone want an iWatch?

Would you rather wear a computer over your face, à la Google's Project Glass, or a little do-anything gadget on your wrist?

Soon enough, you'll probably have your pick. According to Nick Bilton at The New York Times, Apple is reportedly developing a curved-glass smartwatch that presumably probably does a lot more than tell time. Picture "a watch that doubled as a computer, two-way radio, mapping device, or television," says Bilton. "Dick Tracy had one. As did Inspector Gadget and James Bond." (Physically, the device would look a lot like a glass bracelet wrapped around your entire wrist — the entire surface of which functions like your iPhone's touchscreen.) Bilton cites "people familiar with the company's explorations" who asked not to be named, and says the wristwatch would run on iOS. Beyond that, not much is known.

Why a wristwatch? The Times notes that CEO Tim Cook has been spotted in the past wearing a Nike FuelBand, the innocuous little fitness device that tallies your movement throughout the day. It's a big cross-over hit, extending well beyond the usual core of fitness buffs and athletes. And the recent success of the Pebble SmartWatch seems to pretty clearly illustrate that regular 'ol non-spies like slapping new gadgets to their wrists.

Corning, the company that makes the iPhone's Gorilla Glass, recently announced that it finally cracked the code for creating resilient, bendable glass — they're calling it Willow Glass — that can flex like a piece of paper without breaking. "You can certainly make it wrap around a cylindrical object and that could be someone's wrist," Pete Bocko, chief technology officer for Corning Glass Technologies, tells the Times. "Right now, if I tried to make something that looked like a watch, that could be done using this flexible glass."

Of course, questions linger. Would an iWatch use Siri? You'd have to assume that anything with such a tiny touchscreen would utilize an input format besides our fat fingers. And how would apps work? What about a camera? Would the watch serve as an extension of your phone, as Pebble does? Or would it fly independently, like an iPod?

Apple wouldn't be the first to move into smartwatch territory — third-party manufacturers have been producing Android watches for awhile now. Last year, Sony unveiled its own computerized wristwatch. It bombed.

Still, devices like FuelBand have hit on something: People tend to like computers best when they don't look like computers. Ultimately, I think, that's what most consumers really want — something that doesn't get in the way.

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