The concept of an 'iWatch' capable of bringing apps and web browsing to your wrist seems to be a popular one among consumers. Yet for now, the concept is just that, with questions remaining as to when and if an iWatch or other smart watches will soon hit the market.
With streamlined tablets, smartphones and smart cameras all commonplace in the market now, some see consumers hungry for the Next Big Thing, and that could just be a wearable computer like the one worn by classic comic book detective Dick Tracy.
To help assess interest in such a device, Bethesda, Md.-based 451 Research's ChangeWave service surveyed 1,713 primarily North American respondents. Their survey, conducted March 4-19, found that about 19 percent showed interest in an iWatch -- if that's what Apple calls its device -- and if Apple even makes one. Fourteen percent said they were somewhat likely to buy such a device, while 5 percent said they'd be very likely.
That's not exactly a line around the block. But when you compare those numbers to research from before Apple released its as-yet unnamed tablet computer in January 2010 and before it released a Mac packing Intel chips in August 2005, the numbers are nearly identical.
And those products were huge hits.
"Apple's track record of delivering ultra-convenient, easy to use products with a perceived 'cool factor' is driving pre-release demand for the rumored Apple 'iWatch,'" Andy Golub of 451 Research said in releasing the data .
"While an 'iWatch' doesn't yet exist -- and if it ever does it will have to live up to super high expectations -- it has the potential to be another huge success for the Cupertino, CA manufacturer."
At the same time, it's important to note that 66% of respondents said they are unlikely to buy an iWatch for themselves or someone they know, and, 14% responded "don't know."
What's in a Watch?
The rumor mill envisions such an iWatch as an important addition to the iOS ecosystem that can sync with an iPhone or iPad to allow calls and texting, perhaps make mobile payments, and also access iTunes and App Store content via iCloud. Toss in the highly popular Siri digital assistant that debuted with the iPhone 4S, as well as health monitoring sensors, and it becomes something Steve Jobs himself would find awesome.
The survey found Apple product owners five times more likely to buy an "iWatch" than those who do not currently own any Apple products (25 percent compared with 5 percent). That result, in particular, is not surprising since Apple commands particularly strong brand loyalty among consumers -- something lampooned in rival Samsung's commercials as almost cult-like blind obedience.
Eighteen percent of respondents who pine for an iWatch even admitted that loyalty to Apple would drive them to take out their wallets. But others cited Convenience (16 percent), Cool Factor (14 percent) and Ease of Integrating with Other Apple Products (11 percent).
Watch This Space
If it is planning an iWatch, Apple won't be alone in the market. Samsung, Google, and Microsoft, among others are believed to have their own plans in the hopper.
"Wearable technology clearly appears poised to take off in the near term," consumer devices analyst Avi Greengart told us.
"Vendors have been pushing smart watches for decades, but we have now reached a tipping point for wearable technology thanks to the smartphone. The processing, imaging, and sensor technology designed for smartphones have become sufficiently advanced, miniaturized, and inexpensive that they can be applied to devices that are worn on the body, clipped onto clothing, or even embedded in the body."