Last Tuesday, Samsung (News - Alert) unveiled both its new Galaxy Note 3 hybrid phone/tablet and the really new Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch. Out intrepid colleague Rachel Ramsey hit up the Samsung event held in New York City that day, and provided the relevant details on the Gear. We’re now waiting for Samsung to ship review units our way so we can run a hands-on evaluation.
Meanwhile, exactly one week later – just this past Tuesday Apple (News - Alert) held its own next generation 5S smartphone event. Apple introduced no iWatch of any sort and in fact never once did any Apple exec even mention the term “wearable technology” throughout Apple’s presentation. And yet, Apple has now laid out what we consider to be the first cornerstones of its own wearable tech foundation.
It begins with the new iPhone (News - Alert) 5S and its entirely new internals. Along with the new A7 64-bit microprocessor (which Samsung is now in need of playing catch-up with), Apple has now included a brand new “Motion 7” co-processor. This is a very cool and innovative new capability - in that it runs much deeper than what a mere surface view of it might suggest. Yes, it detects motion and it offloads from the already super-speedy A7 processor all of that motion data. This is significant in many ways and will likely save on battery power to some degree. But let’s focus on just two possibilities.
About three weeks ago, we wrote in detail about a quite cool and newly granted Apple iOS 3D Gesture patent. We highly recommend reading it as the key to the patent is in being able to make sense of complex non-touch finger motion gestures that lead to the creation of real time 3D images on an iOS device. Note the word “motion” in that last sentence.
Here is the gist of what the M7 is all about (we’re quoting ourselves from our iPhone 5S analysis):
- The iPhone 5S also includes the new M7 motion coprocessor. This critical new addition to the iPhone design gathers data from the iPhone’s accelerometer, gyroscope and compass to offload work from the A7. This will significantly improve power efficiency and those UI interactions.
- Here is the secret end of it: developers will be able to access new CoreMotion APIs that take advantage of M7, which means developers will be able to create much better fitness and activity apps that go well beyond what other mobile devices can offer. The M7 motion coprocessor continuously measures your motion data, even when the device is asleep, and saves battery life for pedometer or other fitness apps that use the accelerometer all day. Well, OK, that doesn’t sound all that secret.
- But what we have in hand here is what Apple itself needs in order to deliver on wearable technology. Without it, the type of iWatch or iRing or iWhatever that Apple wants to deliver would not be possible. With the iPhone 5S and the next generation following the 5S, Apple’s wearable tech foundation begins to tangibly fall in place. Hey, that is very cool!
The above excerpt defines motion in real time through the noted sensors, but it is a very short step to also being able to detect the finger motions we note regarding Apple’s patent and to pass them to the M7 for processing. The CoreMotion APIs we note in the excerpt also open up significant possibilities for wearable tech partners to build far more efficient and interesting apps for their own devices that communicate with the iPhone.
We find what the M7 brings to the wearable tech game to be a compelling capability. And yet, there isn’t anything about it at this point in time that suggests this for Apple itself. This is because we believe Apple is playing a very long term game here. Apple feels no need to rush products out the door. Rather, it will take its time and introduce only those products that meet Apple’s exacting needs and requirements.
The “expensive” cheap iPhone 5C is a case in point. Apple has, as we’ve long noted it would, delivered the expensive version of a cheap smartphone. Next time around, the company will offer up a larger screen size, though we strongly suspect it will be a design that plays off the 5C rather than the flagship 5S. Apple does not feel any pressure to deliver on that large screen and we are glad the company has stuck to its guns on this. When Apple finally does, it will be on its own terms and not as a knee-jerk reaction to the larger screen size “fad” (that’s our belief – others will strongly disagree that it is a fad).
A Long, Steady and High-End Pace to Apple Wearable Tech
This will also be true of whatever Apple finally delivers on the wearable technology front. Apple will not simply rush a smartwatch out the door. Nor will it deliver its own health-related device simply because the rest of the world is doing so. It will take its time, it will figure out how to fully define the high-end, and Apple will only deliver when it fully believes all the foundational pieces are in place. The Motion 7 coprocessor is the first critical cornerstone of Apple’s wearable tech foundation.
Design and build quality will be other key wearable tech foundation pieces. As we write, Apple is deep into defining what wearable tech design needs to be and is deep into figuring out how it will build wearable devices that meet its high-end build quality requirements. Deeply integrated into these design issues will be Apple’s definition of what “fashion” means for wearable tech. “Wearable Fashion” is equally important to Apple as the tech side of it.
In the meantime, the software that will power Apple’s wearable devices is being built with the Motion 7 coprocessor as a key reference design. In fact, we’ll go one step further and say that Apple is already using the next generation Motion 7 as its wearable tech design reference. iOS 7 was entirely built with the A7 as its reference architecture. Any wearable tech software from Apple will do the same with the Motion 7.
All of this spells out a very long term game for Apple that fully leverages its “no wine before its time” mantra. This is why we hadn’t seen a “cheap” iPhone until the 5C and why we have yet to see a larger screen iPhone.
Samsung’s Mad Dash
Much has been made of Samsung’s use of plastic cases for its many mobile devices. We hate the feel of these plastic cases; others are simply ambivalent and yet others actually like them. To each her own, but for Samsung itself it means far lower cost and the ability to turn around designs in numerous sizes at a rapid pace. Plastic is entirely accommodating to the mad dash to get as many different smartphone and tablet sizes and models out the door as possible. It is also cheap enough that Samsung requires almost no real investment in time or build effort to create them.
Some folks think this is a huge advantage. For that to be true you have to also buy into Samsung’s strategy of slinging as many different devices out the door as possible and creating multiple avenues of pursuit for competitors. It is hugely interesting to note that Apple has done no such pursuing. Others, such as HTC, Sony and LG don’t have much choice but to pursue Samsung. Nokia (News - Alert) has notably resisted this pursuit to date though that may change once Microsoft fully takes over.
The Samsung Galaxy Gear is another perfect example of the Samsung Dash. As Rachel’s Galaxy Gear article we noted earlier points out, the smartwatch does a number of interesting things. Yet both the hardware and software designs are entirely cumbersome – and completely within the realm of Samsung design (or the lack thereof, depending on your point of view, which would match our perspective).
We fully expect Samsung will deliver a slew of other wearable devices going forward in order to create yet another channel of pursuit for its competitors. It’s always about the dash for Samsung, which ultimately leaves real design behind. Think back, if you can, to how Sears once created the cheap suburb, by offering inexpensive home/house designs. These homes went up quickly and many people bought into them. As models of architecture they are utterly nondescript. That is how we view Samsung’s mobile devices and it is a safe bet that Samsung’s wearable tech will deliver the very same.
Continuing this theme – and leaving aside whether or not McMansions are a good thing or a bad thing, and many folks will suggest that McMansion designs are exercises in exceedingly bad taste - the better McMansions offer many examples of worthy architecture. Apple delivers products (obviously in our own opinion) that are a step above cookie-cutter McMansions. The company operates in the realm of unique and indeed quite sophisticated one-of-a-kind architectural designs. These require sophisticated foundations and marathon build efforts – the mad dash will never work here.
Herein is how we define the differences between what Apple offers and what Samsung offers. Both have their place and both models are enormously successful. In the end it comes down to what the user wants and can afford (though we also acknowledge that many who can afford the high end don’t necessarily roll that way).
Apple caters to those among us who value strong and unique aesthetic values and build quality – that is what Apple cachet is all about. Samsung owns the rest of the mobile world, but as Apple is fond of saying, “We own 75 percent of the profit.”
Wearable tech for Apple will play out exactly in exactly the same way.
Edited by Ryan Sartor
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