It's one thing to hear Jony Ive's product narration in pristine videos at Apple keynotes, it's a whole other thing to hear him open up a bit and talk about the development of a product.
Speaking with Hodinkee for the second issue of its magazine, Apple's design guru spoke a bit about where the idea for the Apple Watch came from. Specifically, it emerged from a larger conversation about Apple's future shortly after Steve Jobs' death.
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Ive said Jobs' death caused the company to take some time to think about where it wanted to go, what it was good at, and what trajectory it was on.
"At that point in the journey, we were all routinely carrying around incredibly powerful products, in terms of their technical ability, in our pockets," Ive said. "And it seemed, I think, that an obvious continuation of this path that we've been on for so many years was to make technology more personal and more accessible."
Ah, yes, we've heard Tim Cook talk about how the Apple Watch was the most personal product it ever made. For Apple, it was also a different product, one that had the notoriously secretive company seek outside help. Ive recruited his good friend and famous designer Marc Newson to help make the Apple Watch, but he also reached out to the watch industry.
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Ive reached out to horologists, curators at the Royal Observatory and an astrophysicist to understand the history of timekeeping and watches as it was making its own. The research helped Apple draw a line between the history of clocks and computers.
"What's interesting is that I think there is a strong analog to timekeeping technology here for our own products and computational devices. Think about clock towers, and how monumental but singular they are. They are mainframes. From there, clocks moved into homebound objects, but you wouldn't have one in every room; you might have one for the whole house, just like PCs in the 1980s. Then maybe more than one. Then, time-telling migrated to the pocket. Ultimately, a clock ended up on the wrist, so there is such a curious connection with what we wanted to do, and that was a connection we were really very aware of."
Imagine having something this powerful with you at all times
That is probably the clearest way anyone from Apple has articulated Apple's long-term vision for the Apple Watch, though it's not something that's a secret. Apple has steadily been making additions to the Apple Watch and watchOS to make it more of a standalone device. It could even be the hearable of the future.
One big criticisms of the early Apple Watch, and smartwatches as a whole, is that some people find them unnecessary - a solution looking for a problem. Ive said Apple didn't think of the Watch as a solution to a problem, but an opportunity.
"You can look at Apple Watch in terms of trade docs – what it does, etcetera – or you can look at what would be possible if you knew that you had this much technology with you at all times," Ive said. "Many of us have our phones with us all the time, but they aren't connected to you. Imagine having something this powerful with you at all times, and what opportunities that might present to the user."
Ive signed off hinting at the future of the Apple Watch, that it's potential opportunities are "phenomenal" when you "don't understand just where we are today in terms of technology and capability, but where we are headed."
One place Apple may be headed is a round Apple Watch, if rumors and patents are anything to go by. Ive specifically called out the squircle design of the Patek Philipe Nautilus as something he thinks is beautiful and admires. It's both a square and a circle at the same time, finding an odd balance between the two.
The full interview has even more details on the Apple Watch and its design, including how Apple thought of the Digital Crown and the care Apple took to designing its straps.