Smart Watch: The final version of the much-anticipated Apple Watch is expected to debut this Monday from Apple CEO Tim Cook. The device is likely the most complex wearable designed yet, due to its slew of applications like mobile payments and health sensors. It’s the first Apple product launched without Steve Jobs, and expectations are high as managers expect that Apple will replace AT&T on the Dow Jones Industrial average on March 18,
The Apple Watch could help make wearables more popular by making them more useful — Apple says that Siri and Apple Pay will be built into the device, and Cook has considered making the watch work as an electronic “key” for doors — as well as more stylish, with different wristbands to choose from. The watch will have three models: a basic version for $349, a sporty $500 model and the luxury edition estimated at $1,000.
The device will require an iPhone to work, so customers will need to factor in the price of a smartphone and a mobile contract. Despite this, demand for the Apple Watch is high, and the company may ship 22 million units in 2015 as part of the 84.3 million wearable devices expected to be distributed worldwide this year, according to forecasts from the International Data Corporation.
The Apple Watch begs the question: What else could Apple create, if it really wanted to?
Apple is well positioned to make some bold new innovations since the company has vast cash reserves and its stock capitalization recently became worth more than $700 billion – making it the most valuable stock in U.S. history. The tech giant is already taking on ambitious projects such as investing $850 million in a new solar energy farm to power its offices. The company’s environmentalist principles are also likely driving it to design an electric car to rival Tesla Motors, a project it has code-named “Titan.”
But what other ambitious gadgets could the tech giant produce?
Smart cars: Reports that Apple is designing an electric car makes sense given that the company has already made inroads with the auto sector, as have its rivals Google and Microsoft. The tech giant has worked with automakers like Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari and Volvo to run its CarPlay system. The in-car computer connects with the iPhone to run numerous applications like iTunes and the Siri digital assistant. Best of all it lets you check texts, make phone calls, navigate directions and listen to music just by using your voice.
A voice-activated house: Apple is going to make a smart home system, too – it’s not going to let Google and Nest beat beat them in this emerging market. The release of the Home Kit developer software for Apple’s iOS operating system “heavily hints” that the company will somehow step into the growing market, says Frank Gillett, a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. Google may have a head start after its purchase of smart thermostat maker Nest, and has told U.S. News that it one day hopes to build a voice-activated system that links the house lights, locks and utilities with other Google products. Apple can still catch up, Gillett says.
“Apple has some chops on voice,” he says. “To get to the next level, though, Apple will have to learn how to work better with other people’s technology. … I do think you will see some deep partnerships like the one they used to have with IBM.”
The Siri Robot: Apple’s voice command chops come in part from its Siri digital assistant for iPhone. But why stop at a smartphone? Why not build a robot to help around the house or office? Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk and Microsoft’s co-founder Bill Gates might be worried about artificial intelligence, but Apple’s Cook hasn’t said if he’s afraid of the robot revolution.
A hoverboard: The luxury electronics company has a culture of engineering perfectionism and could go further than any other attempt at producing the floating skateboard depicted in “Back to the Future II.” Since the movie made in 1989 showcased a fictional 2015 Nike is also reportedly designing shoes with electronic power laces, like shoes depicted in the film.
Computerized cups: Coffee, tea and smoothies are part of the home office experience, so why not bring your computer and your housewares closer together? Apple could imitate – or acquire – businesses that are innovating smart housewares. Vessyl, for instance, designed a cup with a digital tracker that monitors the nutrition contents of every liquid. Another startup, Drop, makes a digital kitchen scale that connects with an iPad to help suggest recipes.
Spy couture: The company that built the iPhone and made us realize we needed smartphones could go on to integrate phones with clothing and accessories. The 1960’s spy comedy “Get Smart” had plenty of covert gear that put a goofy spin on what Q would design for James Bond. Along with theshoe phone, the show’s “cone of silence” that prevents communications from being monitored would be welcome in a time of shrinking privacy on digital devices.
“It would be fantastic if my wife and I could talk with each other in front of our kids without them hearing us,” Gillett says.
Better yet, how about a jacket phone? When it’s finished revolutionizing the wearables market with the Apple Watch, the tech giant could get a head start in the growing smart garments sector. Having a watch or a visor notify you about messages or other data, but instead of reaching into your jacket pocket imagine glancing at your lapel. Companies shipped 100,000 units of smart garments with electronics built into them in 2014, and those shipments could spike to more than 10 million in 2015, research firm Gartner reports.
“In winter weather I should be able to look at the sleeve of my garment and have it show me what I need to know,” Gillett says.
There’s one present-day Apple product in the works that we’ll have to wait for: A larger iPad. Sales of the 9.7-inch iPad and the 7.9-inch iPad Mini have stalled, possibly because of the debut of the larger iPhone6, but Apple is delaying production of its 12.9-inch-screen iPad due to a low supply of display panels, Bloomberg reports.