iOS 8 adds several important enhancements to the iPhone and iPad, such as improved notifications, health-tracking, and a more advanced camera application, but the new operating system’s most significant feature may be the groundwork technologies for a future Apple wearable device that integrates deeply with the iPhone.

No matter if it is called the “iWatch,” “iBand,” “iPod,” or something else entirely, a wrist-worn Apple wearable device will likely be announced in October, and the software it will run will set the scope of its capabilities. Besides the new functionality for the iPhone and iPad, iOS 8 includes many new wireless protocols, applications, and features that open the door to several capabilities for a wearable device.

Let’s take a look at how each major iOS 8 feature plays directly into Apple’s ambitions for a wearable computer, below.

screenshot-2014-06-02-14-31-41Widget Apps:

The main idea of the modern smart watch is for the user to be provided with quick access to glance-able information on a small display. The iPhone App Store is loaded with news apps, sports apps, and media playback apps that are perfect for the phone’s 4-inch screen. But when it comes to smaller displays, optimization for that new size and interaction from the wrist is necessary.

With the new Notification Center widgets system, Apple could apply the mini applications to the iWatch’s display and source data from the iPhone’s full-scale apps. Apple has already demonstrated an eBay widget and an ESPN sports widget, and those programs seem intuitive for access on the wrist. Even more so, Apple’s iPhone Calendar, Weather, and Reminders widgets would be perfect for an iWatch.

Apple could even build an entire ecosystem of third-party widget apps on the iWatch, sparking an entirely new gold rush for app development on a brand-new platform.

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 5.38.54 PMQuick Toggles for Contacts, Notifications, More:

With a small display accessible from a wrist, the software controls will need to be quickly accessible and easy to tap. In iOS 8, Apple has made access quicker to recent and favorite contacts quickly accessible in the Multitasking view, made managing email require less taps through the system, and made responding to notifications more intuitive.

Of course, the Apple wearable device will be capable of making phone calls, and the new user-interface for doing so in iOS 8 feels natural for a watch with its large circular icons and quickly accessible buttons for actions.

Being able to respond to notifications with large buttons like in iOS 8 will be critical to managing notifications on the smaller display of an iOS-based wearable. As seen with devices such as the Pebble, people like to manage notifications from the wrist, so an easy-to-use experience for this from Apple will be essential.

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 5.38.32 PMMessages, Photo/Video, Voice Memos:

It may seem straight of the Jetsons, but iOS 8 will unlock the ability for an iWatch user to bring the watch up to their face for them to shoot off a quick voice memo. The ability to now more quickly send messages, especially with your voice, sounds like it will be a critical (and killer!) feature of the iWatch. We have no idea if the watch will have a camera (like the Samsung Galaxy Gear), but if it does, iOS 8, too, has the ability to now more quickly send pictures and video clips.

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 5.40.41 PMSearch:

iOS 8 includes a new and more powerful Spotlight Search feature. Not only does Spotlight now have access to local content on your iPhone, but it could search for apps, songs, and local information such as nearby places/restaurant, and movies. As a device that will live on your wrist to provide you with relevant information, the power of advanced local search will be critical to the iWatch.

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 5.39.44 PMHealth App and HealthKit:

We have extensively reported that Apple has been working on a fitness band with advanced medical sensors. Over the past couple of years, Apple has been hiring up and acquiring resources with expertise in glucose monitoring, pedometers, vain scanning, and fitness. With Health and HealthKit, Apple now has a way to track all of this information. We fully expect the Apple wearable to integrate deeply with the Health App and Health Kit upon its launch.

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 5.40.16 PMHandoff for Personal Hotspot:

In order to power the wireless technologies on the wearable device, Apple could either embed a cellular chip or connect the device to an iPhone. Now, utilizing the iPhone’s cellular chip as a hotspot is easier than ever with the new Instant Hotspot feature. The iWatch would be able to automatically recognize that the phone is nearby and take advantage of its cellular networking.

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 5.40.06 PMHandoff for Phone and SMS:

As an extension of the iPhone, the iWatch will need to be able to make phone calls and receive all of the iPhone’s text messages. Not just iMessages, but SMS texts as well. iOS 8 builds in the technology for non-iPhone devices to receive and make both phone calls and SMSs through the iPhone’s cellular chip. This technology will likely translate seamlessly over to an iWatch and will be critical for the product’s success as an iPhone accessory.

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 5.38.09 PMiCloud Photos and Storage:

As a smaller device that is worn on the body, it is unlikely that the iWatch will have vast amounts of storage. Instead, the device will need to rely on wireless networking and iCloud to retrieve content. While it is uncertain if the iWatch will have a full blown Photos app like on the existing iOS devices, the new iCloud Photos feature uses technology that could be critical to the iWatch. The new iCloud Photos system allows photos to be stored in the cloud (and not on the device) and viewed on an iOS device. This is a departure from how photos and My Photo Stream formally worked on iOS.

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 5.39.10 PMQuickType Keyboard:

With its small display, it will be difficult for Apple to squeeze in a full QWERTY touch keyboard on the iWatch. But with QuickType, perhaps Apple could enhance the keyboard to efficiently fit on a smaller screen. The new predictive text technology could make it so Apple only needs to provide certain keyboard characters at a single time.

Lightning MFI Headphones:

We reported that Apple will introduce a new Lightning-based headphone standard with iOS 8. This means that headphone makers can use the Lightning port to connect the headphones to iOS devices. We don’t think that this will replace the 3.5mm headphone jack on existing iOS devices (like the iPad and iPhone), but perhaps the likely much thinner and smaller iWatch will be unable to fit a standard headphone jack. Maybe the new Lightning Headphone system is designed for the iWatch.

Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 10.14.22 AM


Realmac Software has a similar theory about iOS 8 and the iWatch, and they add that some developer APIs like Extensions and Metal could be perfect for the iWatch. Take a look at their post as well.


Each feature added in iOS 8 adds functionality and makes the iPhone a better platform for both users and developers. But many of them seem even more powerful when put in the context of a wearable device, and we believe that many of these features will be key points of the future product.

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22 Responses to “iOS 8 builds in the technologies Apple needs for an iWatch”

  1. RP says:

    Great piece. I can see now how ios 8 it ties it all together.


    • RP says:

      ..and Yosemite too.


    • alvinguzman says:

      Yeap….everything sounds great..but anything about the battery of this thing? how long? how are we supposed to charge it? anything but 7 days would be a disappointed.


      • Jacob Hansen says:

        I do totally agree with you, but I have a terrible feeling about the battery life. As you see in the iPhones, Apple haven’t increased the lifespan of their batteries in the iPhone. They have maintained the battery life, in such a way, that it could be compared to the other models. For me, it is kind of a disappointment that Apple is making the next iPhone even thinner (rumor), with less space for battery.

        For the watch, i would love a thin wrist-wearable, and it would not bother me to charge it 3-5 times a week, and it would bother me even less, if the charging is wireless.
        But back to my point – I believe that Apple priorities a thinner device more than a bit more battery.
        But I do really hope that 7 days is going to be a reality!


  2. That iWatch Concept featured at the top of the page has to be the ugliest concept to date.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Um.. Lightning connector for headphones for the iWatch? No. Having wired headphones of any kind for a device on your wrist is an incredibly ignorant idea. There’s no way Apple will include any wired headphone support for the iWatch. The lightning connector headphones idea is strictly for higher quality sound or other information which can’t be provided from standard headphone jack. I’m extremely confident there won’t be a headphone jack, and I doubt there will even be a lightning port, or any port for charging or plugging something into the device. This will be strictly wireless charging I bet. Wireless charging omits big openings needed for cords being plugged into it. If any device needed strictly wireless charging, it’s the iWatch.

    It may have a mic and small speaker for Siri/dictation, but I’m guessing those will be the only holes in the device. It needs to be waterproof and the less holes the better I’m guessing.


    • rahhbriley says:

      I completely agree.


    • Plus throw in bluetooth headphones as an option. How convenient that Beats happens to make some…


      • I was thinking the same thing. And with the new wireless power beats it seems like something that can be easily implemented. Imagine getting a pair with every iPhone/iWatch that works out of the box over Bluetooth.


    • Jacob Hansen says:

      I agree, and I think you have some great points, but a port for synchronization would be good also. For charging also, it could be nice. But wireless charging would with no doubt be super cool! Imagine a wireless charging station, that could recharge your iWatch, AND iPhone, maybe also iPad? It is the future!

      I have seen some with the elder iPod Nano, if you recall it? The wrist-iPod Nano, connected to a pair of headphones, and it looked ridiculous! Also, if you are wearing a t-shirt, it would also be annoying. Maybe iWatch could play music through Bluetooth?


  4. netelligence says:

    I thought the same when I first heard about widgets and talked about what WWDC revealed about the iWatch here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0UIzMP5WcI


  5. dr3459 says:

    This makes a lot of sense. The continuity, widgets, quick reply, voice reply, quick picture, Health, and other areas makes it very plausible we’ll see the iWatch this Fall. It’s kind of shocking though somehow we can nearly get a full iPhone 6 model like 6 months ahead of any release and now nearly a complete design and model and we still have no idea what an iWatch would look like. Definitely shows Apple is keeping it locked up tight if they have anything. Also I don’t know if Apple is ready for wireless charging yet. There may be a lightning port but it’ll be hidden within the watch similar to how Nike hides their ports in the Fuelband and Sportwatch GPS seamlessly really. The biggest thing for Apple I think is getting a more full iOS on the iWatch, rather than some minimal feature low end version of iOS. Kind of how Android watches so far have done with the small exception of the Moto 360 being the first more high end smartwatch from an Android brand.


  6. Apple’s wearable device name will be : iwear


    Liked by 1 person

  7. When it comes to lightning cables and headphones I rather see neither on this device. Preferably the iWatch will have next-generation long range wireless charging. Analysts speculated the ability to recharge low-voltage low-energy consuming devices within 30-feet of an antenna. These analysts were reported on, here at 9to5mac. The last thing I want is another device to plug-in everyday. Secondly, if it’s less than everyday that doesn’t make it any better. It might even make it worse, because I won’t be in the habit of charging it and will probably forget to plug it in. Another reason Apple may have long range wireless charging under it’s sleeve is because of the sleep pattern recording possibilities speculated in a potential iWatch. It’s pretty hard to measure something when it’s off of the wrist. Now, if Apple has this charging tech up it’s sleeve, then I expect to see Bluetooth EarPods. (Design similar to this is what I imagine: http://ioomobile.com/iooimages/Sony%20Ericsson%20MW600%20Bluetooth%20Headphones%20Earphones%2003.jpg) These too could be charged by the same long range antenna. I personally see headphones that plug into the iWatch as a horrible mess of tangled cords. If the iWatch plugs into charge, and uses the lightning connector for headphones it’ll be a great product. If they have long range wireless charging and Bluetooth EarPods it’ll be revolutionary.


  8. giorgiopagliara says:

    What about “Hey, Siri” feature? ;)


  9. Metal perfect for iWatch? More like Apple TV (and that’s what Realmac says).


  10. Don’t forget Cook’s Refrigerator/Toaster metaphor. Consistently, Apple have never given us everything we hope for in a single product, and I hope that doesn’t change with an iWatch.

    I’m expecting a small line of wearables and not a single iWatch, with different feature-sets, each focused on an aspect of the ecosystem.

    A sport iWatch could make a big splash if we could leave our phones behind. Direct BLE sensor integration, GPS and accelerometers could even take marketshare from pro-level sport monitors like Polar. Mix Healthbook and iTunes in and you’ve got a product like no other without having to add the kitchen sink.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. grnbills says:

    With the new iPhone 6 & iPad Air coming out I better sell my old iPhone & iPad before the value of it drops. I usually search 8-13 different sites to find the best offer, but I just found this company that compares all the buyback companies in one spot. it’s called http://www.recomhub.com.

    It’s like Kayak but for Apple Devices that show you all the offers in one spot.


  12. drgeert says:

    Respond with message


  13. I must confess that I still don’t “get” the allure of the rumored iWatch. Given that it’s not meant to replace our iPhones but rather work as a complementary device to the iPhone, the reason for the iWatch’s place in our digital lives then becomes similar to the reasoning Steve Jobs did when introducing the iPad: For this device (the iPad) to fill out a space between the iPhone and the laptop, it needs to do some things way better than either the laptop or the iPhone. Jobs then, convincingly, made the case that the iPad is indeed better suited for some common computing task than either of the two “old” devices. But what about the iWatch?Super portable and always with you, sure. But I’d say that’s already the case with my iPhone? And more importantly, given that I’ll still be carrying my iPhone in my pocket; which task will the iWatch perform BETTER than my iPhone? Surely the argument for splashing out $xxx for an iWatch must be stronger than; “it saves you the 3 seconds it takes to pull your iPhone out of you pocket” ? So, given than we’re still going to be carrying our iPhones with us, which tasks can the iWatch do better on a 2″ display, than my new iPhone 6 can do on it’s 4,7″ display? Is there really such a big demand in the market for a device that monitors your blood sugar level and pulse 24/7 so that alone is enough to justify the iWatch? Does that sound like a viable mass market consumer product fit for Apple? I admit it: I still can’t see it.