When most people bring up Apple’s rumored iWatch, the conversation often focuses on the device’s health sensors and screen size.
However, a new report from UBS analyst Steve Milunovich suggests that voice messaging could actually be the key feature of the iWatch.
Milunovich was recently able to talk to Apple CEO Tim Cook, who reportedly mentioned a trip abroad to China where he witnessed people walking down the street and dictating voice messages to their phone instead of texting.
Interestingly enough, Apple has also paid more attention to voice messaging this year, introducing in June the ability to send voice messages over iPhone with the upcoming iOS 8 operating system.
It may be hard to envision voice messaging taking off in the U.S., but it’s the physical motion behind Apple’s new voice messaging feature that could suggest a logical transition to an iWatch.
In order to send a voice message over iPhone, Apple introduced a new raise-to-record gesture for listening and recording voice messages, all from the lock screen. When a user receives a voice message, he or she only has to lift the phone to his or her ear and the message plays. Recording a new voice message works the same way, and lowering the phone sends it off.
It’s reminiscent of the classic push-to-talk functionality of old. And while people probably won’t use voice messaging too much on their iPhone, it makes perfect sense in an iWatch.
Today, text messaging requires you to remove your phone from your pocket, unless you’re using headphones with an integrated microphone. No one wants to use their finger to text on a watch either, but lifting a watch briefly and recording a slice of conversation makes much more sense.
In order to be truly successful, Apple’s iWatch will need to solve problems that the iPhone can’t, and natural voice messaging could be a powerful differentiation.
Efficient voice messaging requires top notch voice recognition software, and Apple’s Siri could hold the answer, but not in its current state.
Siri needs to get a lot better before it’s a reliable and painless way to send messages, but recent reports suggest that Apple is indeed building up its own voice recognition team. Wired reports that Apple is shifting away from voice recognition company Nuance, long rumored to be currently powering Siri, and instead growing an in-house team of managers and researchers.
It seems like the pieces are certainly there.
A shift away from fingers-to-phone messaging certainly won’t happen over night. But if Apple is looking to stay ahead of the curve, a natural way to communicate that doesn’t require people digging around for their phone could be the answer, and voice messaging on the iWatch could be the key.