TIME devices

These Companies Are Making Smartwatches for Grandma

Products images courtesy of Lively

They can replace ugly emergency call devices

Jean Anne Booth says when her mother reached her 80s, she refused to wear an “I’ve-fallen-and-I-can’t-get-up” style necklace.

“They’re ugly,” Booth says. “And that big button is stigmatizing. The first thought is, ‘Oh, that poor dear, they’re old and they’re not in control of their lives anymore.'”

But a device that elderly people can use to contact someone in case of a fall or other crisis is an important safety net, one that helps give their loved ones peace of mind. So Booth, a seasoned tech entrepreneur based in Austin, Texas, decided it was time for a makeover.

Booth’s company, Unaliwear, and other startups are now peddling smartwatches designed for the 65-and-over crowd. And in age when we expect our devices to be Swiss Army knives, they’re giving the devices capabilities beyond calling for help. Products from companies like San Francisco-based Lively and Unaliwear (which is still in the prototype phase) can do things like give users medication reminders, track their activity, text updates to their kids and even give them step-by-step directions to get home if the watch detects they’ve ended up in an unfamiliar location.

Most important, experts in the aging space say, is that the products do all this while looking like a normal accessory (and in some cases, a hip new one). After all, a wristwatch is something many older adults have worn all their lives.

“It normalizes the experience of getting old and makes people comfortable with the ability to get help without having to telegraph it to everybody,” says Stephen Johnston, co-founder of Aging2.0, an organization focused on supporting innovations for older adults.

Lively, an alumni of Aging2.0’s accelerator program, started shipping its “safety watch” in January. The timepiece looks an awful lot like the Apple Watch, with a simple, square screen and nice, big print. It comes as part of a $50 hardware set with four activity sensors and a hub that all communicate using cellular and Bluetooth signals. One of those activity sensors typically goes on a pillbox, for instance, so if a user has taken their medication, the sensor will tell the smartwatch, which won’t bother to remind the person wearing it. But if the pillbox hasn’t moved, the user will get an alert.

Lively CEO Iggy Fanlo says the traditional medical-alert pendants are so detested in the senior community that only about 13% of the people who buy them actually wear them throughout the day, according to a 2010 study from the Journal of Gerontology and Geriatrics, and that many often go unused for months at a time. Most of the time when older adults fall, they’re with someone and don’t require a team of firemen to remedy the situation, he says.

“It’s pretty clear that a medical alert product shouldn’t be a product,” says Fanlo. “It should be a feature.”

In the case of Lively’s watch, a user can press a button signaling that they need help. The watch pings the hub, which connects to a dispatcher who asks if they’re okay. The user can say they’re fine (if they pressed the button by accident or help has already wandered by), ask the dispatcher to contact a family member or neighbor on file, or request emergency responders. Users pay about $30 a month or more for access to this service.

Booth’s product, which costs $299 and generated $110,000 in a Kickstarter campaign, can detect a fall using an accelerometer, and will activate an emergency protocol if the user is non-responsive. The watch is a classic silver piece of (digital) jewelry which her company designed with discretion in mind. Before the watch makes any noises out loud—reminding a person to take their pills, for instance—the watch will vibrate. The user can tap the device to make sure it stays silent in the middle of a church service; it can also directly speak to a user’s hearing aid rather than out loud. It comes with both the ability to connect via Wi-Fi or cellular signal, which is important given that many older people do not have Wi-Fi in their homes. It took comes with a required monthly service fee starting around $30.

While few octogenarians own smartphones that could provide many of the same functions these watches do, Minda Aguhob, founder of an early-stage startup called Peakfoqus that is also building a senior-focused watch app, says that it’s wrong to think that older people won’t embrace technology.

“These features help them stay connected with their families,” Aguhob says. “Families who are supporting them living independently.”

Nearly 90% of those over age 65 say they want to remain at home as long as possible. Technology can help fill the gaps when kids or caretakers can’t always be available—or when older people don’t want their helpers constantly hovering around. “A lot of innovation is starting to come into the aging space,” says Johnston. At a recent Aging2.0 summit in San Francisco, for instance, startups showcased digital sign-in kiosks for nursing homes, rolling robots that encourage long walks and programs that simplify the Internet for late adopters.

Smartwatches, Johnston says, are just one product of many to come. “The aging space hasn’t necessarily been on the radar of these technology companies in the past,” he says. “It’s a really exciting time.”

TIME Apple

Why the Apple Watch Will Get Way Better in the Fall

Customers look at Apple Watches on display at an Apple Inc. store in Palo Alto, California, U.S., on Friday, April 10, 2015. From London to Beijing, Apple stores saw few customers lined up before opening Friday as pre-orders started. The first new gadget under Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook is selling in eight countries and Hong Kong, with shipments scheduled to start April 24. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
David Paul Morris—© 2015 Bloomberg Finance LP Customers look at Apple Watches on display at an Apple Inc. store in Palo Alto, California, U.S., on Friday, April 10, 2015.

According to an Apple exec

A key Apple exec has made it clear that Apple’s newest product will get better once autumn rolls around.

Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice president of operations, said at the Code Conference Wednesday that consumers should expect a surge of higher quality third-party apps for the Apple Watch in the fall, according to 9to5Mac. That’s because developers will have the opportunity to make apps that run natively on the Apple Watch.

Williams added there will be more games and other Apple Watch features coming out in preview mode in the fall as well.

Customer service will also be boosted in the coming months. “Later this year, we’ll have 45,000 people answering the phone to give AppleCare support during the holiday season,” said Williams, according to 9to5Mac.

TIME Tech

This Swiss Company Just Totally Burned the Apple Watch

Apple Watch Consumer Reports
David Paul Morris—Bloomberg Customers look at Apple Watches on display at an Apple Store in Palo Alto, Calif., on April 10, 2015.

The company says its products are timeless

Swiss watchmaker Montblanc is the latest company to pick a fight with Apple over its newly created smartwatch. The luxury watchmaker really wants consumers to know that its new smart wristband, which attaches to Swiss watches, is timeless by comparison.

A new electronic watchband was developed by the company and comes with a pedometer, email capabilities and helps takes selfies, according to Bloomberg. Alexander Schmiedt, Montblanc’s managing director for watches, told Bloomberg in an interview that electronics makers, like Apple, don’t focus on making items that last. “Our products should have very long life cycles,” he said. “That is not to say the Apple Watch is not a great product. I predict it will do very well, but I don’t think that customers are going to be ecstatic to throw away watches in one to two years when the technology is obsolete.”

The Montblanc device costs $349 for a basic version and up to $17,000 for a high-end version, which are price points similar to the Apple Watch. “The pricing is reasonable,” said analyst Patrik Schwendimann of Zuercher Kantonalbank to Bloomberg. “If it turns out to be just a fad, at least the consumer still has a nice, normal watch they can continue to wear.”

Per the article, Montblanc’s product does the following:

When connected to a smartphone, Montblanc’s device can select songs and jump through playlists. It has an activity tracker that allows users to set targets for calories burned and steps taken. The e-Strap can also trigger the phone’s camera, facilitating easier ‘selfie’ shots and group photos.

The product is compatible with Samsung and Apple phones, among others.

TIME Apple

Apple Is About to Change Something Very Basic About its Devices

New Product Announcements At The Apple Inc. Spring Forward Event
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., speaks during the Apple Inc. Spring Forward event in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Monday, March 9, 2015.

The writing's on the wall

Apple is expected to refresh the font used across its devices, 9to5Mac reported Wednesday.

Apple currently uses the new font, called San Francisco, in the Apple Watch. Now, it could make its way to iPhones, iPads, and Macs, replacing Helvetica Neue. San Francisco was developed for the Apple Watch to improve readability on the device’s small screen.

It’s unclear exactly when the font switchover might happen. However, it could be announced during Apple’s Worldwide Developers’ Conference, set for early next month. While Apple’s annual WWDC events are geared towards software developers, the company often uses the occasion to announce new products, as well as new features for its existing offers.

Still, nothing’s a sure bet. As 9to5Mac notes, “Apple could ultimately choose to retain Helvetica Neue this year and push back or cancel its plans for San Francisco.”

TIME Apple

This Is the Version of the Apple Watch Most People Are Buying

Apple Watch Consumer Reports
David Paul Morris—Bloomberg Customers look at Apple Watches on display at an Apple Store in Palo Alto, Calif., on April 10, 2015.

Analyst also points out one troubling sign

For Apple Watch sales, bigger is better.

The bigger, 42mm version of Apple’s new smartwatch is selling way better than the smaller, 38mm version, according to a new research note by analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities. The Apple-watcher blog Appleinsider reported the note earlier Wednesday.

Kuo, who has a reputation for accurate Apple predictions, said big Apple Watches could make up 80% of all watch orders. Kuo speculated that men tended to order the bigger watches—suggesting that men are buying most of the Apple Watches.

The bad news for Apple is that “market demand for Apple Watch may be slowing down” since Apple started taking watch orders in late April, Kuo wrote. Kuo slashed KGI’s forecast for watch orders through September by 20% to 30%, meaning Apple could ship less than 15 million units during that time, according to the blog 9to5Mac. That’s a good bit less than some industry forecasts that Apple could ship 20 to 30 million watches in that stretch, according to 9to5Mac.

Kuo compared the Apple Watch to the iPhone, saying it had “potential” but could take a little while to catch on, according to Appleinsider.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It has already said it won’t reveal sales numbers for the Apple Watch. Apple’s share price wasn’t responding—it was flat in early afternoon trading on Wednesday.

TIME Apple

Behold the Glory of Unboxing a Brand New Apple Watch

This is what it's like to open a new Apple Watch

Apple’s long-awaited Watch is finally available. Customers who bought the device are starting to get their devices in the mail today, April 24. (The Watch is not being sold in Apple Stores.) Developers, include TIME, are releasing have rolled out apps for the device. If you’ve ordered one but not received it yet or still unsure, here’s a closer look at what comes in the box:

Cubie King for TIME; Gif by Joseph C. Lin for TIME

 

Cubie King for TIME; Gif by Joseph C. Lin for TIME

 

Cubie King for TIME; Gif by Joseph C. Lin for TIME

 

Cubie King for TIME; Gif by Joseph C. Lin for TIME

Read more: 7 Apple Watch apps you’ll actually want to use today

TIME Apple

Apple Thinks the Apple Watch Will Convert Android Users Into True Believers

Apple Unveils iPhone 6
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images An attendee inspects the new Apple Watch during an Apple special event at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts on September 9, 2014 in Cupertino, California.

It's offering a trade-in deal that will coincide with the Apple Watch launch

Apple is reportedly planning a first-of-its-kind trade-in deal offering gift cards to Android users swapping for a new iPhone. The deal will “begin in the coming weeks,” according to 9to5mac.

You know what else begins in the coming weeks? Sales of the Apple Watch, which goes into preview mode April 10 with actual shopping starting April 24.

That’s not a coincidence. If you want an Apple Watch, you need the iPhone 5 or newer to go along with it. That makes it just one more way Apple can suck customers into its gadget and software ecosystem. Apple is betting that the Apple Watch will be so much more compelling than the Android-compatible smartwatches on the market, like Motorola’s Moto 360, that Android users will abandon ship and finally See The Light.

That explains the timing of the unprecedented gift card deal better than it just being a move to boost sales — Apple really doesn’t need help in that department anyway, recently posting record iPhone sales. It’s also a safe bet Apple will see some pretty stellar foot traffic in Apple Stores once the Watch preview period begins.

Read next: Tim Cook: The Apple Watch Is the First Smartwatch ‘That Matters’

TIME Apple

5 Things to Expect from Apple’s Watch Event

Apple is holding an event in San Francisco on Monday, March 9 at 10 a.m. PT, likely to deliver new details about its upcoming Watch. While Apple first unveiled the Apple Watch late last year, it left plenty unsaid. Here are five questions we still have about the Apple Watch that should be answered during Monday’s event:

What does it do?

We know the Apple Watch tells the time, syncs up with your iPhone, gives you directions and more. But the Apple Watch was unveiled well before third-party developers had time to make new apps for it. With the Watch’s release date drawing nearer, more developers should be ready to show off apps that add new functionality to the Apple Watch—like the ability to pay for sandwiches for example.

How much will it cost?

Apple says the entry-level Apple Watch Sport will start at $349. But we still don’t know anything about the cost of the other models, which could range from the somewhat affordable to the downright pricey (especially for the all-gold Apple Watch Edition). Expect Apple to put a clearer price tag on the Apple Watch come Monday.

MORE Hands-On With the Apple Watch

When can we buy one?

At first, Apple only said the Apple Watch would be available sometime in “early 2015.” In late January, Apple CEO Tim Cook narrowed that window down to “April.” But there still isn’t a firm release date for the Apple Watch—expect Apple to give us one Monday, and then set your calendars accordingly.

How will we buy one?

The Apple Watch comes in three base models (Sport, Regular, Edition), two sizes (42mm and 38mm), six colors (from “stainless steel” to “18-karat yellow gold”), and six different kinds of bands, some with different colors of their own. While you might not be able to mix and match to your heart’s consent, that’s still a boatload more options than you get with anything else Apple sells.

All those customization options mean you might buy the Apple Watch differently than you buy an iPad or MacBook. Early rumors pointed to an in-store concierge experience, while Apple could produce some kind of interactive online tool to help you make the perfect Apple Watch.

How long will the battery last?

Battery life could make or break the Apple Watch — if the watch can’t make it through an average work day, it could very well be a flop. Cook has already said he expects people will have to charge the Apple Watch every night, and Apple is reportedly working on a “Power Reserve” mode.

But how will the battery hold up exactly? Apple might give us some better numbers on Monday, but it’ll take some real-world testing before we’re really sure how the Apple Watch does.

Read next: The One Thing That Makes Apple a Totally Different Company Now

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TIME Gadgets

Google’s Android Wear Shipped Just 720,000 Units Last Year

Moto 360, Powered by Android Wear
Motorola A press handout photo shows Motorola's Moto 360 watch, powered by Android Wear, displaying a map.

Smartwatches have a long way to go before mass adoption

Google’s new line of smartwatches isn’t exactly flying off the shelves. According to research firm Canalys, 720,000 Android Wear watches were shipped in 2014. The most popular watch was Motorola’s round-faced Moto 360, though it faced supply constraints during the fourth quarter.

The figure gives Google about a 15% share of the total 4.6 million smart wearable bands that were shipped in 2014. Canalys also revealed that Pebble smartwatch, one of the earliest to market, shipped 1 million units from its launch in 2013 to the end of 2014.

So far, at least, smartwatches seem to be a long way off from reaching mass adoption. For comparison, vendors shipped about 230 million tablets and 1.3 billion smartphones worldwide last year, according to research firm IDC. The arrival of the Apple Watch in the spring will certainly increase the presence of smartwatches, but the devices still have a long way to go before becoming truly mainstream.

TIME Big Picture

Nobody Can Predict the Success of Apple’s Watch Yet

The new Apple Watch is displayed during an Apple special event at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts on Sept. 9, 2014 in Cupertino, Calif.
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images The new Apple Watch is displayed during an Apple special event at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts on Sept. 9, 2014 in Cupertino, Calif.

It’s interesting to read all the coverage Apple got for its watch announcement, and the amazing amount of analysis and predictions that came out shortly after the launch event.

Critics went after everything, from style, form and function. Others lauded its design, potential capabilities and eventual usefulness.

Part of this discrepancy in views is due to the fact that while Apple did show us the watch and give us some early details about what it would do, the company didn’t actually give us a lot of details about things like costs, storage, future apps and security features that could help people develop a more informed view of the product.

Since it doesn’t come out until sometime in early 2015, there’s a lot of time for speculation. And even though we have some solid details we can use to try and draw some conclusions about its potential success, I would like to suggest that to actually try to predict the future success of the Apple Watch today would just be folly. We only have the bits and pieces that Apple wanted to share; it’s not enough to really determine how this product will fare when it finally reaches the market next year.

Why Unveil It So Early?

Many people thought it was odd for Apple to introduce a product like the Apple Watch months before it will ever come to market. For one, it gives competitors a lot of time to try and create something similar that can compete with the Apple Watch when it ships. It also gives the media, detractors and a whole host of folks plenty of time to try and guess what Apple’s really doing and whether it’ll actually have any serious impact on Apple’s bottom line. Given Apple’s penchant for secrecy, one would think that it would have been smarter for the company to hold off announcing the watch until a day or two before it would actually ship.

For those of us who follow Apple very closely, this move, while unique, was a necessary for a couple of reasons. First, this is a brand new category for Apple and the watch market is very complex. Apple actually needs real feedback from people in the watch, entertainment, fashion and tech worlds in order to help refine the final product.

However, there’s another critical reason that the watch was unveiled months before it’s supposed to come to market, and it’s one of the major reasons why it’s impossible to actually predict its success at this time in Apple’s history.

Much More Than Hardware

The proper way to actually view the new Apple Watch is to see it as a platform that includes more than just hardware. It has to have apps and services designed for the new, smaller-screen form factor. This actually follows Apple’s overall formula for success.

Before the company introduced the iPod, it spent two years working with the music industry in order to have media content available for use on the iPod when it shipped. The same thing happened with the iPhone. Apple had to create a special SDK (software development kit) so the developer community could create apps for the new smartphone. While Apple did have its own apps and some special partner apps at launch, the software community moved rapidly to create apps and services for the new iPhone, which ultimately is why people actually buy an iPhone these days.

This similar approach was used when Apple introduced the iPad. At launch, the company had some of its own apps and a couple from partners — and in this case, it could use iPhone apps, although they had to be upscaled up for the iPad’s larger screen. But the software community soon created native iPad apps, and Apple’s tablet took off. In the end, with all three of these products, it’s all about providing customers with hardware, a rich operating system, apps and services.

Waiting for the Killer App

This will be the same case with the Apple Watch. We need a lot more info about what it can do, how it works and, of course, the ultimate value proposition of what it will deliver those who buy it. But the really important unknown factors lie in the types of apps that can be created for such a small screen, and if any “killer” apps emerge that take it from a “nice to have” device to an “everyone needs one” type of product.

The best example of a killer app came from the birth of the PC era. Apple introduced the Apple II computer in 1977, but at the time, it was viewed only as a hobbyist machine. Then in 1979, a program was created that ran on the Apple II called VisiCalc, which was the first spreadsheet. It literally became the killer app that brought the Apple II out of the hobbyist category and into the world of business computing. A they say, the rest is history.

The second killer apps were the word processors that came out about the same time, followed by a product called Lotus 1-2-3 that included a spreadsheet, graphical charts and a database. This was the first killer app for the IBM PC when it came out in 1983, launching the true PC era we know today.

The importance of apps was driven home to me when the iPhone was first launched. When Apple SVP Phil Schiller first showed it to me, he put his iPhone on the coffee table in front of me and asked me what I saw? I told him I saw a blank piece of glass in a metal case. He said that was exactly what Apple wanted me to see until I turned it on. The magic would come from the apps on the device itself. While the hardware is important, he stressed that it would be the apps that make the iPhone dance and sing.

After the launch of the iPhone, I talked to Steve Jobs and asked him if he was certain he had a hit on his hand with the iPhone. He told me he was pretty sure the iPhone would be important, but went on to say that it would be the apps that third-party vendors create that would ultimately make it successful. He also told me that the exciting thing for him was that Apple had developed an SDK to create apps for the iPhone and that he couldn’t wait to see what software developers created.

This really is the formula for the success of any device like this. A company can create a great piece of hardware, but the magic comes from the software community. Who will create the “killer” app or apps that make the device appealing to everyone?

While we only have part of the story about the Apple Watch from Apple, I suspect that even when it launches, we won’t really be able to judge its ultimate success at first. However, I am betting that Apple gets strong support from the software community, who will create a host of apps that may appeal to people from all walks of life. That will ultimately determine the success or failure of Apples new watch.

Bajarin is the president of Creative Strategies Inc., a technology industry analysis and market-intelligence firm in Silicon Valley. He contributes to Big Picture, an opinion column that appears every week on TIME Tech.

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