iBand

Apple would appear to be readying itself to announce something rather large. I have some ideas about what it might entail. Yes, it’s the iPhone 6 plus some sort of wrist device, which I’ll call the iBand here, since I don’t think it’s (primarily) a watch. My record on Apple prognostications has been rather poor, so take this with a grain of salt.

Lightening, Beats
Listening to Gruber’s Talk Show podcast, apparently the Lightening port is water proof. This explains a lot. iPhones have not been waterproof to date because the ports are not waterproof. But if Lightening is waterproof, and it has the bandwidth to do music and video out of it, then it makes sense to eliminate all other ports in its favor. If the iPhone 6 had a standard headphone jack, then it will be the last iPhone to have such a thing.

This also explains the beats acquisition. My guess is they asked beats to make lightening jack headphones, beats initially refused, and Apple responded with an offer to buy the company. With beats on board, the lightening jack has a good chance as being adopted as an industry standard, burying other jacks, perhaps across the entire industry. Lightening won’t be an open standard, but like Bluetooth, it will be one everyone uses and Apple will collect its royalty on it. Pretty brilliant if you ask me.

Also, if the lightening jack is waterproof, then it will clearly be the means by which the iBand is charged. More on that in a bit.

Automobile, iBand
If the iPhone has only one input, this makes connecting to the audio jack of a car difficult, because you won’t be able to plug the audio and power in at the same time. Unless, of course, Apple makes a companion car charger. The car charger would have an audio jack that you would plug the car jack into, so that only the lightening port comes out into the phone. That cuts down on the number of wires and the number of things you have to plug into your phone, both of which sound like very Apple-like goals.

But what about cars with Bluetooth sound? Well, screw that. The problem with Bluetooth in the car is that invariably the microphone sucks, and Siri can’t interpret what is going on. Hands free driving is a must, and Siri is very good at dialing when you use the built-in mic on the phone. So turn off your car’s bluetooth, plug the audio input into the Apple car charger, and use your new iBand as your hands free mic. That alone is a product right there. But we’re just beginning.

The auto charger can now sense proximity to the iBand. Which means it can send a signal to lock your car doors when you’re not there, or to automatically open them when you are. Just program your car keys into the Apple car charger and you’re good to go.

iBand outside the car
So the iBand becomes a proximity device that can be used to signal all sorts of home automation things. I suppose it will tell the time, but if it has a display it’s strictly eInk or something that is equally power efficient. This means that you could use it to turn on lights in your home, to unlock your laptop and iPhone, etc. And of course, it will have all the standard health tracking gizmos.

The hint that Apple gave about the unveiling is “We wish we could say more”. This is a reference to the fact that you will be talking into your iBand to activate Siri, but I imagine that it will include the ability to control the AppleTV as well. This will make voice commands more prevalent throughout the Apple home automation platform.

The iBand will also have NFC and a fingerprint sensor. NFC will be used to program the device, but it will also be used to affect mobile payments. I could see it working in one of two ways. One way is to tap the wrist onto the payment platform to make a payment, while holding a finger on a fingerprint sensor to validate. The other way is to hold your fingerprint onto the sensor built into the payment terminal, which then uses the proximity features to validate. Either way works fine. The open question is whether Apple is building this as an open platform for 3rd party payment processors to utilize, or are they going to build their own payment platform with an eye toward killing visa and mastercard. Let’s hope it’s the latter, but I suppose those are not mutually exclusive things.

One piece of evidence that it could be the latter is Apple’s refusal to allow bitcoin wallets onto the App store until recently. I would theorize that this was because they wanted to launch their own payment processing platform, and didn’t want the competition to get a foothold. Now that they are about to launch, Apple felt they had better relent on their stance for antitrust reasons.

So that’s it. It’s a wristband/health monitor/payment processor. My guess is Apple has a ton of major retailers lined up, and probably has an easy iPad app for smaller retailers to use. If killing Visa and Mastercard is part of their plan, then it’s a plan I support. Let’s just hope Apple doesn’t get greedy with the fees, because they have a tendency to do that and it would undermine the effort.

 
 

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