Another analyst is talking up Apple's (AAPL) inevitable push into wearable computing. KGI Securities analyst Ming Chi Kuo sees the iWatch -- Apple's long-rumored smartwatch -- rolling out by the end of summer.
Kuo's timeline forecast for 2013 was fairly accurate, validating his connections with Apple sources and suppliers. (In 2014, He also predicts new iPads, thin MacBooks and larger iPhones.) Apple CEO Tim Cook has also promised an entry into new product categories, and the smartwatch tends to be a very popular prediction. Unfortunately, time may be running out on an the iWatch.
Apple's biggest splashes have come when it's a disruptor.
When the iPod was introduced in 2001, there was no other popular digital media player like it. It cornered the market.
When the iPhone rolled out in 2007, we already had Palm and BlackBerry (BBRY) making smartphones, but they were marketing primarily for corporate power users. Apple's sleek touchscreen design launched the consumer-facing smartphone revolution, making it the basis for most phones we have today.
When Apple rolled out the tablet three years later, the market didn't think we needed a device that was too big to be an iPhone but too small to be a MacBook. It was a new market category.
Apple eventually lost global market share in smartphones and tablets to Android devices, but the world's most-valuable tech company was able to dominate three industries that it helped revolutionize. That's not going to happen with the iWatch.
Pebble attracted the market's attention on Kickstarter two years ago, raising more than enough money to launch the first mainstream smartwatch. It wasn't fancy, using Bluetooth to send text alerts, emails and notifications of incoming calls and social updates from the phone in your pocket, purse or desk to your wrist. It also plays nice with what is now more than 1,000 apps.
Raising the Bar Won't Be Easy
It didn't take long for other consumer tech giants to dive in. Samsung -- having overtaken Apple to become the world's-largest smartphone player -- raised the bar with Gear last year. Using voice commands to make and take calls right from the watch improve on the original Pebble. Samsung's Gear 2 has a built-in camera, a stand-alone music player, fitness monitoring and ability to be a TV remote control.
A major disadvantage to the Gear is that it doesn't have the same kind of week-long battery life that the Pebble promises. There's a price to pay with having all of these bells and whistles, and charging your phone every day is more of a drag than juicing up a phone or tablet. This is where Apple can make a difference, but it won't be able to offer more features than Samsung without sacrificing battery life or making it too expensive.
That's the rub. Where will Apple go if it wants to create a truly disruptive device? There is no shortage of iFans who will jump all over the iWatch initially, but now that the market is established there's a risk that Apple puts out little more than a "me too" product.
Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple.
Apps That Manage Your Money For You
It May Be Too Late for the iWatch to Wow the World
Mint made the Mac App Store's Best of 2012 list for a reason. This simple, clean app shows how much you are spending in each category of your budget by monitoring all of your transactions. We love signing in and getting a quick, dirty rundown of where our money has gone over the last week, and using their personalized budget tools to stay on track. We highly recommend adjusting your budgets for summer months. You might spend less on transportation when the weather is nice, and chances are you could use that extra cash to flesh out that restaurant tab, right?
This is the all-in-one financial organizer. Manage all of your accounts, from credit cards to magazine subscriptions, in one place and even make custom accounts for your rent or cleaning service. Get reminders for bill payments, and monitor all of your travel reward points, too. You'll always know what you owe, how much money you have and can plan for upcoming bills and expenses without having to sift through tons of paperwork.
If you want to isolate the expense tracker function of Mint in a super simple day-to-day app, then DailyCost is a great buy. A wide variety of categories lets users input all of their daily expenses. Holding your phone horizontally, you will be able to see graphs and statistics on your spending. The app also tracks your weekly and monthly spending by category and can be backed up to iCloud for Mac users, so you'll never lose your data.
If you're a heavy traveler, Toshl is an excellent expense and budget tracker. It works with any currency and lets you separate your travel budget from your day-to-day expenses. It comes with all the trappings of a regular money management app, too, such as bill organizer and alerts, and can be synced across all your devices.
Next time you organize a group activity, Tricount will split up the expenses for you. Create the expense report on your phone and organize by person, how much they owe, and then share via email so everyone knows their share. With options for expenses, balance, share, and configuration, the app does all of the math for you.
Never miss a bill payment again. This app reminds you when your payments are due, and lets you pay on the spot from a bank account or credit card, or you can schedule a payment for the future. Connect all of your accounts to the encrypted app and then view them all in one place for easy access and payment options. You'll never overdraft or miss a payment again.
Make and share payments with friends. This app uses the same technology to pay as LivingSocial, Uber and Airbnb. Pay with your debit card or transfer funds from a linked bank account, right to a friend's Venmo account. It is Verisign Certified.