Tags Haptic technology

Opinion: Does watchOS 2 make it time for ‘first-generation refuseniks’ to jump on board?


I described my own journey with the Apple Watch, from smartwatch skeptic to daily user, in a four-part diary (parts one, two, three and four). My uncertainty was less to do with the specifics of the Apple Watch and more to do with whether there was a role in my life for any kind of smartwatch.

But there are those who have been holding off for another reason: they steer clear of first-generation Apple products of all kinds. Their thinking is that the 1st-gen model tends to have a bunch of glitches, with the 2nd-gen product not just getting those worked out but also adding significantly to the functionality too.

This is a perfectly reasonable viewpoint, with significant historical evidence behind it – from the original Macintosh onward (one could even say from the Apple I). But with Apple having added a whole bunch of functionality to the existing Watch via watchOS 2, has the company managed to give the first-gen refuseniks enough reason to reconsider … ? 

We outlined on Monday the main new features added – with screengrabs and video – and it’s a lengthy list. Apple describes the Watch as its most personal device yet, and I think that’s a description which very much applies to its applications. What one person finds crucial may be irrelevant to someone else. For that reason, the features I highlight here may or may not be the ones that persuade you to take another look, and you may not agree with my classifications, but let’s see …


Small deals

Apple added a few things I consider pretty minor, but they do still add slightly to the appeal. The city time-lapse watch faces, for example. Minor, but a sign that more watch faces are likely to be added, and for a device selling itself as much on fashion as functionality, more choice in how the device looks when you turn your wrist can only be a good thing.

The “Time Travel” feature, allowing you to flick forward in time to see upcoming appointments, weather and so on. Again, trivial, but still a handy feature that makes the watch a slightly more convenient device.

Nightstand mode, similarly, offers a minor improvement in usability when used as a bedside clock. For some, it might even be enough to allow them to dispense with their existing clock.

But nobody who was holding out is likely to change their mind over such minor enhancements.


Medium deals

I would put a bunch of the watchOS 2 features into the ‘medium deals’ category.

I said that time-lapse watch faces were trivial, but I think the two photo faces – Single Photo and Photo Album – are more important. A tiny watch screen isn’t the best of ways to sit and scroll through photos, but seeing a photo of your partner, or your kids, every time you glance at your watch is a nice touch. I can see that holding reasonable appeal, and was surprised that such a seemingly simple feature didn’t make it into the original version of watchOS.

Similarly, with the Friends screen. While nobody wants to store hundreds of contacts on the watch, twelve was always too restrictive, especially as they had to mix friends, work colleagues and other numbers you might call frequently, such as a local minicab company. Having two or three screens of categorized contacts does make the Watch a lot more useful as a means of contacting someone.

Native apps, too, will make a significant difference – hopefully ending the delays I complained about previously.

The ability to reply to emails directly on the watch – either with a canned response, as per Messages, or by dictating to Siri – could be a big-ish deal for some. I’m mostly desk-based, so can’t see myself making too much use of it personally, but for someone who is on the move a great deal and receives a lot of email requiring only short replies, this could be very handy.

Maps with mass transit support similarly. The ability to navigate by wrist taps is very convenient (and safer in sketchy areas, with no technology visibly in use), and this makes it significantly more useful for those who live in big cities and thus avoid driving whenever possible. Support for Activation Lock will also help reduce theft fears – another feature that should definitely have been there from the start.

Adding store cards and merchant rewards to Apple Pay makes the Watch more useful as a method of payment. Not something I’ve been able to try yet in the UK, but looking forward to doing so next month.

Proper support for third-party workout apps could be a medium deal for fitness fans. Everyone tends to have their own favorite app, so the ability of the watch to log data from all apps will definitely make it more appealing.

Finally, in the medium-deal category, I’d place haptic feedback from third-party apps. It’s one of those small-sounding things that I think could make a big difference to those who care primarily about a small number of apps, like third-party IM apps. A haptic tap is more discreet than a sound, and can also be felt in noisy environments, where an audible alert might be missed.


Big deals

Two enhancements that are, to me, big deals – one addressing passive use of the watch, viewing information, the other interacting with it.

Passive viewing first. To me, any smartwatch is mostly about at-a-glance information. That’s the real selling-point: instead of having to pull your phone out of your pocket to see what an alert was, or check your next appointment, you can simply glance at your wrist.

So I think something that sounds small – support for third-party complications on watch faces – is actually huge. I mentioned in my diary series that I stick exclusively to the Modular face precisely because it maximizes the amount of data I can see at a glance. So far, I’ve been limited to the fields Apple allows me to view, but being able to import data from third-party apps will substantially increase the utility of the watch to me.

On the interaction side, I think teaching Siri new tricks will make a very big difference. I’m a huge Siri fan, using it as my preferred input method for most things I do on my phone, so perhaps I’m biased – but to me, asking Siri to display a Glance is a lot quicker and easier than swiping up then sideways until I reach the one I want.

But even those who are only moderate Siri fans are, I think, going to be won over by Siri’s new-found ability to control HomeKit devices. You walk into your home, raise your wrist and tell Siri to switch on the living-room lights and turn up the AC. That, to me, is the closest thing yet to a killer app for the Watch.


Is it all enough?

Personally, I think the big deals plus the medium ones are sufficient to at least give the first-generation avoiders pause for thought.

But I do recognize that while software enhancements are one thing, hardware improvements another. And nobody outside Apple knows yet what the new hardware may offer. The smart money has to be on an extra sensor or two. Maybe better battery-life (though honestly, the only times I’ve run out of power before the end of the day were when I was getting up at 5.45am and going to bed at midnight – not something I intend to make a habit).

Will there be visible differences? A slimmer model is always a possibility. Despite my first impressions, compare the Apple Watch to most conventional watches, and it’s not thick. It’s about the same as many, thinner than some. But if the iPhone and iPad has taught us anything, it’s that mass-market consumers want slim devices – and Apple works hard to cater to their tastes.

Buying a 1st-gen product is a gamble. But then so is buying at any other time: there’s always going to be a better model next time around. For me, I think buying the Sport model with Sport band is a reasonable compromise. You get the benefits of the watch today – with the enhancements added by watchOS 2 – but will have something easily resellable and won’t have so much invested in it that you’ll cry when Apple announces the next one.

Filed under: AAPL Company, Apple Watch, Opinion Tagged: Apple Inc, Apple watch, Apple Watch apps, Apple Watch diary, Haptic technology, iOS, watchOS, watchos 2

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Ben Lovejoy

June 10th



The Chinese iPhone 6 rumors keep coming – this time it’s haptic feedback


GforGames is citing Chinese site Laoyaoba in claiming that the iPhone 6 will use haptic feedback – using a more sophisticated vibration motor to provide simulated tactile feedback on the display.

The report is extremely light on detail, stating only that the motors are made by AAC (an existing Apple supplier) and Jinlong Electrical, and that they cost around two to three times the 60 cent cost of the vibration motor used in the iPhone 5s and 5c.

A typical use of haptic feedback is to attempt to make pressing an on-screen button feel something like pressing a physical one, but a 2009 Apple patent described something rather more sophisticated: simulating the feel of different types of surface as your finger moves across the screen. From the 2009 report:

Apple’s plan is to have a “grid of piezoelectronic actuators that can be activated on command. By fluctuating the frequency of these actuators, the user will “feel” different surfaces as their finger moves across it.

As always, it’s worth noting that Apple holds patents for a huge number of technologies that never make it into products. We’re putting this rumor into the extremely sketchy category for now.

We’ve recently seen two videos claiming to show the flexibility and durability of the rumored sapphire screen of the iPhone 6, which is expected to be released in both 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch models.

Filed under: iOS Devices Tagged: Apple, feedback, Haptic technology, iPad, iPhone, iPhone 5, iPhone 6, Patent, Somatosensory system

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Ben Lovejoy

July 10th



Is Apple building a haptic/optical stylus for its tablets?

Not likely… but it has decided to patent an optical stylus anyway. We will also go ahead and note the fatty nature of that big iPhone thing pictured below:

It would be quite amusing if Apple tried to use this patent to take out Samsung’s Galaxy Note.

Another patent released today details a different type of Stylus—one with haptic feedback. Also, do not expect to see this at any point in the future. (via Unwired View)

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9to5 Staff

May 24th


Yes, Apple is still working on haptics for touch devices

We already know Apple is working on haptic technologies for mobile devices from patents in the past (here, here, and here). We also know that last-minute rumors of Finnish company Senseg’s technology being included in the third-generation iPad never came true. Another patent surfaced today giving us a look at Apple’s work with an advanced multi-tiered haptics system for iOS devices. PatentlyApple has all the details:

…today’s surprise invention packs a punch with a wildly intelligent multi-tiered haptics system. The system will actually allow an iDevice display to deform so that it could provide the user with a button, an arrow or even a geological map to physically pop right out of the screen to give it 3D depth. If that wasn’t cool enough, Apple’s patent discusses a flexible OLED display that could be used for video glasses.

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Jordan Kahn

May 3rd


Last-minute rumor: Apple snuck Senseg’s groundbreaking haptic display technology into iPad 3?

We are extremely skeptical about this one, but we are reposting it for the sake of discussion. According to Pocket-lint sources, Apple’s iPad 3 will include a new advanced tactile feedback technology that could add a completely new sensory input to the tablet. Unlike traditional haptic feedback that creates the sensation of physical touch with a small electrical stimulus (creating pulses that push against the finger), Apple’s solution allegedly puts an electrical pulse behind every pixel.

In theory, this would effectively create a 2048-by-1536 Retina display with so-called “textured feedback.” That is, it would add “texture” to objects on the screen when touched. Possible applications of this technology could be numerous and especially handy for both seeing and hearing issues. In addition, games would gain a whole new dimension if programmers could control screen pulses with a pixel-level accuracy and provide sensory perception of textures by varying friction between the screen and the user’s finger.

According to the article, Apple has been in talks with a Finnish startup called Senseg, the creators of advanced haptic display technology called E-Sense, depicted in the below clip. Now, when asked whether Apple licensed its technology, a company spokesperson told the publication “We won’t be making any statements until after Apple’s announcement.”

Similarly, Senseg’s technical marketing manager Petri Jekonen provided a similar answer to The Guardian newspaper yesterday:

That would be for Apple to say. My comment is no comment.

Furthermore, Senseg Senior Vice President Ville Mäkinen told Trusted Reviews that his company is “currently working with a certain tablet maker based in Cupertino.” The publication explains that the aim of Senseg’s technology is to “make a corrugated surface feel corrugated, a rough surface rough, a soft surface soft.”

On the other hand, Senseg CEO said less than four months ago that his company’s technology won’t be available for prime time for 1 to 2 years. “We’re certainly optimistic that we’ll have something in the next year. That might extend to 24 months,” he said in the below clip. The new iPad’s hardware design was likely finalized four months ago when Senseg’s CEO made those comments.

What is so special about Senseg’s technology, you ask? Read on…

According to the Senseg website:

With Senseg, touch screens come alive with textures, contours and edges that users can feel. Using Senseg technology, makers of tablet computers, smart phones, and any touch interface device can deliver revolutionary user experiences with high fidelity tactile sensations. Your customers will Feel the Difference with Senseg. Unlike effects created by mechanical vibration and piezo solutions, Senseg is silent. Moreover, with Senseg application developers have precise control of the location and type of effect users experience. What’s more, Senseg technology scales from touch pads, smart phones and tablets to the largest touch screens without increasing manufacturing complexity.

We also know from Apple’s patent filings that the company has researched advanced forms of tactile feedback for use in mobile devices. According to this patent filing, Apple’s solution calls for a “grid of piezoelectric actuators that can be activated on command.” By fluctuating the frequency of these actuators, the user will get a sense of different surfaces as their finger moves across it. For example, a virtual click wheel displayed on such a screen could vibrate at a different frequency as you move your finger across the center. Moreover, a newer patent filing takes this one step further by describing smart haptic tech that might tap the accelerometer sensor to precisely control levels of sensory feedback.

Finally, Apple’s invitation for the iPad 3 event says, “We have something you really have to see. And touch.” Now, Apple Kremlinologists know the company does not just word its press invitations to sound cool, always incorporating cryptic leads about important new features. For example, invitation graphics for the last year’s iPhone 4S introduction is adorned with the “Let’s talk iPhone” tagline—a subtle hint to the Siri voice-activated digital assistant billed as one of the key selling points of the device.

Eagle-eyed pundits were quick to note that the “touch” part in the “We have something you really have to see. And touch” tagline of the iPad 3 invitation signifies that one of the defining enhancements of the new iPad will be something related to touch input. The mystery will reveal in a few hours when Apple unveils its next-generation iPad at a media event in San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

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Christian Zibreg

March 7th

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