According to a New York Times article, Apple could very well come out with alternative energy sources for their smart watch (aka iWatch) in the form of solar energy or kinetic (motion) energy. It is just about certain that Apple worries about two main issues with smart watches: battery life and bulky designs. The good news is that design constraints will get better over time as long as smart watches remain a companion device instead of a full-blown computer in a speed arms race.
The battery life issue is more difficult because one needs to balance the image quality with power consumption. The Galaxy Gear has a great-looking display, but needs to be charged daily. On the other hand, the Qualcomm Toq has a less colorful display, but the watch needs charging only every 3-4 days. The display will be the single most power-hungry component of a watch.
Will it be enough?
Would solar and kinetic motion be enough to keep an iWatch charged? Let’s start with solar: the main issue here is how much surface can be allocated to energy-gathering. It is possible that the display itself would be the solar panel. However, it is likely that the little energy that can be gathered won’t be able to self-sustain the watch. That said every little thing helps.
Kinetic motion has been used for years to charge conventional watches. Casio and Seiko have done so, and this is a well-known technology. However, the energy consumption of conventional watches are tiny compared to a smart watch that is gathering data such as motion, health, position etc… so while this helps too, it’s unlikely that it will actually sustain the watch.
Those two options are great to investigate and exploit. Every effort must be made to reduce the need for charging a smart watch because every single user dislikes it and will likely forget about it every once in a while, which makes for a frustrating experience. The single best way to prolong the battery life of a smart watch today is to use a low-power display technology, whether it is Mirasol (Qualcomm) or other technologies, like e-ink, single color OLED etc. Let’s see what comes out it.