Jony Ive's Design Team Nixed Apple Watch Band With Sensors

Apple-Watch-Heart-Rate-SensorIn an interview with Fast Company, former Apple employee Bob Messerschmidt, who helped design the heart rate sensors in the Apple Watch, gave some insight into what it was like working with Jony Ive and Apple's Industrial Design Group on the company's first wearable device.

After a 2010 acquisition, Messerschmidt joined the Apple Watch team, where he was in charge of designing some of the sensors for the device. In an anecdote relayed to Fast Company, during one meeting, Messerschmidt proposed putting health sensors in the Apple Watch band, an idea that was quickly shot down by the Industrial Design Group because of a desire for interchangeable bands.

One great example is [when] I went to a meeting and said I'm going to put sensors in the watch but I'm going to put them down here (he points to the underside of the Apple Watch band he's wearing) because I can get a more accurate reading on the bottom of the wrist than I can get on the top of the wrist. They (the Industrial Design group) said very quickly that "that's not the design trend; that's not the fashion trend. We want to have interchangeable bands so we don't want to have any sensors in the band."

Messerschmidt's next proposal was for sensors at the top of an Apple Watch worn tightly against the wrist, which was also nixed because "that's not how people wear watches." According to Messerschmidt, it was difficult working within the design constraints at Apple, but it pushed him to figure out "new engineering solutions" and ultimately made for a product with a superior user experience.

Engineers left in a vacuum might say "well, that's maybe not so important; we can get a better signal by doing it the other way so let's do it that way." So, left to their own devices, that would be the way the product would end up. So you have to have a really strong voice supporting the user. I think the idea of focusing on that is uniquely Apple

Messerschmidt goes on to explain other important lessons he learned from his time working at Apple and from Steve Jobs, including that user experience is "everything when it comes to consumer products," that "good enough is not good enough," and that it's important to say no "until it's just right."

Following three years at Apple and integral work on the heart rate sensor in the Apple Watch, Messerschmidt left the company to found Cor, a startup producing a device that draws blood, analyzes it, and provides near-instant health-related information.

Messerschmidt's full interview is worth checking out and can be read over at Fast Company.

Related Roundup: Apple Watch Series 9
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)

Top Rated Comments

Asarien Avatar
98 months ago
Whew.

Thank God "fashionable" watchbands made the top of their priority list when designing the Apple Watch.
Score: 45 Votes (Like | Disagree)
nookster Avatar
98 months ago
"So you have to have a really strong voice supporting the user"

Now, if only they had a pair of ears to actually listen to the user.
Score: 45 Votes (Like | Disagree)
DaveTheRave Avatar
98 months ago
Charging a watch every night isn't how most people use watches either, Jonny.
Score: 26 Votes (Like | Disagree)
NT1440 Avatar
98 months ago
I'm confident Apple decided to go with an emphasis on fashion to grab the "trend setters" to normalize wearables as the first rollout phase for what the Watch is going to become. Without fashion, it's incredibly hard to get normal consumers on board with the idea. Now that it's getting out there, the tech aspect can really kick in.

Smart watches had the stigma of calculator watches a few years ago (and given some of the horrible designs I can see why).
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
keysofanxiety Avatar
98 months ago
Interesting to read about this. The Apple Watch doesn't irk me so much any more.

When it was first introduced, I was a little surprised why they were so smug about promoting an interface similar to a '90s projector; namely, twist a wheel to zoom in. It seemed like such a close-minded and unimaginative way of getting around the limitations of the small screen. I guess a few of us were expecting an interface and aesthetic massively different to the Galaxy Gear and other wearables at the time.

In retrospect, I'm not sure what else I was expecting. And there are a lot of people here really really like it. Apple seem to have concentrated on improving the operating system and adding more functionality as well.

TL;DR: I'm happy to admit I was wrong.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Deuce on the Clock Avatar
98 months ago
So we want to get into health and fitness but lets go for fashion over function. Okay makes sense to me. You're wearing it wrong people. Apple says one thing publicly then they contradict themselves.
I understand the cost factor with bands but don't say you're concerned about health and fitness tracking then half ass it because of fashion.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

iOS 17

iOS 17.4 Will Add These New Features to Your iPhone

Monday February 19, 2024 6:52 am PST by
Apple last month confirmed that iOS 17.4 will be released in March, and the update includes several new features and changes for the iPhone. Key new features in iOS 17.4 include major App Store changes in the EU and Apple Podcasts transcripts. The update also adds new emoji and includes preparations for the launch of next-generation CarPlay later this year. More details about the new...
apple wallet drivers license feature

Apple Said iPhone Driver's Licenses Will Expand to These 8 U.S. States

Monday February 12, 2024 7:51 am PST by
In 2021, Apple introduced a feature that lets residents of participating U.S. states add their driver's license or ID to the Wallet app on the iPhone and Apple Watch, providing a convenient and contactless way to display proof of identity or age. Unfortunately, states have been slow to adopt the feature since it was first announced in September 2021, with IDs in the Wallet app only available ...
samsung galaxy ring

'Apple Ring' Allegedly in Development to Rival Samsung Galaxy Ring

Tuesday February 20, 2024 2:27 am PST by
Apple is speeding up development of a smart ring that can be worn on the finger to track users' health biometrics, claims a new report coming out of Korea. Teaser image of Samsung Galaxy Ring shown at Galaxy Unpacked in January Apple has toyed with the idea of a ring wearable for several years, as indicated by several patents, but with Samsung preparing to bring its own product to market, the ...
New Macs iPads iOS 17 4

New Macs and iPads Coming Soon: What to Expect

Saturday February 17, 2024 3:00 am PST by
Following the launch of Apple's Vision Pro headset, attention has shifted towards what is next on the company's agenda this year. As usual, March should be eventful for Apple, as it is expected to release new MacBook Air, iPad Pro, and iPad Air models during the month. In a recent press release, Apple also confirmed that iOS 17.4 will be released in March. Below, we recap what to expect...
m3 macbook pro 14 16

Apple Now Selling Refurbished M3 Pro and M3 Max MacBook Pro Models

Monday February 19, 2024 5:04 pm PST by
Apple today began offering refurbished versions of the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with M3 Pro and M3 Max chip options, offering the machines at a discount for the first time since their October 2023 release. The release of M3 Pro and M3 Max models on Apple's refurbished store comes almost two weeks after the entry-level 14-inch M3 MacBook Pro first appeared on the store....
Apple Watch Series 9

5 Major New Features Rumored for This Year's Apple Watch

Sunday February 18, 2024 3:00 am PST by
Thinking about upgrading your Apple Watch or buying one for the first time? If your current smartwatch is doing its job just fine and it's only the idea of a good deal that's piqued your interest, it could be worth holding out until later this year when Apple unveils its next-generation version. Here's why. There are already several rumors from reputable sources that suggest 2024 could be a...