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 6
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Buy Now)

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
55 months ago
Whew.

Thank God "fashionable" watchbands made the top of their priority list when designing the Apple Watch.
Score: 45 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
55 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)
Avatar
55 months ago
Charging a watch every night isn't how most people use watches either, Jonny.
Score: 26 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
55 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)
Avatar
55 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)
Avatar
55 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)

Top Stories

First iPhone 12 Mini Hands-On Video Surfaces [Update: Video Pulled]

Wednesday October 28, 2020 1:21 pm PDT by
Apple's iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12 Pro Max aren't set to be available until November 13, but a Romanian YouTuber got his hands on the iPhone 12 mini and showed it off today, offering a size comparison between the iPhone 12 and the 12 mini along with going over some of the device's features. The iPhone 12 mini is identical to the iPhone 12 in design and functionality, but it has a...

Apple References Unreleased 2020 16-Inch MacBook Pro in Boot Camp Update

Monday October 26, 2020 8:42 am PDT by
Last week, Apple released an update for Boot Camp, its utility for running Windows on a Mac. While this update would typically be unremarkable, several of our readers noticed that the release notes reference an unreleased 2020 model of the 16-inch MacBook Pro. While this could easily be a mistake, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is nearly a year old, so it is certainly a worthy candidate for a...

After Mocking Apple, Samsung May Remove Power Adapter From Galaxy S21 Box

Tuesday October 27, 2020 4:29 pm PDT by
Samsung's Galaxy S21, coming in 2021, may not include a power adapter or headphones in the box, according to reports from Korean media sites highlighted by SamMobile. Rumors earlier this year also said that Samsung was considering removing these accessories from future smartphone models, but that didn't stop Samsung from mocking Apple for selling the iPhone 12 models without a power adapter...

Report: Apple Silicon iMac Featuring Desktop Class 'A14T' Chip Coming First Half of 2021

Tuesday October 27, 2020 4:14 am PDT by
The first iMac powered by Apple Silicon is set to arrive in the first half of next year and will feature a desktop class "A14T" chip, according to Chinese-language newspaper The China Times. Codenamed "Mt. Jade," Apple's first custom-made desktop processor will be twinned with its first self-developed GPU, codenamed "Lifuka," both of which are being produced using TSMC's 5-nanometer process, ...

iPhone 12 Ceramic Shield Still 'Scratches at Level 6 With Deeper Grooves at Level 7' in Mohs Hardness Test

Wednesday October 28, 2020 7:10 am PDT by
iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models feature a new Ceramic Shield front cover that is "tougher than any smartphone glass," according to Apple, but the displays on the devices still have similar scratch resistance as previous iPhones based on a new test. Zack Nelson today shared his much-anticipated iPhone 12 Pro durability test on his YouTube channel JerryRigEverything, and based on the Mohs...

2020 iPad Air vs. iPad Pro: Hands-On Comparison

Tuesday October 27, 2020 3:03 pm PDT by
Apple announced the new 2020 fourth-generation iPad Air in September, but the new tablets just started shipping out to customers last Friday. We picked one up and thought we'd do a hands-on comparison with the iPad Pro, which was last updated in March, because both tablets are about as powerful and share many similarities. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Design and ...

MagSafe Charger Only Charges at Full 15W Speeds With Apple's 20W Power Adapter [Updated]

Monday October 26, 2020 3:38 pm PDT by
Alongside the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro models, Apple introduced a new MagSafe charger that attaches to the magnetic ring in the back of the devices, providing up to 15W of charging power, which is double the speed of the 7.5W Qi-based wireless charging maximum. Apple does not provide a power adapter with the $39 MagSafe charger, requiring users to supply their own USB-C compatible option. Apple...

Apple Files Mystery 'Personal Computer' With Placeholder 'B2002' Name in Bluetooth Product Database

Tuesday October 27, 2020 12:36 pm PDT by
Last week, a listing appeared in the Bluetooth product database for an Apple product with a placeholder name "B2002" and a model number of "TBD." MacRumors was alerted to the listing by health and fitness tech website MyHealthyApple. The product is filed under the "personal computer" category, which Apple has used for previous Mac and iPad listings in the database, so it is hard to pinpoint...

Apple Releases First macOS Big Sur 11.0.1 Beta to Developers [Update: Public Beta Available]

Wednesday October 28, 2020 10:15 am PDT by
Apple today seeded a new macOS Big Sur 11.0.1 beta to developers for testing purposes, with the new beta replacing the existing macOS Big Sur 11 beta 10 update that was released two weeks ago. The macOS Big Sur beta can be downloaded through the Apple Developer Center and once the appropriate profile is installed, subsequent betas will be available through the Software Update mechanism in...

iPhone 12 Models Might Support Reverse Charging of Future Apple Accessories According to FCC Filing

Tuesday October 27, 2020 6:25 pm PDT by
iPhone 12 models could have an inactive wireless charging feature for accessories, according to an FCC filing discovered by VentureBeat's Jeremy Horwitz. In the filing, Apple said that 2020 iPhones support a wireless charging function that will seemingly be enabled for at least one future Apple accessory:In addition to being able to be charged by a desktop WPT charger (puck), 2020 iPhones...