Key Apple Watch engineer provides details on device’s development

Bob Messerschmidt — who sold his company to Apple in 2010 and became a key part of the Apple Watch’s development — gave some insights into how products are created at Apple in a new Fast Company article. Working with Jony Ive’s Industrial Design Group constantly challenged Messerschmidt and his employees to redesign their components, specifically the heart rate sensor that became the Apple Watch’s marquee selling feature. When Messerschmidt told Ive’s team that he needed to put the watch’s sensors in the band so they’d make contact with the underside of a user’s wrist to get the most accurate reading, the response was a flat no. “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.’”
Apple has been rumored to be working on “smart bands” to increase the Apple Watch’s functionality, and even applied for patents for a more robust electrocardiographic wearable health device, but for the everyday user, Ive’s team insisted they wanted the watch’s sensors to function while allowing people to wear their watch the way they always have. And when Messerschmidt came back with an idea that required the Apple Watch be worn tight to make firm contact between the sensor and the skin, he was again sent back to the drawing board, creating a set of requirements that required new engineering solutions. “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,” Messerschmidt said, “So you have to have a really strong voice supporting the user. I think the idea of focusing on that is uniquely Apple.”

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