Are you getting it? One device.

With Apple being as secretive as it is about unreleased products, rumours are constantly flying. Amongst the current popular rumours are the concept of an Apple-made wristwatch device, dubbed ‘iWatch’ by Internet creatives, and a cheap iPhone. I previously hadn’t given much thought to either of these. I haven’t worn a watch for almost 20 years, and as much as I like Apple products I’m not about to go back to the days of tan lines on my wrist. And with the previous models of iPhone already serving the market for cheap iPhones, I couldn’t see the point. But what if a watch and a cheap iPhone are the wrong way to look at these rumours?

What if the watch is the cheap iPhone?

Before the unveiling of the iPhone in January of 2007, several rumours were flying. One of them was that Apple would release a phone. Another was that Apple would release a widescreen, touch-screen iPod. When Steve Jobs took to the stage for the keynote, he played on this, suggesting there were three products to announce: “a revolutionary mobile phone, a widescreen iPod, and a breakthrough Internet device”. The big reveal was that this was all one product: the iPhone. While I don’t think we’ll see a repeat performance of this piece of theatre (since “a cheap iPhone” isn’t really a great product announcement), it really shows how sometimes the rumour-sphere can’t see the forest for the trees.

I’m not going to embarrass myself by making mock-ups and suggesting how the iPhoneWatch could work. But with Apple focused on expanding into China and other developing-world markets, a cheap communication device that isn’t just a stripped-down iPhone makes a lot of sense. Why not frame it as a new form of wearable computer that can also be sold to the developed world?

When commenters decided Apple would have to make a cheaper, crappier Mac to combat Netbooks, Apple didn’t. They instead created the iPad, which redefined what mobile computing meant. Now, commenters have decided that Apple needs a cheaper, crappier iPhone. It sure seems to me like an opportunity for redefining what a communication device is.