Apple Working On iWatch With Curved Glass Display [Report]

iWatch concept design by ADR Studios.

iWatch concept design by ADR Studios.

Apple is secretly building an iWatch deep within the confines of its Cupertino headquarters, according to a new report from The New York Times. The device uses curved glass to bend with the movement of the human wrist.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard rumors of a mysterious iWatch. The Times reported that Apple was prototyping such a product in 2011. But with competitors like the Pebble smart watch starting to ship, the era of the iWatch may be drawing near.

Nick Bilton of The New York Times:

In its headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., Apple is experimenting with wristwatch-like devices made of curved glass, according to people familiar with the company’s explorations, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because they are not allowed to publicly discuss unreleased products. Such a watch would operate Apple’s iOS platform, two people said, and stand apart from competitors based on the company’s understanding of how such glass can curve around the human body.

Back when the iPod nano was generating buzz for its usefulness as a digital watch face, Bilton heard that Apple was “conceptualizing and even prototyping some wearable devices.” An iWatch would interface with an iOS device like an iPhone or iPod touch.

What Apple is working on could very well use Corning’s flexible Willow Glass, according to today’s report. Corning’s Gorilla Glass is currently used in Apple’s other iOS devices. Willow Glass is super slim and capable of bending around a surface.

An iWatch would presumably use Bluetooth 4.0 to connect with an iPhone and show incoming messages. The device would ideally have a small display and be more of a bridge device. The founder of Apple’s Human Interface Group has proposed that an iWatch would rely heavily on Siri. You could ask your watch to tell you the weather, answer a call on your iPhone, reply to a text message, pay with Passbook, and make appointments.

There’s no ETA on when the iWatch will make its debut. It sounds like Apple has found a new product category to revolutionize.

Update: The Wall Street Journal has chimed in with info corroborating the legitimacy of an iWatch:

Apple Inc. is experimenting with designs for a watch-like device that would perform some functions of a smartphone, according to people briefed on the effort.

The company has discussed such a device with its major manufacturing partner Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., one of these people said, as part of explorations of potentially large product categories beyond the smartphone and tablet.

  • Steffen Jobbs

    I can already guess how it will be if Apple comes out with an iWatch.

    The media and tech pundits will hate it, saying it’s useless without a mini-USB port. Consumers will turn out in the tens of thousands to wait online to purchase one or two. Apple will have another hot product on their hands. The media and tech pundits will say how Apple missed another opportunity by not including X features. Samsung and a host of other companies will put out their own watches claiming how theirs are far better than Apple’s watch and for a much lower price. Wall Street will quickly claim that although Apple may have the lead, Apple will quickly be overtaken in market share by companies willing to sell their watches much cheaper. Wall Street investors will be disappointed and Apple’s share price will drop. The media and tech pundits will again cry, “APPLE IS DOOOOOOOMED!” due to a lack of innovation without Steve Jobs presence. The new product story always begins and ends the same way for Apple.

  • imajoebob

    As one who owns the watch-sized nano, I can say it’s NOT the flat glass that’s an impediment to a useful/successful “iWatch.” It’s the display/battery. A watch needs to be seen at a glance, and the necessity of turning the iPod on just to check the time makes it useless. The inability of the iPod to continually display the time (not the lack of a curve) makes it a horrible watch. Unless and until Apple can come up with a constant display that doesn’t kill the battery, you’re talking about a Dick Tracy wrist radio. Or the reincarnation of the 1970s LED watch. Ask anyone who had one why they still don’t wear it.

  • ianBrowwn

    i would buy an iWatch for my kid, if it had “Find my iWatch” built in. That way i could keep track of him,

  • Koban4max

    i would buy an iWatch for my kid, if it had “Find my iWatch” built in. That way i could keep track of him,

    Well in that case, you’ll have put more money to it cause you’ll need data plan.

  • lambaline

    Looks really cool!

  • lambaline

    I bet it’ll have a lightning port

  • faslane66

    I’ve really liked the Nano as a watch but the screen going off is a slight hindrance. I have a Casio watch that has a light that turns on automatically when I turn my wrist towards my face. I wonder if R&D could implement this into an iWatch so that it won’t be a battery killer..?
    Also wished the nano had BT which would make it much more functional but it appears that Apple is already going to have that feature since it reportedly (rumors of yet) will sync and redirect calls to iPhone but display them on the watch. This will be pretty slick if it become a reality which I’m sure it will. the “find my Phone” topic above where someone states it’d need a data plan to work isn’t true. My MacBook shows itself on find my mac so why couldn’t a watch? No data plan needed whatsoever.

  • joewaylo

    When I see this concept picture above, my mind turns to one thing:

    “Calling Dick Tracy! Dick Tracy! Come in!”

  • bernhardush

    I don’t know about this. The display of this watch cannot be on permanently because its battery would drain very quickly. Even if the display would come on only when you press a button, that display along with the bluetooth radio would still drain the battery in a short time – you cannot fit a very large battery in there. To me, a wrist watch is not very convenient if you have to take it off every night in order to charge it.

    Why does the Pebble watch work? Because it has an e-ink display, which is very light on energy because it needs energy only for changing the content that is displayed. Still, you need to recharge the battery once a week.

  • GMAC

    I would be almost certain that they have a super secret watch display that only comes on when one looks at it. That would drastically reduce battery usage.

  • mattacosta

    I am surprised it took this long for reports to come out… Pebble did a huge $10 million Kickstarter pledge, I would have thought that Apple would have bought them out. Pebble has a great idea, and with Apple’s backing would have been in full retail stores already.

    As a backer of the Pebble, I am happy to see they are staying true to their roots!

  • Adrayven

    What I’d like to see is an iPhone Watch.. low processor/memory, but able to make cell calls (bluetooth headset or spkr phone only) and run basic iPhone Watch apps. :)

    Get rid of my bulky phone all together.

  • Adrayven

    As one who owns the watch-sized nano, I can say it’s NOT the flat glass that’s an impediment to a useful/successful “iWatch.” It’s the display/battery. A watch needs to be seen at a glance, and the necessity of turning the iPod on just to check the time makes it useless. The inability of the iPod to continually display the time (not the lack of a curve) makes it a horrible watch. Unless and until Apple can come up with a constant display that doesn’t kill the battery, you’re talking about a Dick Tracy wrist radio. Or the reincarnation of the 1970s LED watch. Ask anyone who had one why they still don’t wear it.

    This is where the new IGZO, flexible, display technology from Sharp comes in. It’s much lower power usage than LED would make it ideal.

  • shagans

    If its anything like this http://www.neptunepine.com/ I am in!

  • shagans

    If its anything like this http://www.neptunepine.com/ I am in!

  • hanhothi

    want Want WANT!

    I WANT IT NOW!!!

  • TylerHoj

    As an artist I’m really happy to see this post. The characters in my graphic novel series wear an armband to display weather, health stats and so-on, and it takes place in 2048[implemented in 2033]. If I predicted this kinda product, someone owes me a drink. Apple is actually a huge influence in my work, oddly enough. It will be interesting to see something like this[the watch] from Apple, of all companies though. Neat.

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About the author

Alex HeathAlex Heath is a senior writer at Cult of Mac and co-host of the CultCast. He has been quoted by the likes of the BBC, KRON 4 News, and books like "ICONIC: A Photographic Tribute to Apple Innovation." If you want to pitch a story, share a tip, or just get in touch, additional contact information is available on his personal site. Twitter always works too.

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