What do we know about the iWatch?
Everyone and their brother (if their brother’s Steve Wozniak) is excited about the possibility of Apple’s iWatch — the first bona fide new product line launched under the watch (no pun intended) of Tim Cook.
So far, definitive details about Apple’s debut in the wearables market have been few and far between. Everyone’s banking on a massive winner, but just what do we know — or think we know — about Apple’s first smartwatch? Scroll through the gallery to find out.
Photo: Todd Hamilton
We need sensors, lots of sensors
The iPhone and iPad are chock-full of sensors, ranging from proximity sensors and accelerometers to magnetometers and ambient light sensors. Next to the iWatch, however, they could end up looking like the dumb mobile phones of a pre-iPhone age. That’s because if you believe the rumors, the iWatch is set to be loaded with more sensors than you can shake a, well, a very-sensor-filled thing at.
A recent report from The Wall Street Journal suggests the iPhone will feature a massive 10 different sensors, including one for analyzing sweat. Patents from Apple suggest the company is also set on expanding the functionality of present-generation wrist-worn devices, with research into everything from monitoring users' heart rates to sensors that can work intelligently together to deduce the precise activity a person is doing (for example, combining motion and pulse-rate measurements with location sensors to determine if you’re out for a jog or running on a treadmill). Impressive stuff!
Photo: Fuse Chicken
Paging Dr. iWatch
There have been many wearables and quantified-health applications over the past few years, but most have steered clear of proclaiming themselves medical devices. Some of the rumors about the iWatch (such as the fact that it will be able to listen to the sound blood makes as it flows through arteries, and use this to predict heart attacks) may sound a bit too good to be true. But the number of biosensor and biomedical engineers Apple has snapped up recently makes us think the iWatch could be a device that crosses over firmly into the "medical monitoring" category.
According to one recent report, a reason for the long delay before launch is that Apple is awaiting certification from the Food and Drug Administration to get the iWatch approved as medical equipment. Given Apple's recent announcement of the Health app for iOS 8 to collect and show data on calorie consumption, sleep activity, blood oxygen levels and more, plus the conspicuous absence of a health-tracking fitness band in Apple's last iPhone 5s ad, the idea that the iWatch will be geared toward health seems as close to a foregone conclusion as you get for a device that hasn't even been officially announced yet.
Even more amazing features
Will the iWatch be a full-fledged independent device in its own right, or will it take the Pebble smartwatch approach and basically be a glorified notification system for your phone? Probably a bit of both. The continued convergence of iOS and OS X with features like Continuity means your iWatch is likely to work cohesively with all the other Apple products in the ecosystem.
At the same time, the device is likely to go far beyond a simple second screen to save you from taking your iPhone out of your pocket. In addition to the various sensors we’ve talked about, recent reports have hinted at a possible Dick Tracy-style two-way radio, an in-built camera, highly desirable wireless (possibly solar) charging and Siri integration. The latter might even make the iWatch the remote control at the center of your new Apple-run smart home. No wonder people think it’s going to be a bigger revolution than Google Glass.
iWatch as Apple takes over the fashion world
Apple’s regard for top-notch design means it has always walked the line between tech and aesthetics, but the company’s leap into the world of wearables will be its most high-fashion move yet. Other tech companies, including Samsung, have already trotted out their own smartwatches to beat Apple to market, but even the staunchest supporter of these devices is unlikely to say that they’re Rolex-beaters.
Realistically, the most anyone has been able to say about current wearables like the Nike FuelBand SE is that they are inoffensive. That’s simply not going to be enough if the iWatch is going to be the kind of mass-market product that will finally bring wearables into the mainstream. In addition to its gamut of biotech engineers, Apple has also got the former CEO of fashion house Yves Saint Laurent on its books, who was hired in 2013 for "special projects." More recently, Apple hired a key executive from Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer, following earlier reports that Cupertino had unsuccessfully been trying to poach luxury watchmakers for its wearables debut.
Unlike the iPhone 6, which has seen numerous leaked images over the past few months, we’ve seen very little about the iWatch that doesn’t fall under the heading of wishful thinking. One of the most detailed (and believable) notes came earlier this year from Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities, who claims that Apple will create several different iWatch models in 2014, including an ultra-luxurious model that will retail for several thousands of dollars.
For people with smaller wrists, there will be an iWatch with a 1.3-inch display, while those with thicker wrists will get a 1.5-inch model. Both will boast flexible AMOLED display panels (an Apple first) and hard sapphire crystal glass like many of the luxury watches already available on the market. Other rumors have suggested a 2.5-inch "slightly rectangular" screen, while Brian Blair of Rosenblatt Securities thinks it’ll be round.
I guess what I’m saying here is pick one idea, state it like you know for sure, and then market your services as an analyst.
What’s in a name?
Apple has been known to change the names of projects when word about them leaks, but "iWatch" is so much better than alternatives like the iPad-sounding "iBand" that it would be a little surprising if this name didn't make it to market. Apple seems to think the same way, since it’s been snapping up trademarks on the name like crazy for the past year, often under the guise of a shell company.
When can we expect it?
Re/code says Apple’s "first, long-in-the offing foray into wearable devices" is slated for an October reveal. While that’s by no means the final word on the matter, the publication’s sources have been spot-on with future Apple event dates in the past. We’ll keep our wrists bare below the elbows just in case.