Apple iWatch preview

UPDATE 10/07/14: The iWatch could be revealed in October, but won't hit shelves until at least November, says analyst

Apple's iWatch, unlike its leak-happy iPhone and iPad brethren, has been shrouded in mystery ever since rumours of a wrist-hugging Apple device began to surface at the beginning of this year.

While smartwatches like the Pebble are already available – and rival smartphone manufacturers have their own smart timepieces like the Sony Smartwatch 2 and Samsung Galaxy Gear on shelves – Apple appears to be biding its time. 

Here's what we know about the iWatch so far:

Birth of a rumour

Whispers of an Apple-made watch floated their way into the tech ether in February, with both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal reporting that Apple had started forging a smartwatch deep within its secretive Cupertino-based lair.

Apple iWatch

Bloomberg added heat to the fire shortly afterwards by reporting that more than 100 Apple employees were busy on the iWatch project and that the device would be released this year in 2013. And so it began.

Fast forward to July, and Apple had filed an application for an iWatch trademark in Japan, following earlier patent applications for a slap-bracelet smartwatch device and a similar trademark name application in Russia.

All of these rumours – together with Apple CEO Tim Cook stating that the wearable tech industry is an area "ripe for exploration" – mean that it's surely only a matter of time before we're walking around with iThings strapped to our wrists.

Update 22/04/14: A leaked screenshot of an iOS 8 home screen features an app called Watch Utility, strongly suggesting that not only is an iWatch in the works, but its arrival is imminent. While the icon suggests that there's still plenty of polishing left to do, it does confirm the existence of an Apple timepiece.

What will it look like?

Unlike Apple's leaked iPhones and iPads, no one outside of Apple's secret design lair actually knows what the iWatch looks like, proving that Apple can keep a secret if it really wants to.

Apple iWatch

There has been previous speculation of a round design with a super-hard curved glass screen (as shown in the concept above), but reports from Korean site ET News suggests that Apple is working on an iWatch with a flexible display.

According to research NPD DisplaySearch's research, Apple is working on 320x320 1.3in and 1.6in flexible AMOLED displays for the iWatch – which we think is more realistic than a circular screen, though we doubt that only one size will make the final cut.

 

Martin Hajek's more traditional-looking iWatch render is more likely to resemble the final product.

READ MORE: Apple iWatch imagined in gorgeous concept art

 

More after the break...

Specs

 

While detailed specs for the iWatch remain unknown, The Verge believes that it will run a full-fat modified version of iOS. 

Its sources also state that Apple is aiming for a battery life between four to five days, which is a feature that the rival Samsung Galaxy Gear could certainly benefit from having.

The most recent iWatch information from 9to5Mac suggests that the iWatch will run a version of iOS 8 with a built-in Healthbook fitness tracking app (more on that later).

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Ku believes that as the iWatch may have similar computing requirements to the iPod Nano, it will share the Nano's touch technology and application processor.

According to Bloomberg's sources, the iWatch will let users make and receive calls, check location information and will have a pedometer for measuring your steps and tracking data for fitness apps - a feature that's become a standard in all smartwatches.

Apple is also rumoured to overcome battery life issues by packing the iWatch with a flexible solar charging screen, according to the New York Times.

Sources "close to the efforts" have revealed that Apple has been working on an iWatch screen with a solar charging layer – though the technology is reportedly some way off being a practical reality.  

Apple has already filed patents for a solar charging screen, and Alcatel has previously shown off its own solar charging screen technology.

Apple has also experimented with wireless inductive charging similar to that found in some Nokia Lumia smartphones.  

A 2009 patent reveals that Apple has also dabbled in motion charging, which would use the kinetic energy of the wearer's swinging arm to top up the iWatch's battery.

Of course we don't expect Apple to cram all of this charging tech into a single device, but we're hoping that one or two innovations will be enough to avoid regular charging. Our phones suck up enough juice as it is, thank you very much.

More than a smartwatch

Analyst Brian White of Cantor Fitzgerald believes that the iWatch will be more than just an extension of your iPhone, as it will have home automation abilities baked directly into it. 

Controlling your central heating and lights from your watch sounds like a genuinely useful feature and one which will definitely set the iWatch apart from the competition – if it turns out to be true.

 

The iWatch is also expected to have powerful health-tracking abilites, thanks to iOS 8 and its in-built Healthbook app.

READ MORE: iOS 8 could track your fitness with new Healthbook app

According to 9to5Mac, The Healthbook app will be able to track steps taken, calories burned and distance travelled, in addition to keeping a tally on your weight loss (or gain, for that matter). Not dissimilar from the Samsung Galaxy S4's S Health app, then.

But Healthbook reportedly goes further still, being able to track your blood pressure, heart rate and hydration levels, in addition to glucose levels, with the right accessories.

An iWatch could potentially tick that box and Healthbook app's interface itself is reportedly based on Apple's existing Passbook app and will offer extra functionality including medication reminders.

The iWatch could therefore pack in a whole host of sensors that'll put other smartwatches to shame, but exact details remain scarce for the time being.

 

When can you strap in?

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Ku believes that the iWatch won't hit shelves until late 2014, blaming the immaturity of wearable device components and a lack of adequate resources.

As for pricing? We're hoping that the iWatch won't be anywhere near as expensive as the RM999 Samsung Galaxy Gear, but we'll just have to sit tight and see what the iRumour mill throws our way...

Update 04/06/14: Some more evidence that points to an imminent arrival: according to MacRumors, Apple has poached the former sales director of luxury watch firm TAG Heuer. Jean-Claude Bivet, the big cheese when it comes to jewellery and watches at TAG's parent company LVMH, told CNBC that the sales director had left to work on the iWatch project.

Update 10/07/14: KGI Securities analyst Ming Ghi Kuo now believes that while the iWatch is expected to be revealed in October, its production has been delayed till November due to a number of challenges.

The first of these challenges is reportedly the new materials and hardware that Apple is working with. Kuo believes that the iWatch will use a flexible AMOLED display, a waterproof body and a sapphire crystal screen cover, and combining and manufacturing all of these components is the reason he gives for the delay.

We could therefore see the iWatch strut its stuff on stage in October, with its retail launch landing at least one month later.

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Apple iWatch

Apple iWatch
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