The story with the iWatch seems to be more of a rollercoaster ride than anything else. The past several months have brought many rumors surrounding Apple’s wrist gadget, and there is so much information to take into account that it’s quite easy to get lost. More so now that Android Wear is official, it seems that there’s an even greater focus on figuring out what Apple is planning on doing in order to gain some influence in this particular market segment.
Today we’re going to round up the latest and most important rumors and developments in the iWatch world. As such, if you’re an Apple enthusiast or you’re simply interested in the wearable market and the iWatch itself, then you come to the right place.
Apple’s Wearable Patents
Today’s rumor round-up begins with Apple’s recent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Several weeks ago, an application named “Wrist Pedometer Step Detection” has revealed what seems to be one of the iWatch’s features: a wrist-mountable pedometer for wearable devices.
According to the data revealed by the application, it’s more difficult to create a functional pedometer for smartwatches, than it is for devices that are usually worn near the chest. Nevertheless, it appears that, through a clever set of algorithms, the accelerometer and between-step timing, the pedometer can actually read the right data and take into account missing steps by calculating the G forces caused by a swinging arm. It also appears that the pedometer is capable of determining whether the user is walking or running, and the wearer will apparently be able to switch the pedometer’s settings between “on-torso” and “on-wrist” use.
From the application, it can be determined that Apple’s pedometer can incorporate numerous features, including proximity and light sensors, biometric and temperature sensors, voice controls and facial recognition.
More importantly, it appears that the pedometer can also house an image and data processor, as well as memory. It will also support Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPRS, EDGE, GSP and WiMax connectivity. All in all, this piece of technology sounds a whole lot like what you’d expect from a smartwatch, and there has been much speculation that Apple’s USPTO application is strongly related to the fabled iWatch.
Apple in Pursuit of Swiss Watch-Making Specialists
Last year there were reports that Apple was putting a lot of time and thought into the iWatch project. When it supposedly faced design difficulties, Cupertino-based tech giant was reported to have reached out to talent from all corners of the industry.
Fast forward to the end of March 2014, and Apple was once again in search of specialists. Specifically, it has reportedly tried to bring Swiss watch-making specialists on-board for the iWatch project, but it appears that none have been interested. Apparently, the company got in touch with experts from Swatch, LVMH Hublot and numerous other Swiss parts manufacturers.
Interestingly enough, Apple isn’t the only company to try and partner with the world-renowned Swiss watch makers. Swatch CEO Nick Hayek commented: “We have been in discussions – not ever initiated by us – with practically all players in smart wearables up until today. However, we see no reason why we should enter into any partnership agreement.”
Perhaps the more interesting aspect of this story, though, is the idea that Apple might have actually taken into account the possibility of creating a hybrid smartwatch, boasting mechanical parts and digital components. Combining both worlds would be quite a task, and might actually pay off, but we may never find out.
Will It Feature an UV Exposure Sensor?
Silicon Labs has recently developed the “first single-chip digital UV index sensor,” which can apparently read data on the wearer for ultraviolet (UV) radiation, heart rate, blood oxygen levels, as well as pulse. The sensor supposedly measures 2 mm square and can also be used as a gesture control sensor, or as a proximity sensor, with the help of ambient light meters and infrared.
Needless to say, shortly after the chip’s official announcement, analyst Blayne Curtis from Barclays said that the Apple smartwatch will make use of this particular chip developed in Austin Texas.
As usual, whether or not this will be the case remains to be seen, but a smartwatch that can prevent the wearer from overexposure to the sun’s UV rays does sound like a pretty nifty idea.
iWatch: Myth or Reality? September Launch?
Interestingly enough, one of the most discussed aspects surrounding the rumored iWatch has been whether or not this device is real.
While some people (and analysts) believe that the iWatch isn’t real, other sources claim that the gadget already exists, but is currently in the prototype stage. As such, this could mean that the iWatch might never exit this phase and thus might never see the light of day. On the other hand, it can also mean that Apple is taking its time to create a brilliant device, but given the early stages of development, the gadget might not be ready for a release this year.
However, more recent reports have suggested that Apple has received samples of flexible printed circuit boards from Flexium Interconnect. Allegedly, these hardware parts are designed for the iWatch, and if things go well, the gadget might be ready for a September release.
iWatch Production Costs and Rumored Retail Prices
Not too long ago, analyst Ming Chi Kuo said that Apple will release not one, but two iWatches. One model will supposedly boast a 1.3 inch display, whereas the other will feature a 1.5 inch panel. Reportedly, Apple will focus a lot of its energy on the smartwatch’s design, in order to create a fashionable item that would set it apart from the competition.
However, Kuo also said that the iWatch will be made available in a wide range of materials and with various features. This will have an impact on the price tag, and according to the analyst, a top-range iWatch could end up costing “several thousand U.S. dollars.”
On the other hand, news chief analyst at ESM-China, Sun Chang Xu, has recently cited the Taiwan Topology Research Institute, and suggested that the production costs for the iWatch will be $77 per unit and that the retail price will be roughly $265. The rather large discrepancy between production costs and the final price is apparently required in order for Apple to maintain a 50 percent gross margin.
Given all the commotion, we’re almost certain that Apple is preparing something for the wearable market, even if it remains difficult to pinpoint the gadget’s exact characteristics, launch time-frame and price range.
What features do you expect from the device? How much would you be willing to pay for an Apple wearable, and will you still be interested in this device if it does not hit the shelves this year? Don’t hesitate to join us in the comment section below.
Vlad Andrici is editor for gforgames.com and writes about technology issues. Follow Vlad on Google Plus.