Rumors of a forthcoming Apple “iWatch” exploded over the weekend, fueled by separate reports from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal that the Cupertino iDevice maker is already testing prototypes of its next big iPhone accessory. Sources speaking with both outlets report that the rumored device will run a version of iOS that integrates closely with the iPhone.
From The New York Times report:
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 on 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.
Rumored features of the “iWatch” include Siri integration, calendar and email alerts, app notifications, caller ID, map navigation, and mobile payment support. It is speculated that Gorilla Glass manufacturer Corning could supply the glass for the device based on its new bendable “Willow Glass.”
After hiring many individuals who specialize in sensors and other elements crucial to wearable computers, Apple is reportedly already in discussions with Hon Hai Precision, the parent company of Apple supplier Foxconn, on the manufacturing techniques required to produce the device.
The introduction of an Apple-produced iWatch has the potential to alter the future of mobile computing, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. Mr. Munster stated in a January report that wearable computers, such as the rumored iWatch or Google’s Glasses concept, could eventually “replace the necessity of a screen from a smartphone or tablet,” drastically altering the cost and size of future devices and allowing Apple to target both developed and emerging markets.
Although an eventual Apple iWatch will likely be novel in some respects, other companies have already seen the potential of smart watches that integrate with mobile devices. Kickstarter hero Pebble has just launched its first product, the Pebble Smartwatch, which uses Bluetooth to display information transmitted from a user’s smartphone.
The battle for wearable computing platforms will also reach users’ eyes through the efforts of the aforementioned Google Glass concept and other projects such as the MEG from Olympus. While early prototypes of smart glasses promise more functionality than smart watches, the more invasive nature of glasses may make watches a likely next step in the evolution of wearable computers, and Apple already has an advantage in that area thanks to third-party contributors to its ecosystem.
“Apple is already in the wearable space through its ecosystem partners that make accessories that connect to the iPhone. This makes Apple potentially the biggest player of the wearables market in a sort of invisible way,” Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps told The New York Times.
Although sources promised no timetable, the immaturity of bendable glass and the required improvements in battery life lend support to the notion that an Apple iWatch is still at least a year away. The founders of firms like Pebble are surely grateful for the lead time.
Teaser Graphic via Brett Jordan, Flickr.