Everyone is talking about Apple's rumoured iWatch right now. Evidence to suggest that an iWatch release date isn't far away flooded in throughout 2013, and, now that we've reached summer 2014, speculation about the smartwatch has become an even hotter topic. But when is the iWatch coming out? Here, we bring you everything you need to know about the iWatch in our iWatch release date, rumours and leaked images article.
Updated 2 July with news about competing smartwatches, speculation that pro athletes have been testing the iWatch and new comments from Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. Read on to find out everything you need to know about the purported iWatch.
Watch our video where we discuss what Apple has planned for iWatch and Apple TV:
Will Apple launch a smartwatch?
Rumours about an iWatch have been circulating since as far back as 2011, when it was believed that Apple had employed several new wearable computing experts to work on such device. In 2013 though, the speculation soared, with reports suggesting that Apple has a team of 100 people working on an iWatch. With numerous related hires and several job listings spotted, it's believed that the iWatch team has grown to more than 200 people in 2014.
Additionally, the wearable tech market is exploding. Companies including Samsung, Pebble, LG, Wellograph, Razer, Sony, ZTE and more have released or unveiled wrist-worn smart-devices, and 2014's Consumer Electronic Show in January was dominated by wearable devices. See also: 11 iWatch rivals compared
Not only that, but Apple rival Google has recently announced Android Wear, a version of Android that has been designed specifically for smartwatches. Many companies have already confirmed that Android Wear watches are on their way, and both LG and Samsung used Google I/O to release their Android Wear offerings, the LG G Watch and the Samsung Gear Live. There are rumours about a Google-made smartwatch dubbed Google Gem, too.
This begs the question: is it too late for Apple? If Apple does decide to launch an iWatch now it will be way behind its rivals, at least when it comes to time (no pun intended). In March, Trip Chowdhry of Global Equities Research said that Apple had just 60 days left to release an iWatch before it becomes "irrelevant." Those 60 days have now passed, and Apple still seems pretty relevant to us...
Apple will need to make its iWatch exceptional with all-new, never-before-seen technology that blows competitors out of the water, but we certainly don't think the company will "disappear" any time soon.
Thankfully, the rumours suggest that that's exactly what Apple intends to do. We've heard that the iWatch will have wireless charging capabilities and a curved display, and that it will change mobile health and fitness tracking forever.
Plus, Apple CEO Tim Cook hinted at its earnings call in April that the company aims to be the best, not the first, with everything it makes. He said this just after discussing new product categories, so we couldn't help but think that Cook was talking about the iWatch.
iWatch release date: When is the iWatch coming out?
Rumour has it that Apple's iWatch could arrive this year, many suggesting the latter half of 2014, which we're rapidly approaching.
KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is predicting that Apple will launch two sizes of iWatch during the third quarter of this year, which means around August to October. He wrote: "We believe the rumored iWatch will be Apple's most important product this year, carrying much more weight than iPhone 6, as market feedback for the product should reveal whether Apple still has the ability to continue making game-changing products with Tim Cook at the helm."
Japanese newspaper Nikkei cites anonymous sources who also claim Apple is planning to release the iWatch in October, and that the device will run iOS 8. Apparently, Apple has been busy finalising the specs for the iWatch, which is expected to have a curved OLED screen and biometric sensors.
Chinese newspaper Economic Daily News is also claiming that we can expect to see Apple's iWatch in the third quarter of this year, according to "supply chain sources". It is claimed that although Apple will design the product, it will outsource production to Samsung with production starting in August.
This report is in line with claims from December 2013, when Chinese analysts C Technology suggested that the iWatch would launch in October alongside the iPhone 6. C Technology claims that sources have, like Kuo, also said Apple is testing two prototypes of the wearable device.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has hinted that Apple is working on new product categories ahead of a 2014 launch, too, and in December 2013 sent out an email discussing "big plans" for 2014 that it believes its customers will love. Cook reiterated these claims during Apple's earnings call for the first quarter of 2014, and then again during the earnings call for the second quarter. He told shareholders that the only thing Apple won't do is release a lousy product.
In May 2013, Cook said that the wearable computing market is "ripe for exploration," but criticised Google Glass.
Also in May last year, Foxconn reportedly began trial production of the iWatch. The company is believed to have ordered around 1,000 units of the smart watch for a "small-scale trial production." Then, in November, reports said that Apple had turned to Quanta to mass-produce the iWatch for 2014.
One rumour that many hope isn't true is that there could be a long wait for Apple's iWatch. This speculation is based Corning, which makes the Gorilla Glass used in Apple's iPhones, doesn't expect its new flexible Willow Glass to find its way into consumer products until at least 2016. However, some suggest that Apple will need to be quicker than that, and ex CEO John Sculley believes that Apple is experiencing a 'lull in innovation' and needs a 'creative leap', which could arrive in the form of an iWatch.
Even Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has said that Apple is losing its cool, but that he would welcome an iWatch. In April, Wozniak added that Apple is working on new products that will "surprise and shock us all"
More recently, in July 2014, Woz said that he doesn't like the smartwatches he's tested so far. In fact, he hated the Samsung Galaxy Gear so much he sold it soon after he got it. "That was the only technology I bought to experiment with that I threw out after half a day, sold it on eBay because it was so worthless and did so little that was convenient. You had to hold it up to your ear and stuff," he told Xconomy.
So, overall, the consensus is that we'll see an iWatch at some point between August and October this year, probably alongside the iPhone 6.
iWatch price: How much will the iWatch cost?
KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo thinks the iWatch could cost even more than a staggering thousand dollars, at least at the high-end (presuming that multiple versions of the device are available). Kuo has a pretty good track record with Apple predictions, but we are cautious about his idea of the price of the iWatch.
Kuo states: "Fashion is the name of the game; most expensive model likely priced at several thousand US dollars. Referring to the rules of the fashion market, we predict the iWatch casing and band will come in various materials. The most expensive model of the iWatch line will carry a price tag of several thousand US dollars," notes Business Insider.
Other reports that arrived at the beginning of February added speculation to the price of the iWatch and the potential revenue it could generate for Apple. According to Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty, the iWatch could generate a total of $17.5 billion in its first year on sale, which would beat both the iPhone (which generated $2.5bn) and the iPad (13$bn) in their first 12 months on the shelves. That’s assuming Apple doesn't suffer from supply constraints, which could bring the revenue down to $12 billion, she says.
The iWatch, says Huberty, will have a price tag of $299 (Around £185). "Our working assumption is that iWatch largely will be adopted as an accessory device and, therefore, sold into the existing customer base, like the iPad, rather than to new customers, like the iPod or iPhone," she says.
According to Cowan & Co. analyst Timothy Arcuri, it's possible that the price of the iWatch will be subsidised by health insurers. He thinks the iWatch will cost around $250 (£150) thanks to its health-focused features. Overall, this theory seems unlikely, and, if it does turn out to be correct, would have a different impact on markets outside the US.
Quartz notes that, if Apple doesn't launch an iWatch into the high-end luxury market, it's going to be difficult to achieve high revenues and profit margins. Why? Because research carried out by the CEO of Metawatch and former Fossil executive Bill Geiser has found that 85 per cent of the $60 billion global revenue generated by the watch industry comes from watches with a price tag higher than $500.
However, it's unlikely that Apple will want to price its iWatch higher than its flagship iPhone, which starts at £549 ($649), so it could find that generating profit from a smartwatch difficult. However, this is Apple, so launching a product into the watch market will shake things up significantly and is likely to change the shape of the watch industry.
How many iWatches will Apple sell?
KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo expects shipments of the iWatch to hit around 5.5 million units in 2014, and from 30-50 million units in 2015.
The CIMB Group analyst referred to by DigiTimes believes Apple's will ship 63.4 million iWatch units in 2014, but we think this is rather unlikely.
Korean publication Naver believes Apple is intending to sell up to nine million iWatch units.
Susquehanna Financial Group's Christopher Caso estimates that Apple is planning to manufacture five to six million iWatches initially.
In March 2013, estimates indicated that Apple could make more from an iWatch than it would from an Apple television set. However, one report has even suggested that the rumoured iWatch might not be a watch at all. Instead, the article, written by Benzinga Insights, suggests that iWatch could be the name that Apple gives to its rumoured television set, dubbed iTV.
NPD Group researchers believe that the hype surrounding wearable devices will quickly slow by 2016 but could begin to grow again in 2018 as technology advances and wearable tech becomes more advantageous and the devices become more fashionable.
Apple is apparently very "confident" about the iWatch, though, planning to build 3 to 5 million units per month according to Nikkei.
In June, BMO Capital Markets analyst Keith Bachman thinks Apple might sell 33.5 million iWatch units in 2015, though, which would mean 10 per cent penetration among iPhone users in the first full year of its arrival.
"We think a key driver of adoption will be meaningful applications," Bachman says. "We believe the initial focus will be health and fitness applications, but to reach 20 per cent adoption levels, Apple will need to have more applications than just health and fitness, to include applications for professional/work usage."
How can we be sure Apple is working on an iWatch
We can't be sure that Apple even plans to enter the smartwatch market, but it sure looks likely.
The company has hired numerous employees with backgrounds in sensors, medical, fitness and related technologies in recent years, ramping up hires as 2014 progresses.
Some of the biggest iWatch clues came in the form of Apple job listings, which were spotted on Apple's website. On 6 February, job listings for physiologists and engineers able to run health and fitness data-related tests were spotted, seeking new employees that will "design and run user studies related to cardiovascular fitness & energy expenditure."
This gives a strong indication that Apple is working on a health and fitness related product, and the iWatch seems to be the best platform for such features. A second job listing spotted in February refers to "new platforms as of now unannounced," which could well be the iWatch.
Apple has reportedly hired a sleep expert from Philips Research, the former chief medical officer at pulse oximeter firm Masimo Corporation, a Nike FuelBand developer, former staff from medical sensor firm Accuvein, C8 MediSensors (which monitors blood) and Senseonics (whose work focuses on glucose monitoring). Recently, Apple also reportedly hired Marcelo Malini Lamego, who is credited in more than 70 patents relating to medical sensors and monitoring technology.
In addition, Apple has hired Nancy Dougherty from startup Sano Intelligence and Ravi Narashimhan from general medical devices firm Vital Connect, reports 9To5Mac. Both of these new hires could benefit the iWatch team thanks to their expertise.
It's also believed that hires absorbed into Apple's iWatch team during its Authentec acquisition will bring their fingerprint scanning expertise to bear on the iWatch project.
Basis Health Tracker Watch makers Basis Science is reportedly in talks with Apple, Google, Samsung and Microsoft about a potential buyout deal. If Apple buys the company, it'll have Basis Science's heart rate, motion, calorie expenditure, sleep cycle, skin temperature and perspiration sensors at its disposal, which it could use in the iWatch.
Highlighting the numerous hires Apple has made in the fitness and sensor areas over the past few months, a report from Reuters adds that Apple could be planning to use these experts to launch a "full health and fitness platform modelled on its app store," citing an anonymous source.
A new book from industrial designer Harmut Esslinger about Apple's design history suggests Apple has toyed with the idea of a wrist-worn device before. The book, titled "Keep It Simple: The Early Design Years of Apple," shows a photograph of an Apple-made small keypad attached to a wrist strap. The Keypad pairs with a wireless headset to create a hands-free way to make phone calls.
In June, speculation that Apple has teamed up with sport stars and professional athletes for iWatch testing emerged. According to 9To5Mac, Apple has invited athletes form the MLB, NHL and NBA to its campus in Cupertino to get feedback from the players through testing. Specifically, Los Angeles basketball player Kobe Bryant and Los Angeles Kings right winger Dustin Brown are among the athletes believed to be working on the project.
iWatch could replace the iPod
iPod sales continue to decline rapidly – Apple sold just 2.8 million iPods in the last quarter, down almost 50% from the same quarter last year. Susquehanna Financial Group's Christopher Caso has suggested that the iWatch will arrive this year with multiple screen size options and will "essentially replace the iPod in the consumer portion of AAPL's product lineup."
iWatch name: Will Apple secure the iWatch trademark in the UK and US?
Apple grabbed the rights to the iWatch name in several countries last year, but two countries conspicuous by their absence were the UK and the US. Why? Because the iWatch name is already taken there. We did some detective work to find out who owns the iWatch trademark in the UK and Europe, and what Apple's chances are of nabbing the iWatch brand in the US too.
In other words, Apple most likely faces a tricky choice: fight for the iWatch trademark here and in the US, or think of something else. And the iWatch could be called... iBand? Suggestions on a postcard.
Apple may be actually be hiding behind a shell corporation in Delaware called "Brightflash" to discretely file iWatch trademarks, new rumours suggested in April.
Discovered by French website Consomac, Brightflash has been filing iWatch trademarks in the US, UK, EU, Australia and Denmark, as well as many other smaller countries. Apple has used shell companies in the past for similar purposes, it seems, so it's certainly a possibility that Brightflash really is Apple in disguise.
Also in April, it was discovered that Apple has been busy extending its trademark to cover jewellery and watches, a sure sign that the company is working on a smartwatch.
First spotted by Mac Rumors, Apple filed a trademark in December to add protection in Class 14 in Ecuador. Part of Class 14, which is one of the 45 different classes used to organise trademarked goods and services, is watches and jewellery.
Specifically, Apple lists numerous product types including jewellery, watches, cufflinks, keychains, tie clips, badges, bracelets, necklaces and buttons.
Similar trademark filings have been made by Apple in Mexico, Norway, and most recently, here in the UK. Oddly, though, Apple has not yet filed for a Class 14 trademark in the US.
If that's not enough to convince you that an iWatch really could be on the cards, Apple has even filed a patent application describing a wearable computer with a flexible display that can snap around the wrist to become a smart watch, as shown in the accompanying illustration above. Another patent filed by Apple this year covers the ability for an iPhone or iPad to share location data with an accessory device such as an iWatch.
Why hasn't Apple launched iWatch yet?
It is said that there have been iWatch manufacturing issues. The first iWatch reports to hit the web in 2014 claimed that Apple is struggling with iWatch manufacturing issues. On 2 January, Digitimes published a report that claims that the Apple is suffering from weak yields of the iWatch due to the difficult process of applying surface treatments to the metal injection moulded chassis (MIM).
"MIM-made components used to be used inside products, but as the components are now becoming part of the external design, surface treatments have become an important process for the look of products," Digitimes' report reads.
Later in January, further reports surfaced to suggest that screen technology, battery problems and manufacturing issues have been plaguing Apple's iWatch. Sources cited by The Information say that there are several snags in Apple's iWatch plan, but that the company has a "sizeable team" working on the device.
Read on to find out what features the iWatch will offer...