As we reported at the end of December, the 'Apple is making a Watch' rumour mill appears to have gone into overdrive. Whether it is symptomatic of a slow down in 'real' news, or genuinely something Apple may be considering doing, the idea has sparked some interesting opinions and theories as to what a watch could mean for Apple.
Is iWatch more than a rumour?
According to the latest rumours, Apple and Intel are working on a Bluetooth smart watch for debut in the first half of the year. We also reported on the idea of an Apple watch back in August. Back in December 2011 The New York Times wrote that a "very small group of Apple employees had been conceptualizing and even prototyping some wearable devices," which included a "curved-glass iPod" to be worn on the wrist, notes 9to5Mac. So the rumour is by no means a new one.
9to5Mac also points to certain patents filed by Apple that suggest that this is more than a crazy idea dreamed up by a bored journalist over Christmas. That site notes PatentlyApple reports on Apple's liquid metal patent, a cellular antenna patent, and one that integrates features into an iPod nano-like wristwatch. We couldn't find anything that we felt looked like an Apple watch, however, other than this patent for a heart-rate monitor strip that it attached to the wrist.
Still not convinced? If you are looking for evidence that it's an area worth investigating, look at this patent application from Google for a wristwatch on Cnet.
Though we can't help but question why Apple would change the design of the iPod nano, the one iPod that was already being used as a watch by some, if it intended to move into that market. Perhaps to eliminate potential competition?
The Google patent shows that Apple isn't the only company that could be looking at making a watch. As 9to5Mac points out, there are a number of similar products already on the market. That report notes the Pebble, the Nokia and Fossil Bluetooth 4.0 watches, and the Sony SmartWatch that pairs with Android devices. 9to5Mac also notes that a Bluetooth voice controlled smart watch is going to be demoed by Martian Watches at CES.
AppleInsider adds that it has recently seen the MetaWatch, a third-party accessory that receives phone call and text message alerts from the iPhone.
And there was the Android-powered WIMM Module, but that's been sold (to an undisclosed company, notes 9to5). Imagine if that company is Apple…
So what could the iWatch – if that's what Apple's watch is called – offer? Will we be answering FaceTime calls on our wrists in the future? Will we be able to communicate what we want Siri to do just by speaking to our wrist?
It would likely be a companion product to an iOS device, pulling content from that device (although it could also pull content from iCloud).
The big problem would be showing such content on a tiny screen. Now that Apple's head of industrial design Jonathan Ive is also in charge of human interface development that may be his challenge.
The iWatch as Apple's first step to wearable computing
Returning to the New York Times report mentioned above, Apple is said to be looking at wearable computing. This iWatch would certainly fit such a description.
Yesterday Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster issued a note to investors suggesting that while the hypothetical Apple watch is unlikely to debut any sooner than 2014, he does believe that wearable computers could replace the iPhone and smartphones in general over the next 10-plus years, however, reports AppleInsider.
Munster wrote: "We believe technology could progress to a point where consumers have a tablet plus wearable computers, like watches or glasses, that enable simple things like voice calls, texting, quick searches, navigation, etc. through voice control. Longer term, screens in glasses or projectors could replace the necessity of a screen from a smartphone or tablet."
Munster notes that these devices will be cheaper to manufacturer and could enable Apple to reach developing markets.
iWatch as an iPhone killer
A report on Business Insider suggests that the iWatch may in fact be the future of the iPhone. Author Jay Yarow writes that there is a line of thinking that the smartphone era will perish almost as quickly as it began, pointing to an earlier report where it wrote that Google and Microsoft are working on computerized glasses, and that probably means Apple is too. In fact, as we wrote in July, Apple has been granted a patent for a head-mounted display already.
Note that even Munster was suggesting that wearable technology could eventually replace the smartphone or tablet.
Back in the summer another analyst was suggesting that Apple needs to kill the iPhone, disruption is the path to the future.
It’s not only disruption of markets that makes Apple successful, it also disrupts its own products. Asymco’s Horace Dediu explained: "It create new categories and self cannibalises in a way, the iPhone was about killing the iPod. Apple’s number one job today ought to be killing the iPhone. Even though it's its biggest product. They should be doing that, if they are not doing that they will really face a crisis in a few years."