Sunday, March 10, 2013

In Depth: Apple iWatch release date, news and rumours

In Depth: Apple iWatch release date, news and rumours

Wearable tech, we're told, is the next big thing - and if anyone can make a truly desirable wearable device, it's Apple.

Rumours are flying about an Apple iWatch, the missing link between the iPhone and Flavor Flav's clock - but which rumours seem most likely? Let's find out what time it is.

Issue 12 of tech. magazine is all about the iWatch - get five issues free!

The iWatch is a big project

According to Bloomberg, Apple has a team of around 100 designers working on "a wristwatch-like device that may perform some of the tasks now handled by the iPhone and iPad". That's based on conversations with "two people familiar with the company's plans".

The team includes people from all parts of Apple: not just iPad and iPhone engineers but software developers, managers and marketers too.

Sounds like golden-child and knight of the realm Sir Jony Ive is the man leading the project, having ordered in 'boxes' of Nike sports watches some years ago for research purposes. Again, that's according to yet more Bloomberg's inside sources.

CEO Tim Cook even hinted at the iWatch during an investors' meeting in February 2013. Well, he told investors that "obviously we're looking at new categories" which is the same thing, right?

Click below for our iWatch rumours video:

The iWatch release date is unknown and the iWatch price is a mystery

Remember before the iPad launched and everyone thought it'd be $ 1,000? Oh, how we laugh about that now.

Clearly, though, until we have a better idea of what the Apple Watch is and whether Apple is actually going to ship it, nobody has the faintest idea what it'll cost.

As for a release date, we're a little more clued-in. Some of Bloomberg's sources have opined that we'll see it launch in 2013 for sure, although we'd prescribe the requisite amount of salt to go alongside that rumour.

The iWatch has curved Gorilla Glass

"Apple is experimenting with wristwat ch-like devices made of curved glass," says the NYT's Nick Bilton, quoting "people familiar with the company's explorations". The glass "can curve around the human body" and may be Corning's just-announced Willow Glass, which "can flop as easily as a piece of paper in the wind without breaking."

Adding credence to this particular supposition is the fact that Apple has patented a '90s slap-band style form factor which would require such a flexible display. Apple's patented plenty of tech that never sees the literal light of day - we can't help but hope this isn't one of those.

Apple iWatch
Slap happy [credit: USPTO]

The iWatch has Bluetooth and a 1.5-inch display

That's what Chinese gadget site Tech.163 reckons, anyway, although that might be one of many prototypes. Bluetooth is essential, though: if the iWatch is going to communicate with your phone or iPod, low energy Bluetooth is the way to do it.

A 1.5-inch screen suggests it'll show selected information from your iOS device rather than mirror the whole display, which would be rubbish.

The iWatch probably won't look like a G-Shock or an Omega Seamaster

The Guardian took a look at various iWatch mock-ups and poured scorn on most: multiple buttons on an Apple device? Really? Technology edi tor Charles Arthur also makes a good point: "an iWatch has to appeal to both sexes", and something that looks OK on enormous man paws will look ridiculous on little lady hands.

You could make an iPod Nano into a watch, but then Apple made it too big. Bad Apple!

Never one to shy away from a challenge, we've put our own concept design together based on rumours and speculation so far. It's classier than a G-Shock, we think you'll agree.

The iWatch may have Siri, and Maps, and health monitoring

Nick Bilton again: "Would it include Siri, the voice assistant? Would it have a version of Apple's map software, offering real-time directions to people walking down the street? Could it receive text messages? Could it monitor a user's health or daily activity?"

Some of Bilton's questions have since been reported as fact by more excitable outlets, but the idea of having Siri makes sense, not least because you could pretend to be a sci-fi secret agent.

If Siri is on board, it may be because the iWatch is running a form of actual iOS rather than a souped-up iPod nano software system - thus supposes Bloomberg again, with 'confirmation' provided by The Verge's inside sources.

It's definitely real, because the WSJ knows about it

When Apple leaks, those leaks tend to end up in the Wall Street Journal - and loo k! The WSJ has been talking to "people briefed on the effort"! They say that Apple "is experimenting with watch-like designs" and has "discussed such a device with its major manufacturing partner Hon Hai Precision Industry Co", although the "capabilities that Apple is exploring for wearable devices remain unclear."

The iWatch won't do everything an iPhone or iPod does

Bluetooth means it doesn't need to, so the Apple Watch is more likely to work like a Pebble Smartwatch. Our very own Craig Grannell demonstrates the problem of getting full iPhone functionality into a wristwatch here.

iPod watch
TechRa dar contributor Craig Grannell has cracked it: it's an iPod, and it's a watch. Genius

The iWatch features could include authentication, NFC, home automation and flying cars

Bruce Tognazzini makes it clear his ideas are "not based on insider information" but they include predicting the weather, organising your life, monitoring every step you take, replacing cash, making Passbook work really well and even fixing Apple Maps. We were with you right up till that last one, Bruce.

He makes a good point about the iWatch release date too: "Apple, when you look back, is never actually the first. They let a few others, sometimes many others, experiment first. (Tablets were out for more than a decade.) Then, they bring out the killer product."

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//PART 2