Before I go into the main rumors regarding what is commonly referred to as the iWatch, I’m going to outline what we know about Apple’s interest in the wearables market, and why we could get our first glimpse of the much-anticipated device this week.
Last month, Apple sent out invites for a media event which will take place at the Flint Center in Cupertino on Tuesday September 9th at 10:00AM PDT. A report from Re/code’s often-reliable John Paczkowski claims Apple will not only debut new iPhones at this upcoming event, but also a wearable device. The invite features part of the Apple logo, the time and location of the event, and the tagline “Wish We could say more”. It doesn’t make any direct reference to current or future product lines though.
Although the invite itself doesn’t shed any light on the nature of the event, some of its recipients may do. While Apple (unsurprisingly) sends the majority of its event invites to the great and good of the tech industry, Reuters reports that the company has invited an “unprecedented” number of top fashion editors and bloggers to this one.
Going back a little further in time, Apple has filed patents for products that look like smartwatches and fitness bands, and extended its trademark in a number of countries to include jewellery and watches. Though it should be pointed out that companies often apply for patents and trademarks for products that never see the light of day.
Apple has also hired a number of employees with backgrounds in fashion, health, and fitness recently – three areas of expertise which seem particularly relevant to wearables.
What will the iWatch look like?
Unlike the iPhone, we haven’t seen any leaked parts or purported retail packaging for the iWatch, so we can only really speculate about the design. Some reports suggest it will have a curved OLED touchscreen display protected by a sapphire glass cover, and it could be available in more than one screen size. Others claim that Apple could take an iPod-style approach and offer a number of different designs covering multiple price points.
Whatever form the device takes, the general consensus is that it will be positioned as a fashion accessory. That theory is backed up by the fact that Apple has hired former Yves Saint Laurent CEO Paul Deneve, former Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts, and former Tag Heuer VP of sales Patrick Pruniaux. It also goes without saying that Apple has a long history of creating products with premium designs, and the iWatch is likely to continue that trend.
What will it do?
It seems highly likely that the iWatch will be an iOS-based device that works in conjunction with the iPhone. Much like the smartwatches we have seen from LG, Samsung, Pebble and other companies, it will act as a second screen and provide notifications for calls, messages, emails and more.
The device is also rumored to have a strong health and fitness focus, allowing you to track steps taken, calories burned, hydration levels, sleep quality, and heart-rate. We already know that Apple will be launching a new health app with iOS 8, and a wrist-worn device would be the perfect companion for it. It may also integrate with HomeKit, Apple’s framework for controlling connected accessories such as thermostats, security systems, AC units, and lights.
Other rumored features include wireless charging, and NFC (Near-Field Communication) capabilities. The latter would not only be used to pair the iWatch with the next-generation iPhone, which would obviously need to be given NFC too, but more interestingly, it would allow the device to be used as a digital wallet for making mobile payments.
Over the weekend, 9to5Mac reported that a select number of high-profile developers have received a pre-release version of Apple’s SDK (Software Development Kit) for wearables, opening up the possibility that the device will also run third-party apps.
Will it really be called iWatch?
Although Apple’s wearable device is commonly referred to as the iWatch, that’s mainly because it’s the name most often used by the media. Apple does own the rights to the iWatch trademark in a number countries (not the US), but it also owns a bunch of other trademarks that have never, and may never, be used.
At this stage we don’t even know if the device will be a smartwatch as such. It could primarily be a health and fitness oriented wearable, in which case names such as iFit, iBand, or iWear might be more likely.
Pricing & availability
Apple executives are said to have considered giving the iWatch a price tag of $400, but that seems a little on the high side. Especially when you consider that many of the currently available smartwatches from the likes of Motorola, LG, and Samsung cost between $200-$250.
If we do get our first look at the iWatch on Tuesday, don’t expect to be able to pick one up from your local Apple Retail Store in the next few weeks. While it was initially thought that the device would launch in time for the lucrative Holiday season, growing speculation points to a release date sometime early next year.
While that may seem like a long time from debut to launch, consider what Apple did with the original iPhone. Although it was unveiled on January 9, 2007, it didn’t actually ship until 6 months later – on June 29.
Here’s what I personally think will happen on Tuesday. I do think Apple will unveil a wearable with strong fashion appeal, along with new iPhones. The device will do a few key things like notifications and health & fitness tracking well. But initially, it will have limited features compared to rival products. Beyond a couple of different screen sizes, I don’t think there will be multiple designs. It won’t be released this year, and if pricing is revealed it will start under $300.
Geek Beat’s coverage
Make sure you join us for our live coverage of Tuesday’s event from 10:00AM PDT / 1:00PM EDT / 5:00PM GMT. We will also be providing additional coverage of whatever gets announced on both the daily show and the website.