Saturday, August 31, 2013

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 Watch, 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.

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 - plus what seems to be a biometric A-Team that will endow the iWatch with sleep analysis, fingerprint scanners and other health-
related sensors.

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.

Also potentially on-board the good ship iWatch is Bob Mansfield, who was suddenly relocated from VP of Technologies to Apple's "Special Projects" division in July 2013.

Think we're making it all up? Not so much: CEO Tim Cook 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?

Unfortunately for iWatch fans Apple could yet scrap the whole thing according to the Financial Times. Trouble in time-telling paradise?

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.

In April, Apple itself hinted at "exciting new product categories" with Tim Cook promising "some really great stuff coming in the fall and across all of 2014" - could some of that really great stuff be worn on your wrist?

In June, another analyst claimed that it is becoming "increasingly likely" that Apple will launch the as-yet mythical iWatch in the second half of 2013, based on the readiness of parts suppliers.

That's not to say it's set in stone, though: analyst Glen Yeung said, "We suspect the go/no-go decision will be made in June and are leaning toward a 'go' outcome at this time."

The iWatch has curved Gorilla Glass
"Apple is experimenting with wristwatch-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 haspatented 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 will go big on fitnessQuite aside from the fact that Apple 'ordered in boxes of Nike Fuelbands' and its CEO Tim Cook sits on the Nike board, there's the fact that Apple's been on a fitness-fueled hiring spree.

There's fitness expert and Nike consultant Jay Blahnik, who as good as confirmed his new full time position at Apple on Twitter before deleting his entire account (wethinks the gentleman doth protest too much).

Then there's the raft of sleep analysis experts, the experts who hold "several patents for integrating mobile devices with fitness equipment" and biometric scienticians to boot.

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 editor 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
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 look! 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."

Meanwhile, an analyst over at Sanford C. Bernstein reckons that Apple would be mad not to make an iWatch because it could make a packed even if hardly any iPhone users buy one.

By Toni Sacconaghi's reckoning, if 3 per cent of iPhone customers buy an iWatch, Apple's looking at $2.3 billion (£1.5bn / AU$2.2bn) a year in sales, based on a device that costs about $250 (£165 / AU$240) to buy.

If 5 to 8 per cent of iPhone users shell out, then the figures could be as high as $5.7 billion (£3.7bn / AU$5.4bn) in a year. Not too shabby.

Stretching the limits of rational thought, an Apple board member told employees at a software firm that technology is getting ever-more "intimate" and mentioned "glasses or watches" which the world promptly took to mean that Apple is making an iWatch.

An Apple Watch will face serious competitionThe wearable watch market could be the next big tech battleground as perennial Apple nemesis Samsung has already confirmed that it has a smart watch in the works.

The name of Samsung's watch may have been revealed as well, through a recent trademark filing. If the trademark is to be believed then the Samsung watch will be called Samsung Gear. Some believe that the Samsung Gear will make its debut at IFA 2013 - way ahead of the Apple game, given that we're not expecting the iWatch until 2014 at the earliest.

Other tech heavyweights are rumoured to be getting in on the timekeeping game too; the Apple watch may have to fight off competition from Google, which filed a smart watch patent last year and was 'confirmed' to be working on a timepiece by the good folk over at the Financial Times.

Could that Google smartwatch actually be a Motorola smartwatch?

Also leaping aboard the largely-imaginary bandwagon is LG. Despite launching a disappointing phone-watch thing back in 2009, LG isn't being deterred and finally has an Apple watch baiting rumour of its own thanks to the Korea Times.

And, of course, anything Samsung and LG can do, Sony can do too - the Japanese tech giant has an experimental project called Open Smartwatch in the works, putting the onus on developers to create jazzy new firmware for its existing Smartwatch device.

On June 25, Sony unveiled its newest smartwatch: the Sony SmartWatch 2, which is a water-resistant, NFC-toting Android phone companion.

And it's not just smart watches that will give the iWatch a run for its money - other wearable tech like Google Glass swims in the same pool. Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey is backing Apple's watch over the glasses in the short-term, but who's to say which will win out overall.

We've taken an in-depth look at the competition between the two types of sartorial gadget too, and conclude that the Apple Watch has the edge solely because it'll hit the mainstream (and mainstream price points) first.

The iWatch won't do everything an iPhone or iPod doesBluetooth 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
TechRadar 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 carsBruce 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."

In March it emerged that the Apple Watch may come packing fingerprint scanning tech for NFC-based security reasons, although this news comes from an analyst who heard it from a supplier who had it from a leprechaun who came to him in a dream.

Still, it's pretty certain that Apple is working on some kind of fingerprint sensor for iOS after a suspicious job posting surfaced in early April. When it comes to the Apple Watch, anything is possible.