Apple iWatch release date, news and rumors
9th Apr 2014 | 10:14
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Apple iWatch: Health, apps and that curved screen
After more than a year of relegation to "next big thing" status, the smartwatch is finally breaking out into the mainstream with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Gear and Sony Smartwatch 2 following where Kickstarter phenomenon Pebble led.
But we're yet to see a watch with true wow-factor and, for that, many are looking to Apple.
Rumors of an Apple smartwatch have abounded since Pebble first hit the big time. The so-called iWatch failed to materialize in 2013 but will we see Apple get in on the wrist-worn game in 2014?
What is it? An iOS-friendly watch that plays nice with your iPhone (probably)
When is it out? The rumors say sometime in 2014
What will it cost? No one really knows
We've rounded up all the rumors and speculation to keep things ticking (geddit!) over. Which seem likely and which are complete Apple poppycock? Let's find out.
Does the iWatch even exist?
That's the million dollar question, and one that only the Apple insiders really know the answer to for now. So the short answer is: We don't know.
Now for the longer answer:
Way, way back in 2008, Apple co-founder and renegade loud-mouth Steve Wozniak "let slip" to the Telegraph that "Apple's future could lie in an 'iWatch'." And, in April 2013, an Apple board member mentioned the word "watch", while Apple CEO Tim Cook told attendees at All Things D that "the wrist is interesting" in May thus kindling thousands of iWatch rumors across the web.
The WSJ seems "confident" that the iWatch is real because it's been talking to "people briefed on the effort," while a couple of analysts have stuck their oars in too, basically saying "Yup, an Apple Watch. That sounds feasible. I'm going to say yes, that exists."
Then, in the midst of a thousand iWatch rumors, Apple seemed to confirm that it was at least thinking about releasing a product of that name by trademarking the term 'iWatch' in Japan, Mexico, Russia and a number of other countries.
But a trademark does not a definite product launch make.
The Apple Watch release date will be in 2014
So assuming that the iWatch does exist, when will you be able to buy it? A bunch of rumors from the likes of Bloomberg, The Verge, an analyst and more said 2013 was the year. But it's 2014 now, so using deductive powers unparalleled by anyone from Sherlock Holmes on down, we're going to say that they are all wrong.
We've always thought 2014 to be a safer bet. Quite aside from Tim Cook promising "some really great stuff coming ... across all of 2014," when Apple hired ex-Burberry chief Angela Ahrendts to sort out its shops, a lot of people thought hey! she's from fashion, watches are kind of fashion-y, maybe this is something to do with the iWatch.
April brought with it renewed vigour in the land of iWatch release dates. Within 24 hours, we heard that the iWatch would launch in 'the third quarter' (that's July - September, fact fans) and that it would land in September 2014 alongside the iPhone 6.
There's also a chance that Apple will announce the iWatch at WWDC 2014 in June but not actually put it on sale until September - thus giving devs time to create iWatch-friendly apps ahead of launch. Then again, the gang over at Re/Code say not.
Of course, there's always the possibility that Apple looked into making an iWatch and then decided naaaah.
The iWatch is 'delayed'
In as far as any unannounced product can be delayed in the eyes of the consumer, rumor after rumor has claimed that Apple's manufacturers are having trouble performing.
A report in November 2013 posited that production of the iWatch has actually started but factories Quanta and Foxconn have been having trouble producing fully functioning products so mass production has apparently been pushed back to the second quarter of 2014 (April - June).
In early January 2014, the famously unreliable Digitimes claimed that the factories producing the iWatch are failing to turn out more than 50% as working devices because of its teeny tiny innards.
Hot on the heels of this bad news came more: The battery is also causing the Apple Watch problems with its display tech, to the point where Apple ditched one supplier and (we assume) moved on to another.
Display Search decided in November that the "delay" to a product that has never even been formally acknowledged by its supposed manufacturer is down to another mythical Apple product: The iWatch is supposedly holding up the launch of the iTV!
iWatch price, screen and features
The iWatch price is a total 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.
Nobody but one anonymous analyst who had a stab at pricing and reckons somewhere between $149 and $229 (£100 to £150 / AU$167 - AU$250) seems likely.
The iWatch will be all about the curves
The most recent word claims that Apple may be going for the whole bendy approach with a fully flexible plastic OLED screen, which was backed up by speculation that LG Display will provide G Flex-like bendy screens for the watch.
Before that'd we'd heard that Apple was playing with the idea of curved Corning 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."
In January 2014, Corning announced that it's ready to manufacture curved glass products using 3D-forming technology. Gorilla Glass is the glass of choice on most of Apple's mobile devices, so this sounds like good news for the iWatch, if it exists.
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.
In February 2014, the company also applied for a patent relating to flexible displays, in which a device's bezel could be done away with because the screen itself would bend around the sides of the casing.
But hold your horses: in February 2014, the Korea Herald reported that an insider revealed that the iWatch is unlikely to have a curved screen because of the strain a curved 2-inch display would have on your wrist. A 2-inch display? That's bigger than the previous rumors you'll see on the next page...
The iWatch has Bluetooth but display size isn't locked down
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.
Then, an Apple patent surfaced that showed a Wi-Fi-less device using Bluetooth to share another device's network connection - so you'd connect the iWatch to an iPhone to get enough internet juice to get news, messages and push notifications on your wrist.
That's seemingly the idea behind formalising the standards for the location tracking Bluetooth-based iBeacon, too.
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.
However Apple is also said to still be toying with its idea of a 1.3-inch or 1.4-inch screen, though it's the 1.5-incher that is said to exist as a full prototype right now.
In November, the Korea Herald announced that Apple will make two versions of the smartwatch: iWatch for Him and iWatch for Her.
Could the Apple watch actually come with a sapphire crystal display? Tim Cook confirmed that the company has invested in an Arizona plant that is experimenting with sapphire crystal glass so there's a possibility that a potential iWatch could make use of the tougher, more scratch-resistant material.
Rumours suggest that the sapphire screen is more likely to make an appearance on a watch than an iPhone because it's just too expensive.
Apple might put a solar-charger in the iWatch
So says the Korea Herald, whose sources in the industry tell it that the company will stick with lithium-ion batteries in the iWatch, with some supplied by Samsung and LG's battery-making arms.
"Since the energy efficiency of solar-charging technology is one-tenth of the lithium-ion battery, it doesn't make sense to run a gadget with solar power," the source told the Herald.
The Herald's source refuted rumors from the New York Times which suggested that all of Apple's upcoming mobile devices would come with solar, inductive and motion-charging batteries, with solar charging a "particular focus."
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.
In March 2014 word emerged that Apple is busily beefing Siri up, supposedly in preparation to allow an iWatch device to book reservations and send texts through third-party apps without requiring Apple to work directly with apps' developers.
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.
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, organizing 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.
This rumor became less spurious when Apple launched the Touch ID-toting iPhone 5S in September 2013, of course.
Never one to shy away from a challenge, we've put our own concept design together based on rumors and speculation so far. It's classier than a G-Shock, we think you'll agree.
Apple iWatch: the Nike connection and other
The Nike connection
While the world and it's sister got hyped about smartwatches when the Pebble Kickstarter went stratospheric, Apple's interest in watches stretches back beyond that.
According to ex-Nike man and watch designer Scott Wilson, design guru Jony Ive took his team to visit watch factories and ordered boxes of "a sports watch" made by Nike back in the early 2000s.
That was well before Nike's Fuelband hit the mainstream, but the two companies are close. Like, really close: never mind Apple CEO Tim Cook sitting on Nike's board of directors and wearing a Fuelband day in day out, Apple has reportedly hired Ben Shaffer (previously innovation leader at Nike) and Jay Blahnik, a health and fitness instructor who consulted on the Fuelband for Nike.
So Apple really likes the Fuelband. And Nike really likes Apple, going as far as to tell TechRadar that it "hopes" the Fuelband has inspired the Cupertino crew. And Nike is ceasing production of its crazy-successful Fuelband line. Is that because Apple's going to make its hardware from now on?
Jony Ive and his biometric dream team
The supposed iWatch project is supposedly being headed up by Sir Jony Ive. Bloomberg reports that around 100 engineers are working under Ive to develop the device, but a number of secretive yet also high profile hires also hint at the Apple watch's potential capabilities.
Aside from the ex-Nike men Apple has brought on board, Apple has hired a raft of sleep analysis experts, who hold "several patents for integrating mobile devices with fitness equipment" and biometric scienticians to boot.
In early February 2014, Apple also nabbed Roy J. E. M Raymann, a sleep-monitoring expert, igniting rumors that the iWatch will be a thing you wear 24/7. Later that month, Apple also made Marcelo Malini Lamego, who specialises in health-related sensor tech, a job offer he couldn't refuse, and advertised for a fitness specialist as well. As if all that wasn't enough, in May Reuters reported that a whole raft of new jobs have been created for biomedical experts at Apple HQ.
The iWatch will be mainly about health monitoring
So it could be supposed that Apple is planning some kind of health and sport-focused device. And if that device played nice with your iOS devices and just so happened to be worn on your wrist, the same wrist that Tim Cook thinks is interesting, then it stands to reason that Apple could, perhaps, name it the iWatch.
Insiders claim that such a device could even predict heart attacks, while a patent filed back in 2012 details how Apple plans to make some kind of wrist-worn device exceptionally accurate at monitoring the steps you take.
Then again, it could just be big into this rumored Healthbook app which is supposedly en route to iOS 8, especially given that a rumour in mid February 2014 said Apple would be stripping back the sensors on the iWatch and relying more heavily on the companion smartphone.
There is also word that Apple wants to monitor your health and fitness via your ears, rather than your wrist.
The iWatch will face stiff competition
In fact, it already does. The wearable watch market could be the next big tech battleground as perennial Apple nemesis Samsung has already released its Galaxy Gear smartwatch.
Other smartwatches have made their way into the limelight in recent months too: there's the original Kickstarted Pebble and the Sony Smartwatch 2 to contend with, not to mention a host of new gadgets from unlikely sources like Adidas, Qualcomm and Garmin.
Other tech heavyweights are rumored 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.
Since then, rumors of a Google Gem watch have percolated through the web - could we see Google unveil its watch before 2014 is out?
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.
Last but not least, even long-standing watch-maker Casio piped up to say that it's ready to take on the likes of Apple and Samsung in the great battle for your wrist.
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.
Click below for our iWatch rumors video: