Tuesday saw the revelation of an Apple patent covering what tech journalists have until now been calling the iWatch, and the patent’s contents show that Apple is working on a device that would not only tell the time, but that would function as the center of an advanced personal network.
Apple Insider‘s Mikey Campbell broke the story early on Tuesday, pointing to U.S. Patent No. 8,787,006, covering a “Wrist-worn electronic device and methods therefor,” or the “iWatch.” The main thrust of the patent covers a smartwatch that appears to be a bit more advanced than anything we’ve seen so far from Samsung, Motorola, or any other device manufacturers.
Apple’s iWatch – sometimes called the iTime in the patent filing – would act as the hub in a personal network that would include the wearer’s iPhone, iPad, and Mac computer. Apple calls this personal network a “piconet,” and it would be based on a number of wireless protocols, such as Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi.
So just what could one do with the iWatch/iTime? Apple’s smartwatch would receive notifications a smartphone, tablet, or computer, allowing a user pull out the device in order to respond or to respond directly from the iWatch.
Apple’s wearable would also use proximity sensing to alert a user when their iPhone or device is left behind, stolen, or out of range. Users could also control the device not only by tapping on its 2.5-inch curved screen, but by shaking or bouncing it.
Topping it off, Apple’s iWatch might also function as a self-contained media player. If so, it would follow in the tradition of Apple’s iPod nano, which many enthusiasts attached to a wristband and used as a watch in the past.
One notable aspect of the iWatch patent is that its illustrations show a device that appears to be much thinner than existing smartwatches. Apple’s chief rival, Samsung, has already released a number of wearable devices over the past year, but those have been panned due in no small part to their bulky design.
Current speculation has the iWatch debuting later this year, likely around the time that Apple introduces the next generation iPads and iPhones. Reportedly, the iWatch will have a number of health and wellness applications, including possible fitness tracking functions.
Given Apple’s notorious secrecy, no one knows when the device will see release or what it will look like, but the most recent rumors have the iWatch sporting a 2.5-inch, slightly curved display.
With the iWatch, Apple may be looking to largely replicate the path that its existing best-sellers took. The iPod was not the first MP3 player, but its design and functionality took the world by storm early in the last decade. Further, the iPhone was not the first smartphone, but the device all-touchscreen facade made it into the most popular phone in the world for several years running. Tablet computers existed for nearly a decade before Apple rolled out its iPad, but that category never took off until Steve Jobs showed off on stage what Apple had been crafting for years. The iWatch could be yet another entry in that trend, with the nascent market for wearables dominated by bulky competitors that have so far failed to capture consumer attention. If and when Apple CEO Tim Cook takes the stage later this year to show off the iWatch, he could very well show the tech-loving world something they didn’t even know they wanted and send competitors running back to their drawing boards.