Apple's iWatch roundup: Rumors, specs, price, and release date

Apple's iWatch roundup: Rumors, specs, price, and release date

Summary: What do we think we know about the rumored iWatch, and what would Apple's entry into wearables mean for the tech industry?

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Artist rendition. Credit: Sarah Tew and Christopher MacManus/CNET

Apple CEO Tim Cook said the Cupertino, Calif.-based company would enter "exciting new product categories" this year, and the idea of the emergence of an Apple smartwatch has sent the rumor mill into overdrive — especially after Apple trademarked the "iWatch" name across the globe.

Rumors suggest the iWatch will be unveiled in the fiscal third-quarter, and Apple has hired approximately 100 people — including designers, fashion, and health and engineering experts — in order to work on products including and related to the iWatch. 

Despite Apple keeping quiet on the topic, what do we think we know so far?

Rumored specifications:

At a glance:

  • 1.3—2.5 inch display
  • Biometrics, sensors
  • Emphasis on fitness and health monitoring
  • Wireless charging
  • Tailored — but full — iOS, mobile partnering
  • Manufacture from July; potential Q3 shipping date


 

  • The Wall Street Journal says the iWatch will be launched in various sizes, probably in order to reach the widest range of consumers and tastes possible. 

  • A research note from KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo obtained by Apple Insider claims the iWatch will be sold in two sizes, sporting 1.3 inch and 1.5 inch displays. Korean news site Chosun Ilbo reported the gadget will come in three different sizes, measuring 1.5-inch, 1.4-inch, and 1.3 inches. Reuters sources say the smartwatch will sport a display that measures 2.5 inches diagonally.

  • Kuo also believes the display will be flexible AMOLED with a sapphire cover, which means the device could be curved to fit around the user's wrist.

  • In terms of battery life, Apple Insider says a 200 to 250mAh cell will be used to promote battery savings. The New York Times speculates alternative methods could be used to power up the battery, including solar power and kinetic energy.

  • The iWatch may also have wireless charging capabilities.

Sensors?

Apple's rumored device will likely hold a range of sensors. Which types, however, is debatable.

  • The Wall Street Journal says that the iWatch will include over ten sensors which will monitor various environmental elements including fitness and health.
      
  • MacRumors says that Apple may have developed an in-house sweat analysis sensor for the iWatch, which will be compatible with iOS 8's Health application.

  • It is worth keeping in mind Apple recently filed a patent for a weightlifting sensor, and job postings indicate the company has hired specialists in cardiovascular fitness & energy expenditure — which likely indicates some kind of health-related data collection. 

  • An investment note released by Barclays analyst Blayne Curtis suggests a UV sensor may also be in the mix. 

  • Marcelo Malini Lamego, creator of upwards of 70 medical and monitoring sensors, has also reportedly been hired by the tech giant.

What will it do?

  • iOS 8 is believed to have been designed with an iWatch in mind — especially considering its emphasis on fitness apps and health. Japanese publication Nikkei reports that the device will host the iOS 8 operating system.

  • The smartwatch is rumored to track elements including heart rate, steps taken, calories burned and even could monitor your sleeping patterns. Ex-Philips Research employee Roy J.E.M. Raymann has supposedly been hired by Apple as an "expert on sleep research," according to 9to5Mac.

  • A source speaking to industry analyst Brian White of Cantor Fitzgerald claimed the iWatch could connect to your home as well as your phone, and may act as a controller for smart home devices — whether it be turning your lights off and on or monitoring room temperature. 

Special Feature

Wearables: Fit For Business?

Wearables: Fit For Business?

The explosion of interest in wearable computing is one of tech's fastest rising trends. While big moves from Google, Apple, and Samsung will likely attract a lot of attention, we're going to examine the broader potential that wearables hold for driving innovation in business.

Shipping and production:

  • The New York Times reported that Apple executives met with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in December to discuss mobile health applications, and Chinese website Laoyaoba claims that the first-generation iWatch is awaiting FDA approval before entering mass production this fall — as the iPad and iPhone maker hopes to register the product as medical equipment.  

  • Reuters claims that Taiwanese manufacturer Quanta has been slated to produce the device in July — sources speaking to the Economic Daily News in agreement — with shipment scheduled in October this year. However, the EDN also claims that chip production will be produced in-house before being handed over to Samsung, and TPK will manufacture the gadget's sapphire touch panels. LG has also been mentioned several times as the screen manufacturer.

  • The smartwatch sensors are reportedly designed and made by Singaporean firm Heptagon.

  • Reuters sources say 50 million units are expected be shipped in the first year, while the WSJ states sales are pegged at 10 - 15 million units. Apple Insider's analyst note says this number will be closer to 5.5 million in 2014, jumping up to 50 million in 2015. Supply chain sources talking to Taiwan's Economic Daily News came up with the highest figure, and expect 65 million iWatches to be produced by the end of the year. 

  • Katy Huberty from Morgan Stanley predicts the iWatch could earn Apple up to $17.5 billion in revenue during the first 12 months, and the smartwatch will cost roughly $299. Apple Insider's analyst note from Kuo states the device could cost upwards of several thousand dollars — with differences in materials separating a standard and high-end version.

If Apple chooses to break into the wearables and mobile health industry, the company — despite its popularity — will face stiff competition from companies including Sony, LG, Samsung, Google and Nike. No doubt an iWatch could prove to be lucrative and keep critics quiet who are concerned over the lack of fresh, innovative Apple products, but the road won't necessarily be a completely smooth one.

However, as Apple's chief executive has said, the company doesn't focus on being the first — but rather the best.

Related analysis:

Related articles:

Topics: Apple, Apps, Emerging Tech, iOS, Mobility, Innovation

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21 comments
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  • Smart Watches are so DOA...

    What do people need them for? I can understand fitness bands or gaming complimentary bands (like the Razer) one but not must smart watches..
    Jimster480
    • If it's from Apple, it's a must have device.

      Nothing else matters, not even practicality.
      adornoe@...
    • It MIGHT be possible.

      But I don't know how off hand. I admit that.

      On looking at some past predictions about the iPhone, for example, when it first came out, many questioned its ability to make a significant dent in the market. And those that questioned its ability had some good reason to do so. In the type of devices that currently existed at the time, they appeared to have the market saturated. The problem was for the iPhone nay sayers is that they just didn't know enough about the kind of impact a touch screen interface smartphone would have on the market. There were too many preconceived notions about what kind of experience that the iPhone would provide and what utility it would serve. It turns out it was a game changing device, not just another competing product like so many that were already in existence.

      Now along comes the iWatch. Who the hell really knows yet what even owning one of these things will really be like. Before the iPhone we thought we knew pretty well what owning a smartphone was like.

      But...the problem is, we do indeed have some ideas in mind of what owning a smartwatch could be like. And even when stretching ones imagination a bit, it does raise a lot of questions about the utility of such a device compared to whatever the price may be, and the idea of getting back into wearing a watch which so many of us put out of existence once we got used to checking our smartphone for time.

      When thinking about the likely true impact of a product in the market I try really hard to think about what the countless millions of non teckkie consumers of the world would think. There are all different kinds of consumers, and so long as the product isn't just plain bad, there will definitely be a significant people who just have to have the "new device", often particularly so when its an Apple device. And again, so long as the device has some level of utility to it, there will be some who will find that a device is providing them with something they like.

      But those groups alone never amount to a huge market if the device in question doesn't have more than "some decent level of utility". When you think of the most basic properties of a device like this to assess its potential in the market several very general things come to mind:

      1. Will it bring some ENTIERLY new feature or ability to the user that will enhance their experience?
      2. Will it be a convergent device that somehow brigs together the functions of several devices to one device and in the process enhance the users experience?
      3. Will it be a replacement device that can eliminate some other device or devices and thus enhance the users experience.
      4. Is the form factor such that it can enhance the users experience compared to what was used in the past?
      5. What is the price?

      And of course within each category more specific questions and issues can be asked.

      But, the problem with the concept of the iWatch, or any smartwatch, there is much about it that suggests the significant possibility that none of the very general points above will have some major traction.

      The first point, about some entirely new feature becoming available that really enhances a users life or experience is of course a huge point. That alone can do the trick if its significant enough. And as I said the problem is, while its not terribly difficult to imagine that the iWatch could provide for some feature or features that some users may find just great, it is much harder to imagine features that wide swaths of the Joe Average public will find very compelling as they did with touch screen smartphones.

      The second point, is this some kind of "convergence device" that will somehow bring the functions of others into it, seems to be likely in this case. But, this only seems likely to a small degree, as in that it appears that what the iWatch may be doing isn't so much as to converge several devices as to simply bring some of a smartphones lesser abilities to the watch. Depending on what those abilities are, and how user friendly the experience is will dictate if that adds up to much more than a minor convenience. For some who don't care for the idea of putting on a watch, it may be sorely insufficient on its own for many to be interested. In any event, its seems very unlikely given a watches screen size restrictions, that significant smatrphonce utility can be relayed to the watch, although its not hard to see some lesser abilities could be traversed for some small degree of improved convenience. Many people point to the fact that watches, due to being worn on the wrist and being able to make body contact can offer some interesting health related applications. So this may be another potential convergence available to it. But the question still would remain as to how important and interested the public is seeking that in large enough numbers to justify the devices price.

      Is this going to be a "replacement device"? It seems pretty unlikely that an iWatch is actually going to mean you can put any other significant piece of gear away forever. I have yet to date see anyone who is saying you will be able to dispose of anything that the vast majority of the public relies upon and uses regularly today. And its hard to imagine why the iWatch could replace anything given that all the other major currently widely used devices are much larger more technically capable things that would already be made smaller if they could be.

      Is the device of a form factor that could enhance user experience? I think this is the one place that has everyone's interest up about smartwatches in the first place. Having something incredibly useful and versatile strapped to your wrist seems inherently convenient. The device form factor in question, essentially a watch, is automatically considered to be unobtrusive and light and potentially fast and easy to use. It sparks the imagination towards what often seems like a science fiction like utility and convenience in a device. In this area the iWatch, being of the form factor it is at least imagined to be, certainly at least gives one the inference of enhanced user experience.

      And of course there is price. As we all know, if something is dirt cheap, it dosnt have to provide for a whole lot of utility for many consumers to be interested. But, again as we all know, as price increases the typical consumer considers a little more and a little more about what they are really getting for their money. Im just guessing, but I think once this iWatch goes over $75, large numbers of the population will consider it to be more than an impulse buy. Once you get well over $100, particularly because its something new, you will indeed get many people asking what it is they are really buying for $100+ dollars. And here we see a speculated price of $299. This is at least expensive enough that the majority of the population will ask some serious questions to themselves about if they really need such a device in their life.

      I strongly suspect that most will not. Im not just saying that off the top of my head either. I travel in circles that include only a few tech savvy people, much like the average population. I don't see enough of the "gotts have it" crowd being anywhere near to making a device with the abilities spoke of in the article being a massive hit. I certainly cannot imagine enough of the average public being so interested in the stated likely abilities of the device that they will start forking out $299 a piece like they would for smartphones for the family.

      While its possible to see the device not being a complete flop, its seems very difficult to even imagine why the device would ever be even close to as popular as the iPod, iPhone or iPad. Its just not the kind of device utility that the general population feel they have to have even at $299 a piece.

      The problem with just outright nay saying is that we don't really know as a fact the complete picture of exactly everything an iWatch will be. Is there anything in there that brings such a new feature to the table we are not thinking about it right due to our lack of broad experience with it? Is there something of a "sleeper" aspect to the product, in that what its bringing to the table may only be valued by a few today but has a fantastic potential to catch on huge with the public once they are more broadly exposed to it?

      Apple has proved quite clever in the past in that respect. The only reason some predicted the iPhone would be far less successful than it has been is because those who said such things found themselves unable to properly understand and evaluate the game changing nature of the iPhones touch screen interface. That much should make it clear that an out right refusal to accept a possibility of success for the iWatch is not bright.

      But, there is a difference here. We knew the iPhone was going to have a touch screen. Some simply didn't turn their mind to just how different that was and the incredibly positive dynamics it would bring to the user experience.

      There dosnt appear to be any "new way" or "new feature" about the iWatch form factor we have heard about and have not experienced to any significant way before. The fact its a watch does indeed lead to wickedly simple convenience, and that needs to be evaluated as very advantageous and important, but again, its still always a question of ease of convenience to do what and for what price?

      I can only say that its difficult to imagine the iWatch as much more than a product that will appeal to a relative few compared to Apples recent devices of the past. Although, as I have said, certain unknown things may in fact have some unknown ability to change that.

      And then there is Apples Turbo Train of a marketing department. When your a company that has the ability to convince large swaths of the public that your devices are darn near magical just because you made them and you say so, your company is one of a kind, and up until now, in recent years betting against Apple has been a losing bet.
      Cayble
  • I am way too hard on watches

    to own a smart watch... would be broken within a few months.
    Mac_PC_FenceSitter
  • wear a watch???

    stopped wearing watches so many years ago. it's like old people wear watches. so, apple is going to make watches into a new young thing again?
    i-want-gizmos
    • wear a watch?

      Lots of young people wear watches (not me- I'm to hard on them as well, plus I tend to lose them). It's not a fad, it's just more practical than having to pull your phone out of your pocket or purse just to check the time. My 21 yr old daughter, who has a smart phone and does all kinds of social networking (i.e., she's not tech phobic), has worn one since high school.
      RSBerman
      • "pull your phone out" to tell the time?

        So long as I'm not talking to someone, I usually have at least one earbud in and my phone in my pocket.

        Finding the time is just a matter of squeezing the switch on the iPhone's wire and saying "What's the time?"

        It's equally effortless to play music, listen to a podcast or dictate and send an SMS. (When it's really cold, I appreciate these things.)
        Slurry
  • iWatch is for some people with interest in portable computer, but

    But do you need a big screen or a tiny one?
    SmilingGuy
  • My son bought a galaxy watch. I had to admit it is pretty cool

    I'm not sure if was $200 cool but it was cool.
    apoteke
    • Bingo. "I'm not sure if was $200 cool but it was cool."

      And therein lies the difficulty. For anything of some utility, there will be some consumers who will buy it and find it to be a good thing.

      But the iWatch, at $299 is at a price point that requires most thinking people to wonder if that three hundred bucks is better spent someplace else.

      As you have said apoteke, there are all kinds of things that on the face of it are cool, but there are plenty of things that loose a lot of the coolness they have when the price reaches and then exceeds certain levels.

      There are certainly some things about the iWatch that give some indication it could be just the case.
      Cayble
  • How about a convertable loaded with both ios and osX

    I would think that this would be innovative. Load it with both software so you could really have interesting functionality.
    apoteke
  • Specs and sensors

    Some great renderings and potential specs including all the sensors can be found here:

    Source: http://randyprinting.com/?p=720
    SurreyStore
  • Apple is still following the lead of others, and the iWatch is not

    "innovation", since there are a bunch of competitors already out there with their versions of smartwatches.

    "No doubt an iWatch could prove to be lucrative and keep critics quiet who are concerned over the lack of fresh, innovative Apple products".

    Fat chance! Especially since, they really didn't do anything "innovative", and like I said, they're following the lead of others.
    adornoe@...
    • I take it you've seen it then?

      The only way I know of you could actually know that.
      Mac_PC_FenceSitter
    • And the Law suits start again ..

      Yup, they might be last to market, but they will be first to sue the $hit out of everyone for stupid stuff like physical curves and what ever else they can dream up ..
      CND-Dude
  • Kinetic energy

    Watches from Seiko and accordingly to what they say, must be generating 1mWh of energy per day (very optimistic) - that's 0.001Wh of energy. Batteries on smart watches are close to 1Wh, so a kinetic harvesting energy system would be irrelevant, make the device more expensive and take space that could be used by a bigger battery.
    AleMartin
  • iWatch

    I'm very excited about this product, Apple has really moved to next level. Reading all the features of this iWatch really makes syncing with other iDevices cool.
    catherinej02
  • Zzzzzz

    And it's catch-up time. They use to innovate. Now they follow.
    As for all these specs, there is nothing that has been validated until it comes out or Apple announces it. So it could have fifteen inch display and you'll get someone to believe it.
    As far as sales, it is anyone's guess. Some may find it too expensive. Others say why when you have an Apple gadget that does it already. 50 million is ridiculous. There is no way of knowing until it comes out. And remember, first versions can make or break a gadget. One major issue and say goodbye to millions in sales.
    Personally, I haven't worn a watch in 14 years. I have a smartphone that is my watch. What can a watch do that my smartphone can't?
    Gisabun
  • The iWatch will be amazing...

    ...largely because it will telegraph the fact that you're a doooooooshbag before you even open your mouth.
    ribzilla