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?

Screen Shot 2014-06-20 at 13.38.38
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?

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

About

Charlie Osborne, a medical anthropologist who studied at the University of Kent, UK, is a journalist, freelance photographer and former teacher. She has spent years travelling and working across Europe and the Middle East as a teacher, and has been involved in the running of businesses ranging from media and events to B2B sales. Charli... Full Bio

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