Apple is all set to make its big announcements at an event today. It is almost confirmed that the company will unveil its highly anticipated smartwatch, the alleged iWatch, at the event. Most of the chatter on the web reveals that the iWatch won’t be only about health and fitness, but also about good looks, aesthetics and luxury. In fact, Apple is believed to invited top fashion editors and bloggers in unprecedented numbers to its launch gala.
Though Apple has been tight lipped even about the launch of the smartwatch, the rumour mill has been working full time churning out tidbits about the wearable. In the last couple of months, rumours around the alleged Apple iWatch had begun to accelerate. With the launch day just around the corner and the smartwatch being the first new category since Steve Jobs passed away, it carries a lot of weight for the company. It could also be the next innovative product from Apple, given that the tech-giant has faced so much criticism for not showing enough creativity in the last couple of years.
If reports circulating the web are to be believed, Apple may launch smartwatches with multiple screen sizes and designs this fall. KGI securities’ analyst Ming Chi Kuo who is well-known for accurate Apple predictions had also predicted that the iWatch will be available in two sizes. She had also added that it could sport a fashionable look and will be able to work with the iPhone, iPad and Mac.
While most of the watches have been sporting a 1.6-inch display, the iWatch is speculated to sport two sizes featuring 1.3-inch and 1.5-inch flexible AMOLED displays. Another report points out that Apple could introduce a smartwatch with a display that likely measures 2.5 inches diagonally and be slightly rectangular. The watch face is also expected to protrude slightly from the band, creating an arched shape, and will feature a touch interface.
One of the biggest concerns about smartwatches and wearables in general is battery life. With the number of devices-per-household increasing, so does the charging needs for consumers, which is why longer-lasting devices such as the Pebble smartwatches have done better than the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Gear. In terms of battery life, Apple may have something different in mind. If some of the previous rumours are to be believed, Apple is testing newer and innovative ways for charging methods for the watch. This includes induction, motion and solar charging, thus minimising the constant battery consumption. One of the methods being tested by Apple is said to be using magnetic induction. Besides wireless charging, it could also come with and a 200mAh to 250mAh battery.
However, a new report by TheInformation now suggests that employees related to the matter have set low expectations when it comes to the iWatch’s battery life. However, there is no word on how long the battery will last upon one complete charge. This doesn’t come as a surprise, as it is known that one of the prime problems with smartwatches fitted with a color touchscreen is battery life. So, it is quite possible that the iWatch may face similar issues. On the contrary, devices like Pebble that come without a display, offer battery life for up to a week.
It is also believed that iWatch can be charged via wireless charging, and the solar charging method was tested by Apple but it failed.
Besides the battery and the display, we also know a few tidbits about some other features of the device. According to Kuo, one can expect a sapphire lens cover, biometric recognition and an NFC chip. Moreover, there has been buzz about Apple working on some new sensors that can check a person’s hydration levels, blood pressure, and sweat, components that can assist professional athletes during their training exercises. This further fuels speculations about the wearable device combined with Apple’s HealthKit could be capable of tracking steps, calories burned, heart rate and more.
Health and fitness features
As the year flagged off, we have been hearing about Apple going on a medical expert hiring spree. In January, there were reports about two medical wearable specialists, including one of Indian origin, being brought on board by Apple. Nancy Dougherty, formerly with Sano Intelligence and Ravi Narasimhan, who has worked with medical devices firm Vital Connect had joined Apple.
Apple is also believed to have teamed up with some notable athletes to test the alleged iWatch’s fitness capabilities. In June, Apple has reportedly invited athletes from the MLB, NHL, and NBA to its Cupertino campus to brief them on the upcoming smartwatch. The company also provides them ‘the opportunity for testing to be conducted in professional conditioning environments’.
Apple has already shown at the WWDC that it wasn’t just joking about getting into the Health business. The new HealthKit app is said to be capable of pulling in data from other third-party apps and this can be accessed by healthcare professionals as well of course depending on how much access users give to this app. Apple partnered with the world-renowned Mayo Clinic to make HealthKit happen, and the Clinic was all praise for Apple’s new innovation in the health sphere. With HealthKit, your iPhone will keep a tab on your important health metrics on a daily basis, and over a longer period. Now, the iWatch is believed to work in tandem with the Healthkit and the alleged iPhone 6.
Before the WWDC, Apple was rumoured to be working on an app called ‘Healthbook’ for the iPhone 6, which would utilise data from all motion sensors to bring native fitness tracking to the platform. The supposed motion charging method for the iWatch could also help in this regard, by tracking hand movements besides other vital signs. The app was said to be visually similar to Passbook and could work in tandem with the rumoured iWatch.
Initial rumours also claimed that the iOS 8 is expected to debut with the iPhone 6 and rumour has it that Apple is betting big on health and fitness tracking features, and will come integrated with the ‘Healthbook’ app. In fact, the iWatch was cited as the reason for a sudden interest in health tracking apps within Apple. However, the company has now introduced the HealthKit app platform, and its is unclear whether the app will be called Healthbook or Apple may simply call it health.
The Healthbook app reportedly can monitor users’ vital signs such as heart rate, blood pressure, hydration levels, and also glucose levels. The iWatch may collect data gathered by the Healthbook app from the various sensors in the iPhone. This is probably the reason why Apple has integrated the M7 motion co-processor in the A7 chipset. There is also the possibility of integrating iWatch with Apple Maps for location tracking and navigation.
Citing some people related to the matter, 9To5Mac reveals the upcoming iWatch will support Apple App store and run third-party applications. However, it is still unclear if the App Store support will be full-fledged or come with limitations. Apple is also believed to have teamed up with “a small handful of high-profile social network and services companies with apps on the iPhone and iPad App Store have already been seeded with a pre-release version of the Apple SDK (Software Development Kit)” for wearables. The SDK was seeded just recently.
Facebook is reportedly one of the developers with access to the pre-release SDK. “The social network is also experimenting with ways it can leverage the new Notification Center widget APIs,” adds the report.
Pricing and availability
The iWatch is expected to be unveiled alongside the iPhone 6 at Apple’s media event tomo. However, users may have wait until next year to get their hands on it, or rather strap it onto their wrists. Earlier there were several reports pointing at Q4 release for the iWatch and Taiwan’s Quanta Computer is believed to have begun mass production of Apple’s first smartwatch in July and the launch was then rumoured to be slated for October. The production is suppose to be a boost to Quanta, whose work for Apple so far has focused on laptops and iPods, product lines that are in decline. Quanta’s role, though, is likely to raise questions about what involvement Hon Hai Precision, one of Apple’s biggest suppliers, will play in production. Kuo has also predicted that the watch will be available at varying price points, with the most expensive version costing close to $1,000. Apart from that, there has been absolutely no word on the pricing details of the iWatch, but knowing Apple, it could be rather steep.
Interestingly, Microsoft is also believed to launch its ‘fitness’ band around October while Samsung and LG have already announced their new iterations of the Gear and G watch respectively. Take a look at all the upcoming smartwatches that are expected to hit store shelves soon.