Apple is working on a smartwatch, set to launch this year. We investigate the latest analysis and rumours to bring you our predictions of the iWatch release, price, specs and features.(See also: the best smartwatches of 2014.)
Will Apple launch an iWatch? Will the iWatch succeed?
There's been a lot of speculation about Apple's intention with regard to wearable tech. Much of it wrong-headed and hopeful. But the fact is that all the usual tell-tale signs are there for a major new product line from Apple. Indeed, in May Apple CEO Tim Cook told attendees at All Things D that "the wrist is interesting". That in itself doesn't mean much, but the level of rumours springing from usually reliable sources tells me that Apple will launch an iWatch, and it will be this year. (For more evidence see Apple can't run from its own job listing as iWatch evidence builds and Apple seeks 'iWatch' trademark in Japan.)
Whether that means it will be a success is another matter. Much analysis points at the market-making successes of the iPod, iPhone and the iPad. But in each case there was an established need, and a nascent market. Apple simply made much better products than those that had gone before.
It's also worth pointing out that success is relative. By any metric the iPod, iPhone and iPad are hugely successful product lines. But their levels of success differ markedly: at its peak more than 50 million iPods were being sold each year. By contrast 70 million iPads were sold in 2013, and more than 116 million iPhones. Wearable tech is clearly a growth market, but whether it can hit any of those figures remains to be seen.
Personally I think there is a real benefit to a connected interface on your wrist. Smartphones have replaced watches as our key informational tools, offering much greater functionality. But the form factor has taken us back to the time of pocket watches. We have to pull out our phones to tell the time, never mind all the other great information we can access.
That alone doesn't mean that smartwatches or even -glasses are going to be a success. You could argue that adding a tablet to our arsenal of connected devices is already one device too many (the dream of one-device-to-rule-them-all is further away than ever). But there is a market for anything Apple makes, and if anyone can create a smartwatch that is worth having it is Apple. Apple will launch an iWatch, and here is what we know and what we think we know.
We'll update this story as more information becomes available. (See also: Sony SmartWatch 2 review.)
Apple iWatch release date
The smart money is on a Q3 iWatch launch - that's Autumn 2014 for you humans out there. Apple Insider is reporting this as fact based on a research note written by KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, and seems to confirm heavy industry rumours.
"We believe the rumored iWatch will be Apple's most important product this year, carrying much more weight than iPhone 6," Kuo writes, adding, "as market feedback for the product should reveal whether Apple still has the ability to continue making game-changing products with Tim Cook at the helm."
Apple has in recent years settled in to a rhythm of updating its iPhones and iPads in two separate events in the autumn each year. We'd expect the iWatch launch to coincide with the iPhone 6 launch, expected September or October 2014. This gets the iWatch out in time for the all-important Thanksgiving/Christmas shopping season.
There is an outside chance that Apple will link in the iWatch launch with another iPhone launch that is rumoured to happen in June 2014. It's believed that Apple will launch a large-screen iPhone this summer.
But based on what we know right now we strongly predict a September or October launch for the iWatch, with new iPads and iPhones, and updates to the Apple TV and Macbook lines. We'll update this article as we know more.
Apple iWatch specs and features
This is where the facts end and the speculation truly kicks in. We understand that there may even be two iWatch models, with different, curved screen sizes of 1.3in or 1.5in. It's possible these will be male- and female-styled watches. We expect flexible AMOLED displays with Sapphire crystal glass to prevent scratching. Flexibility could be a killer feature in a wrist watch. (See also: Apple iWatch to come in two sizes, analyst claims.)
Rumours point to an unusually large 250mAh battery - lengthy battery life will be a key battle ground for wearable tech, and Apple is often a market-leader in this respect. Expect the iWatch to last more than a day between charges. It's possible motion charging may be introduced, to keep your iWatch battery topped up.
Unlike other smartwatches we expect the iWatch to be able to operate on its own, like a tiny connected iPod. Clearly an important element will be the ability to offer an additional display for your iPhone, but offering a standalone product will allow Apple to keep in, and attract new Windows and Android users to its ecosystem.
We expect Apple Maps to be a key feature, along with a Mail app, simple browser and Siri. And you should be able to make and answer calls via the iWatch, as well as sending- and receiving text messages.
Strong rumours suggest fitness- and health-tracking apps and hardware - perhaps including a heartrate monitor. Expect Bluetooth to connect to your existing iOS device, meaning the smaller device doesn't need standalone Wi-Fi or cellular connectivity, but limiting its standalone capabilities. (This fits in with current Apple policy on the Bluetooth-based iBeacon, which makes it both more likely, and also more likely to be a rumour based on the facts as we know them.)
Again, we'll confirm or deny these rumours as we know the facts.
Apple iWatch price
At the time of writing anyone that tells you they know the price of the upcoming iWatch is either lying or telling you something they shouldn't. We've heard everything from $150 to thousands of US$. We can only speculate as to the truth of the matter. So here goes...
Although Apple is a premium manufacturer that operates at the top of the market, the price of current smartwatches gives some room for manouevre. Given that the Samsung Galaxy Gear launched at a hefty £299, I'd expect Apple to be in that region. In some ways that feels expensive, and in others cheap. But it is worth remembering that at the time of launch the iPhone and iPad felt cheap - even though they were at the top of their respective nascent markets.
We will see. Stay tuned to this page for further updates as the iWatch release gets closer. (See also: Apple iWatch to lead 500m wearable computer rush.)