The Apple iWatch - what to expect

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The Apple iWatch is coming...

Long the subject of rumour and speculation, Apple’s iWatch is the most hotly anticipated hardware launch this year. Nobody outside Apple and its key production partners really knows what it will look like, what it will do or when (let alone if) it will appear. Still, that hasn’t held back the hype, as Apple watchers wade through cryptic comments, patent applications, company hirings and industry buzz to predict what the iWatch might bring. Tech expert Stuart Andrews separates the most likely options from the bad, baffling and just plain bizarre.
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Apple iWatch might be linked to healthy apps

Does the iWatch exist?

Apple is always a focus for speculation and, if everything was true, we’d all be watching giant voice-controlled Apple TV sets by now. The iWatch, however, looks like a dead cert.
Apple CEO, Tim Cook, has expressed interest in wearable tech on several occasions and, in February, told the Wall Street Journal that “there will be new categories” before confirming that Apple was “working on some really great stuff.” In May, Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of internet software and services, said that the company’s line-up for the rest of 2014 was “the best product pipeline that I’ve seen in my 25 years at Apple.”
Apple is clearly working on something. It’s trademarked the iWatch name in many countries, including Mexico, Turkey, Russia, Taiwan and Japan. Patents filed by Apple in February 2013 and April this year refer specifically to wearable, watch-like devices. Throw in rumours that production partners started small-scale production in April and are ramping up for launch and an October launch for the iWatch seems very likely.
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Fuse Chicken

What will it look like?

There are rumours of square displays, round displays and displays varying between 1.3 and 2.5 inches in size. The most likely rumours, however, cover one or more devices with 1.5-inch rectangular screens. Interestingly, Apple’s February 2013 patent concerns a wearable bracelet accessory with a flexible, wraparound display on the outer surface.
Corning, maker of Gorilla Glass, already produces a flexible glass called Willow Glass that would be suited to curved or flexible displays. Corning has suggested that such devices are two or three years away from mainstream production, but it wouldn’t be the first time Apple was ahead of the curve. Apple’s patent in April this year, meanwhile, also refers to a device with a curved display. The concept render from design company Fuse Chicken might not be that wide of the mark.
Apple might go for a conventional approach with a wristband and a square or circular screen, but something more innovative — and fashion-defining — seems more likely. Last July, Apple hired former Yves Saint Laurent CEO Paul Deneve for a special projects role. Though Deneve has denied that he’s working on the iWatch, his appointment has fuelled further speculation.
Early rumours pointed to a durable sapphire display produced in collaboration with crystal materials specialist, GT Advanced Technologies. However, more recent rumours point to an OLED screen manufactured by LG.

What will it do?

It’s believed that the iWatch will contain its own custom processor and run a version of iOS. Users will be able to check emails and messages and get notifications, and may be able to make and take voice calls. Support for Apple Maps and a Safari Browser also seem likely, along with close integration with Siri, Apple’s voice-controlled assistant. With limited screen space for an on-screen keyboard, this might be a key part of the iWatch.
Opinion is divided on whether the iWatch will be a stand-alone product with its own Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G connectivity, or designed to work with an iPhone or iPad via NFC or Bluetooth. Google, with its Android Wear smartwatch platform, has taken the latter approach, but there’s no guarantee that Apple will do the same. Similarly, while the April 2014 patent mentions a camera, the iWatch may or may not come with one.
There are several options for powering the device, ranging from the fairly fanciful (solar or kinetic charging) to a more straightforward battery, charged wirelessly through magnetic induction. LG is believed to have worked on low power displays and special batteries with increased capacity, and while the company might be making use of these within its own G Wear Android Wear smartwatches, they’d also be perfect for an iWatch. 

Fit for Purpose?

This is almost guaranteed — the iWatch will have health and fitness features. The devices is believed to contain a range of motion and biometric sensors for measuring heart-rate, calories burned, steps taken and sleep quality, which it will then pass the new HealthBook app in iOS 8. Apple has also been recruiting employees from the biometrics and life sciences industries, and has patented a weightlifting sensor that could monitor and gather data when attached to a bar. Perhaps most tellingly, Nike has abandoned development of its own FuelBand hardware, shifting to developing alongside its key partners. Many believe that Nike might be working with Apple on the iWatch.
Of course we won’t know anything for sure until the iWatch is formally announced, probably alongside the iPad Air 2 and iPhone 6 in the autumn. They’ll be hot competition from the new crop of Android Wear devices, but then Apple has never been concerned with being the first — just being the best.
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