Does a new smart watch patent issued to Apple provide a preview of the expected wearable from the tech giant? Some Apple-watchers are parsing the patent for signs of the coming product.
Published on Tuesday by the U.S. Patent and Tradebook Office, Patent No. 8,787,006 was originally filed in 2011 and describes a "wrist-worn electronic device." The described device can be paired with other devices, such as an iPhone or iPad, and communicates via Bluetooth. In the patent's illustration, the device is called iTime.
Alerts can be sent to the watch, including notifications about phone calls, text messages or push notifications, and the user is aware of these through vibration or audio/visual cues.
iPod Nano, Sensors
The watch can also be used to control various apps, such as iTunes, or it can communicate with devices other than a smartphone, such as a computer that's close by.
As described, the device appears to fall into the general approach to a smart watch as a peripheral of a smartphone or other mobile device.
In fact, some observers have noted that the three-year-old patent description appears more like an iPod Nano on a wristband than a new kind of category. But it does include functionalities of the kind that may well be Apple's central focus for this upcoming product line: health and fitness.
The patent includes descriptions of sensors for measuring heart rate and for motion detection, with at least some of the sensors residing in the strap, not the watch itself. Accelerometers, GPS, and haptic feedback are also mentioned as possible additions to the strap.
Additionally, the device includes gestural control as a possible interfacing technique in lieu of touchscreen taps or swipes, which would make sense given such a small screen surface area.
'Don't Tell Us Anything'
But the newly revealed patent may have little value for figuring out what Apple is up to.
"Patents don't tell us anything," Current Analysis analyst Avi Greengart told us. For Apple as for other major tech companies, he said, they "aren't always used, or they aren't used as described in the patent, or what is described in the patent doesn't become the key selling point of the product."
Apple in particular is known for patenting functions and products that it never follows up on.
"I wouldn’t be surprised," Greengart told us, "if Apple had patented a toaster."
Regardless of Apple's intentions in the category of toast, at the very least the patent shows that the company has been thinking about smart watches for several years.
There had previously been reports that an iWatch would be released in October, but a new report from KGI Securities indicates that manufacturing of the new product won't even start until November. In that case, according to KGI analyst Ming-chi Kuo, the Apple smart watch will be unveiled early next year. The latest rumors suggest the device will feature a somewhat curved, 2.5-inch OLED display, and will be implemented as three different models.