It has been quite a week for unannounced product speculation -- this morning the latest published Apple [AAPL] patent offers a tantalizing glimpse at something that could become the so-called 'iWatch'.
[ABOVE: An image from the latest Apple patent filing, c/o Patently Apple.]
Is it time yet?
Patently Apple published details concerning the latest patent for a wristwatch-like device that's packed with interesting features that suggest work is well underway toward creating a finished product.
Some highlights from the patent:
· Wrist-mounted flexible screen
· Works a little like a "slap bracelet"
· When worn the display wraps across the user's wrist
· Carries an onboard sensor to determine wrist size, offering up universal sizing without overlapping visuals
· iTunes control
· Phone features
· Messaging using a virtual keyboard
· Maps interface
· Solar power and kinetic energy to lengthen battery life
· Orientation sensor so the display is always at the right angle for a user
From Apple's filing:
"With a touch screen user input a user can accomplish a number of different tasks including adjusting the order of a current playlist, and reviewing a list of recent phone calls. A response to a current text message can even be managed given a simple virtual keyboard configuration across the face of the flexible display."
[ABOVE: Further details from the latest Apple patent filing, c/o Patently Apple.]
Slap your wrist
The sensor works like this. When you wrap the device around your wrist the sensor automatically determines the end point. It then resizes the active imaging area to match. In theory this means the device will automatically figure out how to look pretty much the same on every wrist, ensuring display elements don't get lost under the rest of the strap.
Another part of the filing describes a system that also works when not wrapped around your wrist.
As predicted, the device works best as an accompanying system for an iPhone, with which it connects wirelessly. The patent suggests you'll charge the iWatch up using a cable -- a nice thin cable, I'd imagine, which makes Apple's decision to migrate to Thunderbolt an astute one, as it enables the firm to deliver all manner of miniature devices.
This iWatch may be just one of a family of devices from the company as the Patently Apple report makes mention of the wearable video device the firm has been working on for the last six years or so. The iWatch would also function as a controller for this.
Apple also seems to be thinking about power on such a device. The problem with power with accessories of this kind is that users eventually forget to recharge the device -- long battery life is essential. Apple seems to be exploring deployment of solar and kinetic power sources in its iWatch in order to increase battery life.
[ABOVE: Will this system use the Spiral patent?]
iWatch is no watch?
The patent filing is interesting too because the images seem to capture a strap-like device that's all screen -- this could hint that the company may indeed choose not to emulate a classic wristwatch in the eventual design.
One thing is clear -- speculation on the iWatch has replaced speculation concerning the next iteration of the iPhone, suggesting that should the company introduce such a product it will see a good deal of interest as fanboys and critics alike rush to take a look at the latest Apple product.
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