Consumer electronics giant Apple has already reinvented and successfully marketed digital music players, revolutionized the smartphone and tablet markets, and is now turning its focus to a curved glass smart watch, which would be made with the company’s manufacturing partner Foxconn, according to reports in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
The Times article, quoting unnamed sources “familiar with the company’s explorations” said the watch would run on Apple’s iOS mobile operating system platform. Earlier reports said the Bluetooth-enabled device would feature a 1.5-inch organic LED screen and be able to communicate with other Apple devices like the iPad or iPhone.
“Apple is already in the wearable space through its ecosystem partners that make accessories that connect to the iPhone. This makes Apple potentially the biggest player of the wearables market in a sort of invisible way,” Sarah Rotman Epps, Forrester research analyst, told The Times. “Over the long term, wearable computing is inevitable for Apple; devices are diversifying, and the human body is a rich canvas for the computer. But I’m not sure how close we are to a new piece of Apple hardware that is worn on the body.”
The smart watch market marks another place where Apple could breathe new life into old, mostly ignored concepts. Outside of James Bond fanatics and Casio calculator watch collectors, smart watches have held about as much consumer appeal as tablet computers once did—something that Apple irreversibly changed when it debuted the iPad.
“We believe technology could progress to a point where consumers have a tablet plus wearable computers, like watches or glasses, that enable simple things like voice calls, texting, quick searches, navigation,” Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster wrote in a research note last month.
Apple’s main competition would appear to be Pebble Technology, which in April 2011 became the most highly funded Kickstarter project, raising more than $10 million for an e-paper watch that can display messages from a smartphone and be customized with applications. The Pebble, which also features Bluetooth low-energy technology, will come with apps preinstalled. Examples include a cycling app to measure speed, distance and pace through GPS and a golf rangefinder app that supports more than 25,000 courses. More apps will be downloadable from the phone, and a software development kit (SDK) will be freely available. The watch, which is expected to carry a battery that can last seven days, will be able to connect with Android and iOS devices.
Sony currently offers a smart watch powered by Google’s Android operating system. The Sony smart watch, which has a three-level micro display and acts as an Android remote, gently vibrates on the wearer’s wrist to let the person know when a call, message or other notification is coming in.