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iWatch: The Complete History of Smartwatches and iWatch Rumors

Aug 13 2014, 11:31pm CDT | by , in News | Apple

iWatch: The Complete History of Smartwatches
Photo Credit: Todd Hamilton
 
 

Before there was the still elusive iWatch there have been many attempts on smartwatches. We go back to the roots of smartwatches as far back as the 70s.

Smart watches have been a hot topic over the past few years, due in part to the speculation that Apple is going to be entering the game. When it comes right down to it, however, there are still no signs that they have such plans in place. Regardless, patents and leaked reports suggest that it is possible. In reality, there are several companies that have beat Apple to market with smart watches of their own, although this isn’t anything out of the ordinary for Apple.

In fact, the iWatch has essentially been three decades in the making. Although the final appearance of the iWatch might new unlike every other product we’ve seen until this point, it has a lineage that can be easily traced back to the original digital watches. Companies like Seiko were doing incredible things with smart watches in the early days, although many people fail to even think of the company when they consider the powerful smart watches that are on the market today.

"Everybody looks to Apple to solve the Smartwatch Design."
Luigi Lugmayr, Chief Editor I4U News.

The history of the iWatch is something that has incredible paths through many different companies, even if it might not seem like it at first glance. Apple is time and again known for their ability to take charge of other company’s advancements in ways that no one else can, so it only stands to reason that the kinds of things that other people have failed at will be sources of incredible income for the company.

Digital Watches

Until the late 1970s, every watch in the world was still relying on the same design that had been around for hundreds of years. They were simply miniature clocks that could be worn on the wrist. All the way back to the 15th century there were things that resembled watches, although the real modern incarnation wasn’t introduced until late in the 19th century. These were still incredibly basic, as many things were in the 19th century. There was no frame of reference for LCD screens, however, and once they became popular it would be an entirely different story.

It was only a matter of time before a serious change came, though, since the 20th century brought incredible technological revolutions in terms of computers and the ever shrinking size of them. Mechanical dials were to be replaced by digital products that were far more reliable and had the ability to do much more than simply track the time of day.

Digital watches were first released on to the market back in 1972. The Pulsar brand of watches was eventually bought out by Seiko, but for a few years they were the the exclusive digital watch that was on the edge of innovation. These initial watches would do little more than display the time in the classic red LCD letters, but it stood out as the part of the watch revolution that would eventually lead to the smart watch.

The First Smart Watches

Those kinds of digital watches were used for checking on the time and almost nothing else. For years the attempts to make something more advanced were met with lackluster praise and many just couldn’t see the point in doing anything more innovative. Computers were far from a household item at this point, even though Apple Computers was doing a lot to make them more affordable. Pulsar saw beyond this lack of interest, though, and started creating watches that would define the use of computers in combination with watch devices.

The kinds of technological advances that made it possible for smart watches to begin to advance were a phase of the technological history that was in a lull, however. Historically, there have been problems that come in a number of forms. There will be periods of drastic innovation, followed by an effort to fully utilize the kinds of technology that have been created in the past years.

The Pulsar NL C01, released in 1982, could store an incredible 24 digits, making it effectively the first watch that had a user-programmable memory. This model came alongside the revolution in personal computing, making more and more people have an interest in portable computer technology. That is precisely why Seiko set out to develop a watch that had enhanced computing abilities, resulting in the Data 200 Watch, which even had an external keyboard that could be used to input data.

What can be considered the first “smart watch,” however, was another product from the world famous Seiko company. For years they were the largest name in watch technology, which should be obvious judging by the kind of effort they put into the RC series. The first model came out in 1984 and had the ability to connect to Apple II and II+’s, the Commodore 64, IBM PC, and so much more. The RC-20 followed in 1985 and came with an impressive 2kb of RAM and 8kb of ROM.  With an LCD display that measured 42X32 pixels, this was a mind-blowing product for the time. Today, these look just like what most people picture when it comes to 80s technology. Two rows of display and a large port on the side make up everything that the 1980s were about in terms of tech innovations.

Linux Watches

Are you a fan of Linux? This out of the ordinary operating system isn’t exactly mainstream, but it has been one that is popular among a certain group of people.

Linux has long been one of the leading operating systems, despite the fact that it is only in use by a small portion of the personal computing world. When it comes to home brew users, it is hard to do better than Linux, however, which is why many of the prototypes for the smart watch were actually Linux powered. Linux has been around since 1991, but it was seven years before the first incarnation of this was presented. For many types of prototyped products, Linux is always the first to be on the market, although they will very rarely have the kind of mass appeal that companies are looking for when they create a specialty product like this.

On February 7, 2000 it was presented at IEEE ISSCC2000 and established Steve Mann as the “father of wearable computing.” His watch was featured in the Linux Journal, as well as gracing the cover of the magazine. Although it was the first known model of this kind of device, it was not a commercial device and was more focused on being an insider innovation.

It wasn’t long before IBM got in on the action, however. IBM, until recently, was far and away the leader when it comes to computer technology. That is why it only makes sense that they would introduce their own prototype for a wristwatch running Linux in June of 2000. This computerized watch originally had a battery life of only six hours, although it was later boosted to twelve hours. 8MB of memory were used to run Linux 2.2 that had the ability to measure data coming from an accelerometer, use a berating mechanism, and even featured a fingerprint sensor. They attempted to work alongside Citizen Watch company in order to create a 320x240 watch that would run Linux 2.4 and feature 16MB of flash memory, Bluetooth capabilities, and more, although it was abandoned after a year or two of development.

Smart Watches Fit For Consumers

Even though Linux developers seemed to be on to something in the year 2000, not many people were willing to buy what they had for sale. This is part of the reason that so many people were skeptical when rumors about Apple started swirling. In the case of Apple, however, they typically wait for other people to make mistakes in a market before they decide how they can improve upon the idea and take advantage of the market. Fossil started the movement that led up to the ten year wait for the Apple iWatch.

It was 2003 when Fossil released the Fossil Wrist PDA. This was the first successful smart watch, although it would seem primitive today. The Palm OS was very popular in PDA devices at the time, and Fossil found a way to make it work in a much smaller screen, similar to the cell phone screens that many used. Fossil certainly had made a name for themselves as a watch manufacturer, but they might not have had the technological know how to get going with something as innovative as this could have been in the long run.

This was still a very early time for smart watches, with only one truly successful product making it to the open market. Unfortunately, that is usually when Microsoft usually decides that they would like to give things a shot. Known for getting into potentially revolutionary markets far too soon, Microsoft developed something that they called SPOT, or Smart Personal Object Technology. It is hard to picture Microsoft releasing smart watch technology ten years ago, but they did in fact give it an honest attempt, although it wouldn’t last forever.

The SPOT devices went well beyond just watches, as well. Even coffee pots could use the transmissions sent by SPOT to automatically update with personalized data. The introduction of the watches in 2004 was met with a fair bit of attention, although they were discontinued in 2008 and the service from MSN ended at the end of 2011.

For several years there were no earnest attempts to make the smart watch work. There have been cheap knockoffs of similar devices, but no major company made an effort for a few years after the failure of Microsoft’s SPOT system. Microsoft is known for getting into the game too early, but this might have been something that they got right, only with the wrong way of pulling it off. Apple certainly was the first to create mainstream PCs, but it took Microsoft know how to truly help them reach the masses.

A single attempt was made in 2006 when the Citizen VIRT watch featured bluetooth technology. They had been working on prototypes since at least 2001, although this was the first time that they unveiled something that they thought of as a completed watch. It was on sale in Japan with only 5,000 pieces being made, which meant that they might still have been unsure about the kinds of things that they could pull off on a mass scale. The watch could show incoming calls from mobile phones, including flashing lights, and very few other features. This left people scratching their heads more than ever about what kind of appeal a smart watch could have.

Then, in 2009 Samsung decided to introduce the S9110 Watch Phone. They saw that Microsoft had a great idea and a poor way to use it. Instead of relying on radio frequencies to deliver information, as SPOT did, Samsung wanted to use Bluetooth technology to deliver data and mimic the actions of smart phones that had begun to gain in popularity. Samsung is still one of the largest competitors for the iWatch and all Apple products, so it only makes sense that they would have been on the scene before the official word from Apple.

That release by Samsung sparked a revolution in smart watch technology. Sony Ericsson launched their own LiveView in 2010, with Allerta’s InPulse following that same year. The two smart watches pulled data from Android and BlackBerry devices respectively. Pretty soon, watches were running versions of the Android operating system, albeit in scaled down versions, on devices like the Motorola Motoactv.

Apple got the first taste of this potential during this time period. After the release of the iPod Nano in 2011, many customers began using accessories that allowed them to wear the devices on their wrist, like a watch. Apple even began producing their own line of wrist straps for the devices, although they never went much further than this officially. The appeal of being able to use a watch as a media player, messenger, and more left many wondering when Apple was going to create something that would be able to handle all of their needs.

The Explosion of 2012

2012 was powerful when it comes to smart watches. There was very little word on Apple, but plenty of other companies were picking up the slack in the meantime, waiting to see what the largest consumer electronics company in the world was going to do. This kept the market open for a number of products that were going to change the way users saw smart watches, though, and left even more wondering why Apple wasn’t already in on the game.

The most recent smart watch to hit the market, and prove successful on multiple levels, is the Pebble. The Pebble is the result of Kickstarter funding and is the pride and joy of DIY programmers across the globe. The Pebble Kickstarter campaign began in April of 2012 and had a target funding goal of $100,000. The pledging system worked out to $115 per watch, which was basically a pre-order of the $150 retail device. The campaign had reached its goal within two hours of going live, eventually raising $4.7 million in just a week. In the history of Kickstarter, the most funded campaign of all time was a smart watch. In fact, the company had to announce that there would only be a limited number of pre orders available once they reached funding of over $10 million and almost 70,000 pledgers.

2012 was a big year for all smart watches, although they were primarily focused on health tracking information, suck as the Sony Smartwatch and Nike+ Fuelband. In addition to the creation of the Pebble, the mass appeal of smart watches was thought to have finally arrived. Unfortunately, items like the Fuelband have already been discontinued after not being able to find a market.

2012 was filled with attempts at creating a smart watch that people would flock to, but there still had not been any options that people were willing to buy and rave about. Plenty of people own Pebbles, but no one is working hard to convert the masses and they are still seen as one of the primitive options that is paving the way for more advanced options.

Enter The iWatch Rumors

The rumors of the iWatch started early. Up until the launch of the iPhone, for example, there was very little word on what they were working on. Many had speculated that there was a phone in the works, but very few had reason to believe that it was a sure shot. With the iWatch, however, leaks came very early, years ahead in fact, which could point to either problems that they have been facing over and over again or a desire to have a perfect product for the market that doesn’t yet know it wants one.

"It is surprising that nothing about the iWatch has leaked yet. It raises suspicison that it is not real yet." 
Luigi Lugmayr, Chief Editor I4U News.

Apple quietly files patents from time to time, often leaving plenty of people guessing about what the actual product will be, when we will see it, and what kind of price tag it is going to carry. In 2011, Apple filed a patent for the iTime without breaking their silence. This patent was eventually granted in 2014, although it still doesn’t give much of a clue was to what we can expect.

In the later months of that same year, a blogger covered what they expected Apple to be involved in over the coming years. There are a lot of different rumors that have existed over the years, but this was perhaps the first mention of an iWatch type device, which seemed to only make sense after the release of the the iPod Nano that so many people used as a wearable device.

One of the things that was discussed in terms of the iWatch finding a real market was that it would have to be able to connect with the iPhone and deliver all of the same data that it receives. None of this was added to the iPod Nano, further fueling speculation that there would be a new product released at some point. During this same amount of time there were other models released, although Apple was silent on what they would do in response to this market that was emerging.

They were not quick to release an MP3 player after they became popular, nor were they the first to release a smart phone. In 2011 the industry was still in its infancy and the smart watch market has still been slow to catch up to the kinds of things that customers are looking for.

This set of rumors and speculation effectively set the wheel in motion for the years of iWatch rumors that we have been looking at ever since. At this time, Apple owned an incredible 75 percent of the media player market, and even though there are more options now, they still have the power to take over any market should they put their mind to it.

This blog was nothing more than speculation on the part of an Apple fan, but it would slowly be backed up by a number of reports coming out in the next few months, including some that say Apple is closer to having a completed iWatch than many people would have originally thought.

The Call For Action

2011 might have been merely a year of speculation for the wearable Apple device, but 2012 would prove to be a year that found many people asking WHEN Apple was going to do something, rather than IF they would create a product. This same year the Pebble was released, Nike released the Fuelband, with others following closet behind. With all of the excitement over products that were finally seeing mainstream success, albeit small, many were asking Apple to do the same thing. The kind of fan base that Apple had in 2012 is something that many companies would kill for.

There were a few concept ideas tossed around online, but nothing that closely resembled an official product. Almost every Apple fan with a graphics program was mocking up what they thought would be the ideal iWatch. Some of these were very good, calling back to earlier Apple design ideas, while some of them were so far out of the norm that they would most certainly not have any connection to the final product when and if it was ever released.

Unlike the following yearn, however, there was still very little known about whether or not Apple actually had anything in mind when it came to the wearable device that people were discussing. In fact, a simple search online will not bring up any leaks or report from an Apple supplier. All that can be discovered are mockups from fans of Apple or calls for them to get started on an iWatch. Apple is known for the high levels of secrecy that they maintain, so it should not be surprising that their calls went unanswered.

That is...until Apple sprung a leak in 2013.

The First Signs of iWatch Life

After nearly two years of purely speculation, Apple fans found that there was a little bit of hope that they would eventually have an iWatch that they could find in a store. There were very few signs as to what this meant for the company, but Apple was definitely working on something, which kicked the rumor mill into high gear like nothing else ever had.

In early 2013, there were Apple fan eagerly awaiting Apple’s announcement of the iWatch, something they believed would be happening during the course of the year. Report after report was being released that showed Apple was definitely working on a wearable device, although no one could say for sure what kind of features it would have at launch.

By the middle of 2013, Apple had already filed over 75 patents for wearable technology that might be used in the future iWatch. There were patents for a flexible “snap bracelet” and more, but no one could know how it would be used in the eventual product. This was the first rumor of flexible glass coming from Corning, which has been a mainstay of the speculation ever since. Judging from the patents, however, it would be several years before this technology would be ready for use in mass produced commercial products. This was an important time for doing so, because Tim Cook was being heavily criticized for the lack of new products that had been released or even announced since he took over the helm from Steve Jobs.

It was around this time that the first screenshots leaked from Samsung, showing a Korean version of the smart watch that they would be producing. This leak put Apple fans on edge, since Samsung has been the major competitor over the years and it looked as though they were going to beat Apple to market with a device that had the potential to revolutionize the marketplace. That is precisely why so many were left wondering when Apple would make an announcement.

While Samsung images were leaking, Apple rumors were flowing out like never before. Bloomberg posted a number of different reports over the course of a few months, including some that showed Apple was gearing up for a massive product release by the end of the year, which should be a familiar rumor to anyone that has followed the company over the years.

Bloomberg went so far as to say that there were one hundred team members working on a wrist watch like device that would have all the features of an iPad or iPhone. These reports came from two sources who said that Tim Cook was facing pressure after a large stock slump and went on the offensive, finally setting a fire under a project that had been long rumored, but had advanced very little. The report came from February in 2013 and said that there had been a lot of growth in the group over the course of the past year. Many people scoffed at the idea that there would be 100 designers working on a single product, although the time frame would make sense given the amount of time that the device had been rumored to be in production.

The New York Times, in the same month, released an article describing the Dick Tracy type watch that Apple was working on. Calling back to James Bond, Dick Tracy, and Inspector Gadget, they described the experiments Apple was working on that would be used in a curved glass device that could handle online payment systems, health monitoring, and so much more. They pointed out that Tim Cook has been spotted wearing a number of wearable health tracking devices, showing a lot of interest in the kinds of things that the iWatch could accomplish if Apple put their own touch of innovation on it.

Bob Mansfield himself, the senior vice president for technologies at the time, was very interested in devices that had the ability to connect to the iPhone and share data between the two. Employees commented that he was particularly interested in the Jawbone Up and the Nike Fuelband.

Rumors like these effectively started the race for a wearable computer. When Apple is working on something, there are plenty of companies that would rather beat them to the consumer, no matter what it takes. Reports stated that, unlike the iPod Nano that featured a scaled down version of iOS, the iWatch would come with a full version, making it a very powerful competitor if no other company could figure out how to take up the charge.

After months of speculation, however, it was decided that Apple was going to release an iWatch in the final quarter of 2013. An analyst from Citi was reporting that a note for investors stated that suppliers were ready and Apple only needed to give the go-ahead for production to begin. This was reportedly from the same source that told Bloomberg about the 100 person team that was supposedly working on designing the wearable device, although it wasn’t yet known if either of these reports could be entirely trusted, as is the nature of leaks in general. It was believed, however, that releasing the iWatch quickly in 2013 would help Cook make a name for himself and provide a much more profitable option than the iTV that many people had been expecting.

Just a month after it was finally decided that the release date would be in 2013, a board member for Apple might have offered a crumb of information that could hint at the kinds of things Apple was working on when it comes to wearable technology. Intuit, a famous software company, held a meeting at which Bill Campbell was an attendant. He was a friend of the late Jobs and was on the board at Apple when he hinted that the company had its eyes on wearable devices that would have a lot of intimate applications.

This morsel of information didn’t provide much beyond that, leaving many to speculate that there was actually a competitor for Google Glass on the horizon. After his initial statement, he Campbell said that he could not offer any specifics, only that Google Glass was a phenomenal breakthrough and he showed interest in what could be possible at his own company in terms of creating intimate devices like glasses or watches, which he saw as having even greater potential than the cell phone.

By offering so little, he ensured that the rumor mill stayed in high gear for the rest of the lead up to the actual release. Several unnamed sources had given details about what we could expect, but so far the official word had been only that they were excited about possibilities.

It was May when we first gained an insight into the screen we would be looking at when a device was finally released. The Economic Times of Taiwan believed that there was to be a 1.5 inch OLED screen produced by the Ritek company. In fact, Foxconn, the supplier for Apple, may have already received 1,000 screens as a trial order. This further pointed to a 2013 release date, since it would give them plenty of time to have production kicked into high gear for a Q4 release. This, apparently, was after they had looked into using 1.8 inch screens that were determined to be too large for proper applications. The iPhone is famous for supposedly being the perfect size to hold in one hand, making Apple an expert in this kind of design.

Even though there had been rumors of the release date and screen size, there was still no word from Apple. That is, until a Russian newspaper known as Izvestia published an article describing a recent trademark filing. They stated that the country’s patent and trademark office, known as Rospatent, had received a filing from Apple that would grant them the rights to the trademark “iWatch.” This could mean one of two things. It is entirely possible that Apple is working on a wearable device, but it could also simply be an act by the company to protect themselves. Companies routinely file patents and trademarks that they might have an interest in in the future, even if they aren’t working on something at the moment. This way, when they get ready to begin work they won’t have to deal with the fact that another company has taken their name and used it to profit off of the signature style that the company has.

Amidst the filings of patents and trademarks, along with the rumors of things to come, a new report stated that the iWatch was still on schedule for a 2013 release, although it may be pushed back a couple of months. Bloomberg backed up the reports from Citi, although no one seemed to have anything concrete beyond rumors that there were things in the works.

Even more trademark filings would follow the reports from Russia, giving more fuel to the speculation that was taking place. According to Bloomberg, yet again, there were trademarks filed in Japan that would grant Apple the rights to “iWatch.” According to the paperwork they filed, it was being categorized as a “handheld computer or watch device.” In reality, this would make much more sense than the filing in Russia, since Apple traditionally doesn’t have a very large presence in Russia, making it all the more strange that they would file their first patent their. A filing in Japan would make much more sense given the history of technological advances that have come out of the country. According to 9to5Mac, this wasn’t the only country that had a trademark filing on the books. In addition, there were trademark filings, they say, in Mexico, Taiwan, Colombia, and Turkey, all filed on June 3.

The Summer would prove to be an eventful time for those watching Apple and the rumors surrounding it. There was a lot of information that was not known at the time, but there was also a series of small leaks that gave hints at what the iWatch would be capable of.

In July, Apple began looking for help with iWatch development. The listings for jobs can typically be a good indicator of the kinds of things that we can expect out of Apple in the future, and sources talking to the Financial Times said that they were aggressively hiring people with expertise in designing these kinds of devices. They state that in the recent weeks there has been a large attempt to fix engineering problems that Apple has so far been unable been able to take care of on their own. Unfortunately for Apple fans, this kind of hiring shows that there could not be a launch by the end of the year, since they are still hiring people to solve problems that they have been having. Traditionally, Apple begins production around this time for a Fall launch and this suggests that they are far behind the expected timeline that other outlets reported.

CNET contacted Apple at the time, but were unable to get any kind of comment from the company as to whether or not they were actually hiring people for this specific task. Given the silent nature of Apple, this shouldn't have been surprising, especially so early in the development process for the iWatch. The iPhone was somewhat of a paranormal monster at the time leading up until its release. Much like Bigfoot, there were tales of it existing, although no one had been able to gather more than a few faint glimpses of what it might be.

Among the known hires at thins time, however, was Paul Deneve, who was formerly the CEO of the luxury fashion house Yves Saint Laurent. He was hired to work on “special projects,” although it isn’t truly known what those special projects might be. More luxury hires could have been made around the same time, since Tim Cook was saying that he found wearable devices “profoundly interesting” and that the problem was that you have to convince people that they want to wear it, something that luxury clothing brands have specialized in for years.

Up until this point, it still wasn’t known what Apple was going to do in order to distinguish themselves from the competition that had so far been already introduced to the market. The Samsung Galaxy Gear was for sale by October of 2013 and was using a rigid display, something that reports suggested wasn’t in the plan for Apple’s own wearable device. There are a lot of sources of information when it comes to Apple products, but Korean and Taiwanese news sites typically have the most rumors contained in them. According to what they were saying, Apple had three different sizes in mind that would use a plastic OLED screen that could be bent to fit the devices.

This latest report led followers to believe that there would be a 1.5 inch, a 1.3 inch, and a 1.4 inch model that would be released at the same time. This report did not, however, say anything about the kind of release date that we could expect.

Throughout all of this, there were disagreements as to whether or not the watch like device could actually sell well. Apple has sold upwards of 60 million units with previous launches, but would that same kind of sales figure be possible with a wearable computer? According to a Piper Jaffray survey, Apple might have trouble selling them in large numbers. As of October, it was believed that there would only be around 5 to 10 million people interested in purchasing one if they were sold for around $350, which could seem cheap compared to past launches of products. This figure would mean that only around 12 percent of all iPhone owners would have a desire to buy one of the watches if Apple released one. Globally that would drop down to around 4 percent, something that isn’t exactly positive for Apple, a company that prides itself on creating products that people want without even knowing it. The analysts at the time said that this could still point to a great new product category for the company, although it might not be the smash success that they were hoping for.

If they were going to convince people that they wanted a watch, they would have to come up with something truly innovative that could improve the lives of people who purchase one. That is where the idea for using it to control aspects of the home came into play. A supplier supposedly told an analyst named Brian White that it would be able to connect to the home and control a lot of different features, including controlling the smart thermostats that Apple has reportedly been working on recently. Turning lights on and off, controlling an entertainment center, and more could be easily handled by the wrist watch, something that no other competitor has the ability to do and potentially giving Apple the edge that they have been looking for all along. Microsoft attempted to create “smart appliances” in the past, but they put their money on the wrong delivery method. With the kind of expertise that Apple has, they have what it takes to implement this in a much more consumer friendly way that could improve the lives of the people using them, without using a half baked idea like other companies have.

There had been a lot of talk about display sizes up until this point, but knowing where they would be coming from was a little bit harder. There were reports saying that RiTDisplay was going to head up production, although LG has historically been a much larger company that has the power to produce enough screens for any kind of Apple launch. Taiwanese sources say that LG was close to signing a deal in late October, one that would have them playing second string to the already working display manufacturers. LG, it is said, is going to provide some of the flexible OLED display panels that the iWatch would be using.

This report left many people scratching their heads, after they believed that the September event would have included an announcement related to the iWatch in some capacity, although there was no mention of any new product at all. Despite that, this would suggest that they are at least working on something new, even that they might be using a new release schedule compared to what we had seen with iPhones and iPods up until that point. Especially given the fact that they would have two manufacturers already lined up, this could point to a bigger launch than the 5 million unites previously predicted.

The Home Stretch?

After a couple of months without news, 2014 rolled in and brought new hopes and fresh disappointments. The 2013 Holiday season was a good one for Apple, although it could have perhaps been better with the inclusion of the iWatch. It didn’t take very long for reports to come out saying that Apple was still having trouble with the production cycle and they might be farther from completion than anyone had thought up until that point.

On January 7, 2014 it was reported that Apple had already begun running into problems with both the battery life and the screen technology that they were wanting to use in the iWatch. These kinds of problems aren’t anything new for Apple products, though, and they have become accustomed to figuring out what they can do to overcome these kinds of stalls.

Even though there were people saying that there would be a launch in 2013, as 2014 started it became apparent that they were still running into problems that should have been long behind them. The Information said that Apple stopped the prototyping process late in 2013, although it could have been merely that they were switching manufacturers, something that they typically do during the development process of their products.

Just as common, though, has been the problem of battery life when it comes to smart watches. Many other manufacturers have found that their battery life is one of the biggest problems. Until Apple can find a way to improve on this, there isn’t much hope for a quick release. 

The display problems at the early part of the year were much more mysterious, however. The company has long had an interest in using the most up to date screen technology possible, but this marks an entrance into new territory for Apple.

That problem with the battery may have been solved by February, though, as The New York Times began reporting that Apple was looking into alternative charging methods that could have a massive impact on what kind of product we would end up seeing. From what the report described, it could end up being a type of magnetic induction that charges the watch. Conceivably, this would involve a charging plate that would be able to charge it without actually plugging the device in.

There was another option that Apple was looking at around the same time that involved using movement to charge, much like other modern watches do. The swinging of the arm could activate a charging station that pushes power into the device. This is something that the company has been working on for years, but it has so far been unable to perfect it. According to Tony Fadell, one of the “fathers of the iPod,” Apple might have finally figured out the alternative power source they have wanted for so long.

Surprisingly, following on the heels of the reports of trouble was a new statement from an analyst at Morgan Stanley. In sharp contrast to the report that Apple might sell only 5 to 10 million units in the first year, she believes that Apple could end up earning upwards of $17.5 billion. That is quote impressive for the company that already has an incredible source of revenue in the iPhone and iPad. The problem, once again, is the supply however. When supply constraints are taken into account, they could end up only seeing around $12 billion in revenue. The analyst said, when asked about who the potential customer base would be, that these devices will likely be seen as an accessory to existing products, rather than being a way to reach out to new customers that haven’t been Apple fans in the past.

While reports were suggesting that Apple was running into problems, there was reason to believe that they had at least figured out a couple of things, namely where they were going to produce the large quantities of sapphire glass that would be necessary for both the launches of the iPhone 6 and the iWatch, which may be coming at the end of 2014. They had already been interested in producing a number of their own devices in-house, which why they have invested in facilities in both Arizona and Texas. These new facilities are set to start producing sapphire glass over the summer.

As February dragged on, we finally got the first murmurs about the sleep tracking features that might be included in the smart watch that Apple has been working on. Reports began coming in that the most recent hire by Apple was an expert on the science of sleep, in the form of Roy JEM Raymann. Talking to 9to5Mac, sources said that Raymann has an extensive resume that included the “interaction between sleep and thermoregulation.” As a researcher, he has spent a great many years looking at sleep, activity, and physiological responses.

These kinds of sleep features are popular with other options on the market already, but Apple would certainly like to take control of the market. Apps already handle this kind of health tracking, but doing it without having to install any additional software could be a great selling point. The report at the time still didn’t know for sure if Raymann was going to be working on helping make that a reality at Apple or if he will be working on something else.

Just a day later there was a report detailing another hire that the company was interested in making. Yet another physiological expert was wanted for hiring, although the posting was later taken down. According to the ad, they were looking for a “User Studies Exercise Physiologist” that would work full time in Santa Clara Valley. They were primarily interested in cardiovascular fitness and having the capability to help design products that would cover counting the calories burned, the metabolic rate, the aerobic fitness level, and a number of other aspects of health.

What is interesting is that they are interested in looking for someone that is capable of handling inaccuracy problems that they have apparently been running in to over the course of the development cycle. This could have been for a number of products, but at the time they had been on a hiring spree for a wearable device, giving more power to those who were anxiously awaiting the release of the iWatch.

Close To A Release Date?

There have been plenty of times that people have thought we were close to a release, only to be disappointed in the long run. Much like the way that a release date was believed to be coming in 2013, there were more reports in April that reportedly said that there were reasons to believe that the iWatch was going to be released in the third quarter. Yet again, information was coming from the Economic Daily News of Taiwan, who has been a great source of information in the past.

According to a report they released, there are 65 million iWatches being ordered for sale by the end of the year. According to their sources, these watches are going to be coming from Quanta Computer, with Richtek Technology making the chips, and TPK creating the sapphire screens that will be used. Apple will be handling the processor in-house, but they will be sending out the actual production.

Around this same time, there were leaks about the upcoming HealthBook App that Apple plans on including in iOS 8. This was the first major clue as to what kinds of things we could expect out of the iWatch, even though it is only described as being used for the iPhone.

This App is capable of tracking all of the kinds of health features that have been discussed as a part of the iWatch, even though Apple has been silent on that fact. There are applications for tracking a large variety of health features, including sleep, calorie intake, metabolic rate, and even things like blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, and glucose levels in the blood. This is perhaps one of the most important aspects of the iWatch that has been revealed yet, although we are still long from the end at this point in the story.

In April, we also gained the first peak into the kinds of pricing system that Apple might be using. This is a hard thing to nail down, but just a few months ago there was virtually no information on what we might expect.

The pricing information comes from a research note of a KGI analyst. AppleInsider detailed the two sizes that will be released, although one will fall into a more luxury related category. The analyst, Ming-Chi Kuo, said that the two sizes will be released in the fall and will include a 1.3 inch version as well as a 1.5 inch version.

According to the source, these two sizes would both retail for over $1,000, although this didn’t seem very likely given the aim of mass appeal in comparison to other kinds of smart watches that have been released over the last few years. Several thousand dollar price tags might not be out of the ordinary for Apple, but it might be something that harms them in the long run, compared to the iPhone pricing that has been reduced for American customers signing contracts.

June and July have both been very eventful times for iWatch rumors, even though they might still not be believable for a finished product. During the Summer leading up to a release, there are usually a flurry of rumors that are confirmed at an early fall announcement, although it remains to be seen if that will be the case with the iWatch.

One article from June did detail something that could have a very real impact on what might be included in the final device, in the form of a weightlifting tracker that could help with workout routines. A patent was discovered in this month that detailed something that Apple called a “Shoe wear-out sensor, body-bar sensing system, unit less activity assessment and associated methods,” which is a little ambiguous.

This patent, published on a Tuesday, went into detail about the way that a sensor would be capable of attaching to a weightlifting bar that can monitor progress and record your own weightlifting capabilities. It also describes the way that a sensor could be applied to your shoes that will be able to work with the other sensor and relay data into the iWatch.

Again, the problem with speculation surrounding this is that it details how it would work with an iPhone instead of a wearable device. This fits in with the HealthBook applications that many have been anticipating with the iWatch and iOS 8. This could prove to be the single most important aspect of the iWatch. With the fitness tracking watches that inspired the iWatch to be in development in the first place, it would be a large mistake to not include them in this.

This problem os speculating over what will work with an iPhone and what would go with an iPhone is one of the most problematic parts when it comes to looking at supply chain issues. The Mesa, Arizona facility was looking like it was going to kick into high gear this month, although many people were still wondering what they would be producing screens for. Apple certainly needs a lot of sapphire glass in order to take care of all of the products that they have on the horizon. Some reports are suggesting that it will in fact be the iWatch that is receiving some of the glass, although there have been others saying that there are companies like LG producing the screens. This conflicting evidence has been a reoccurring theme throughout the life of the iWatch, along with their other products.

Following on the heels of these reports was more confirmation that a late 2014 release is on the horizon. Yet again Quanta has been mentioned as handling production and that it will begin production in July in preparation for an October release.

Their latest statement says that there will be a 2.5 inch screen on the watch, which is much different than what other outlets had been reporting in the past. It isn’t entirely out of the ordinary, though. There were also rumors that there would be two primary models coming out, along with one that will be a luxury edition that will have a larger screen and perhaps a fancier screen at that.

What stands out the most is that the release is slated for October, much sooner than some people had been thinking. Their estimates for the initial shipment lines up, more or less, with about 50 million units in production.

That October time frame could be incredibly important as time passes. Sony, LG, and Samsung already have their own options either on sale now or coming to market soon. These all have the power to let users receive notifications, track their fitness level, and access certain Apps, although Apple is known for bringing things to market late and finding new ways to truly capitalize on what they have the power to do in comparison to other companies that might also have similar products for sale.

The Final Phase Of Development?

The past couple of months it has been looking more than ever like we may be close to an actual release of the long awaited iWatch. This has essentially been a product over ten years in the making, although Apple has run into a few problems over the course of their own three year development cycle.

According to many outlets, they were entering the testing phase in July. Apple is famous for secretly testing products for a long time, much like when they used updated iPhones disguised as older models, one of which was discovered and purchased by Gizmodo.com. There were several reports that Kobe Bryant was hanging around the Infinity Loop Apple Campus, along with other players like Dustin Brown and a Boston Red Sox player, leaving many to speculate that he was going to be testing the iWatch as Apple prepared for a final release.

While on the campus, Bryant supposedly met with the famous Jony Ive, who has handled iProduct design over the years and was one of the only people that Steve Jobs saw as an equal when it came to design aesthetics. A meeting with Ive is something that isn’t exactly easy to get, so there must have been good reason for a sports start to be meeting with someone that is in charge of helping work out how a fitness tracking device will work in the long run. As a basketball player, Kobe Bryant is known for being one of the hardest working men in the game, making him the perfect test subject for this kind of device.

Of course, there are other stories that are contradicting the fact that it could be in the testing stages. The story isn’t quite over it would seem. There are typically a few stumbling blocks, although Apple makes it through in the end.

Part of the reason that people were skeptical that Kobe was testing the completed iWatch is that Apple was still bringing in new designers as of early in July. This was no doubt a good sign for the end product, however, as the person that they hired was actually the head of Tag Heuer, a luxury watch maker of Swiss origin that is truly one of a kind in the design world.

With years of experience behind him, Patrick Pruniaux knows what it takes to create and sell a watch that people will flock to. He was signed on in the first week of July to be a part of the Apple team for an upcoming project. Tag Heuer was amiable on the situation, though, and stated that they were happy to lose someone to a company as prestigious as Apple. Had it been any other company, they said, they would have felt betrayed.

CNBC went on to quote Biver as saying that “The iWatch will have the same status symbol power as many other Apple products, especially at the beginning.” This was perhaps the first official mention of the device that has been rumored for so long.

That would not be the only luxury brand hire from the same time period, however. Apple also reportedly picked up a few others, including the former CEO of Yves Saint Laurent, Paul Deneve. Deneve was plucked from the brand to handle a special project that was unnamed at the time, although many people believed it was the same special project that other watch makers had been brought in to work on. The hiring of Angela Ahrendts from Burberry could have been a similar move as they move to makeover their retail operations in preparation for new product launches.

There were still reports coming out around this same time that there would be a September of October release, although if they were hiring Biver to handle design aspects it would mean that they are still far from a finished design. If he was staying on as a sales rep, this could be a much better sign that they are putting the final team together in order to prepare their company for a massive release that will likely only be rivaled by the release of the iPhone 6.

More Delays

Even though there were multiple reports coming out that said Apple was entering the final stages, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have a few bugs to work out. July crept on and more and more people had something to say about what we could expect from the next iDevice and when it would be revealed to us. That is why the same kind of reports that came out in 2013 are so disheartening.

According to Ming-Chi Kuo, who was the source of a great deal of information over the years in terms of iWatch development, said that he has information that says it will be delayed beyond the October release date that he initially predicted for the device.

He said in the second week of July that there were problems with the iWatch department at Apple. Typically, production would begin in July for a September release, but his information was now pointing to an October start for mass production. In addition, he said that there was going to be a 40% decrease in the amount of units that were being ordered.

Kuo elaborated that the challenges of creating entirely new hardware for their device was a large part of the problem. Apple typically works hard to create something entirely new, making their hardware development a lengthy process compared to the software features that they want to include.

For once, though, there was confirmation on what we could expect from the iWatch, since Kuo confirmed everything that we had heard so far. He backed up the flexible OLED screen with sapphire glass, fitness sensors, and more were included in what he expected Apple to include.

2014 Dredges On

As August has moved on there has been a lot of speculation about whether or not the reports up until this point are true. At print, there are still daily reports coming in that are detailing the kinds of things we can see in the iWatch and when it will be available. although they still have to be treated with the same skepticism that is always important with Apple rumors.

In the past week alone there have been at least two hires for a “special Project” that most have figured out is the iWatch. Divya Nag and Jay Blahnik have been brought on and Jay Blahnik has been of particular interest. He was formerly of the Nike Fuelband team that has since been disbanded. Coming from the Fuelband, he certainly has the right kind of experience that is necessary to help Apple create a one of a kind product that will have a massive impact.

The most recent reports about the kinds of features that can be expected have been more diverse than ever, which might point to a final release date approaching. When it comes to making things simpler than ever, Apple has typically been at the forefront, although nothing so far has been particularly mind blowing about the iWatch. What Tim Cook has now hinted at is that Apple is working on ways to send voice messages, which have become incredibly popular in places like China. By performing a simple gesture on the screen of the watch, users can decide whether they want to send a voice message and simply speak into their watch, or the updated earphones that Apple is also reportedly working on. This method of sending messages can already be accomplished to some extent, but this will be much more accessible.

"I am not a GoPro kid and do not believe in the quantified self, Will I still want an iWatch?"
Luigi Lugmayr, Chief Editor I4U News.

There is also the update on the health monitoring features that has come out in recent weeks. The health features will now include things that have previously been impossible without invasive procedures, something that no company has been able to complete. Some of the new hits that Apple has been making in recent months are rumored to include people who are believed to have the ability to find out ways to check blood glucose levels and blood oxygen levels without having to insert anything into the body. This is certainly an incredible breakthrough that could hold back the release if Apple can’t figure out a way to do it in time.

A New Era For Apple

Ever since Steve Jobs passed away and left the company in the hands of Tim Cook, people have been wondering if he would be able to get out of the long shadow that Jobs cast. With the introduction of the iWatch, he might finally be succeeding in that and making sure that Apple enters a brand new era that has a lot to offer their customers. These devices have come a long way in the years since Seiko released primitive wrist computers, but they aren’t done evolving just yet. With Apple in control, this is certainly going to be an exciting time.

This is seen as being the first category of products that has been introduced without the help of Jobs. There have been plenty of innovations in the iWatch since his passing, but his touch is all across the original idea. With the launch of the iWatch, they will be attempting to prove that they can do well on their own, without the famous co-founder that was so integral in every product launch that the company had. The upgrade from the iPad to the iPhone. Then from the iPhone to the iPad, Steve Jobs always had a hand in making the changes matter, but now it will be up to Tim Cook for the first time to handle it all by himself.

Without the official announcement happening,  a great deal of information is still up in the air. Apple is historically very secretive about the kinds of things that they are working on, and when they will be released, but we are closer than ever to having a truly innovative product be released by Apple yet again. Compared to the launch of the iPhone, the last few launches by Apple have been a little lackluster, but this could change all of that easily.

iWatch Concepts and Dreams

 

Designers and Apple fans have dreamed up a slew of iWatch concepts. See some of the best iWatch concepts below.

iWatch Concept

iWatch Concept

iWatch Concept Round

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