Apple’s rumored smart watch will run iOS and hit shelves later this year, according to a Bloomberg story. While there’s no official confirmation from Apple, the company has filed numerous patents related to the wrist devices, including curved glass that supports touch and a device that wraps around the wrist like a “slap bracelet.”
Other companies have attempted bringing smart watches to market in the past, such as Microsoft’s SPOT watch, which used MSN Direct to deliver content across the United States and Canada based on FM signals at a cost of $59 per year. These watches were discontinued in 2008, with transmissions being completely discontinued on December 31, 2011. But there’s been renewed public interest over smart watches and wearable computers, thanks to the highly successful Pebble watch Kickstarter campaign and the upcoming Google Project Glass.
The market has also been validated by Apple itself, which saw an entire ecosystem of watch bands emerge after releasing the 6th-gen iPod nano. Apple has since redesigned the nano for its newest generation device, leaving room for a wrist device that doesn’t directly compete with the nano.
Other rumored details of the so-called iWatch include a curved-glass display that will wrap around a user’s wrist, hinging open with a steel spring, and run an adapted version of the full iOS operating system rather than the limited version seen on the iPod nano.
Apple’s design chief Jony Ive is heading this new initiative and has 100 engineers working on the project. It’s still unclear whether the watch will tether to an existing Apple device or have standalone functionality, but Bloomberg reports that the unit will be able to perform some of the tasks that are now handled by the iPhone and iPad, such as caller ID, placing calls and checking map location. If the iWatch does function independent of an iPhone or iPad, it may require a monthly data subscription fee, similar to 4G-enabled iPads, or a new voice and data plan from a major carrier.
Google has also stated that Project Glass could have a public release by the end of 2013. It remains to be seen whether these two devices will target a similar audience or offer completely different functionality.