The pundits who have been waiting for Apple to come up with a new product category may just get their wish. New reports today suggest Apple is working on a wristwatch that could be released as soon as the end of the year.
The new reports come as the wearable computing market is being thrust into the spotlight, with Google plugging its Google Glass headset and smartwatches becoming more popular. Recent research from Gartner suggests the industry will become a $10 billion market by 2016.
The rumours also come as Apple’s stock has dipped below $US400 for the first time in a year.
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New reports from both Bloomberg and The Verge suggest Apple is working on a watch, with head of design Jony Ive driving the project with 100 engineers under his command. Bloomberg first reported sources as saying the watch could be more profitable than a theoretical television project, while The Verge has confirmed that report separately.
The Verge also claims the watch will run a new version of iOS, but the company is still having trouble in achieving lengthy battery life and Bluetooth connectivity.
The Bloomberg report claims features being considered for the watch include making calls, checking notifications, map locations and health-related data.
The revelations are no surprise. The wearable computing market has already started gaining traction, with manufacturers and designers keen to explore how wearable devices could both assist and improve on smartphone technology.
Google is already getting ready to release its Google Glass headset, and smaller companies are gaining traction with smartwatches, such as the successful Pebble watch which raised $10 million on Kickstarter.
Experts say the move towards wearable computing comes as smartphones have made portable devices much more powerful and easier to use.
“One of the big drivers is smartphones,” says Bruce Thomas, the head of the wearable computing lab at the University of South Australia.
“The fact people are now getting used to basically having their office in their pocket, they’re getting an appetite to do anything outside or in between jobs. Now your computing is with you all the time.”
The other big factor, Thomas points out, is sports. Apple has already started experimenting with wearable computing through Nike bracelets, combining with the footwear company for an app that can download data.
Apple has lodged dozens of patents relating to watch-related ideas.
Thomas says with the industry taking off after about 15 years of theory and practical work conducted in the research space, “it’ll be interesting to see if the things we said were going to happen, actually happen”.
The research suggests it might not be far off. Gartner recently said the wearable computing market will turn over $4.2 billion in 2012, with an annual growth rate of 24% between 2012 and 2016.
The greatest opportunities, it said, was in fitness and athletic performance, communication devices and medical devices.
A recent blog post written by former Apple employee Bruce Tognazzini details what he believes Apple to be working on with regard to a watch product, and explains the types of features users can expect, such as apps and more heightened security when wirelessly connected to a phone.