Four months after Google announced Android Wear, a mobile operating system for wearable devices, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has approved a patent from Apple for what appears to be a smartwatch. There are rumors that Apple will launch the product in the fall, but the company’s leaders have not even uttered the word “smartwatch” in public, and Apple often files for patents that never come to fruition. Still, the patent document offers some clues for what Apple’s thinking and what consumers can possibly anticipate.
Apple’s iTime, as it is described in the document, is a multi-sensor wireless device that can be simply controlled with subtle wrist movements, featuring a core unit that can be removed from a wristband and be used as a stand-alone piece. Like fitness-tracking devices, the watch will have GPS, WiFi and feedback motors for notifications.
The smartphone described in the patent can receive information from several devices, such as an iPhone, laptop or desktop computer, and it can produce alerts based on the data it receives. Most of the information will be received through a wireless antenna like Bluetooth, but there is also the potential for plugging the wristwatch to an external port (especially to charge the battery), according to the patent.
Calls, text messages, social media posts, calendars, weather or stock alerts and even news feeds can be automatically re-directed from one device to the other, based on this prototype. Notifications are sent through non-audible methods like vibrations that can be only detected by the user wearing iTime.
The smartwatch is designed to replicate the activity produced in the smartphone or other device, and also create its own data to let users know when their iPhone is lost, stolen or out of range — thanks to a link between both devices.
According to the patent, iTime will not only transfer and generate information about connected devices, it will also be able to store media and work as a remote control to operate, for example, other portable media devices like an MP3 player, a smartphone or an iPod Nano, Apple’s thinnest iPod.
Some controls, like playing back a track, can be operated through a touchscreen, but the device described by the patent will be mainly controlled by gestures and body movements. Without having to use their fingers, users can interact with the smartwatch through physical actions.
In an example cited in the patent, a user can decline an incoming call by making a horizontal movement, whereas making a vertical movement would mean accepting the call. Other gestures might include bouncing, shaking or tapping the device, one or several times depending on the action intended (one shake to receive a call, two shakes to reject it, for instance).
The website Apple Insider, which broke the news on the patent, reported that production will start in November, to roll out in early 2015. Others like USA Today said that the device will come out this fall. So far, Apple hasn’t made any comment.