Apple scores patent for 'wrist-worn electronic device'
The new patent highlights a device referred to as "iTime" that comes with built-in sensors and can connect with mobile phones.
A "wrist-worn" device described in a new Apple patent hints at certain features reportedly destined for the company's much-rumored iWatch.
Awarded Tuesday by the US Patent and Trademark Office, the patent dubbed "Wrist-worn electronic device and methods therefor" starts off by describing a wristband that can incorporate a mobile device, similar to the way you can wear an older-style iPod Nano on your wrist by attaching it to a band. But the patent then moves into territory more revealing of a dedicated smartwatch.
Though Apple has been characteristically mum about plans for a smartwatch, many analysts and others believe the company will launch its iWatch later this year. Reports point to a device that would combine the traditional elements of a smartwatch, such as mobile phone pairing, with the benefits of a fitness band, such as tracking and recording your vital stats and health readings.
The smartwatch market is getting more crowded but has yet to truly take off among consumers. An Apple iWatch has the potential to shake up the market with a device that can work with your iPhone and function as a health and fitness monitor.
The wristband detailed in the patent would itself include various sensors, such as an accelerometer, GPS, a proximity locator, and biometrics to monitor your physical traits. But the patent goes further by highlighting a "personal wireless environment" in which your wrist device could interact with your phone or computer.
Via a wireless connection, your watch could receive notifications from your phone, a description of how today's smartwatches work. After you receive that notification, you could get further information on your watch via its display or audio speaker. As an example given in the patent, the notification would alert you of an incoming phone call via your mobile phone, allowing you to accept or decline the call through your watch. As such, your watch would act as a remote interface for your phone.
As described in the patent, you would also be able to control your wrist device through gestures via the built-in sensors. As some examples, you might move your arm horizonally to decline an incoming call and vertically to accept the call. You'd also be able to program different gestures to trigger certain actions.
Filed in July 2011, the original patent application is another sign that Apple has been eyeing a smartwatch-type product for a few years. Time will tell if this will be the year the company finally unveils its own such device.