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Apple patent application hints at iWatch

A patent application published today points to a flexible touch-screen device that can wrap around your wrist.

This illustration comes from Apple's patent application and appears to suggest smartwatch plans.
U.S. PTO/Apple

An Apple smartwatch seems to be on the drawing board after all, according to a patent application published today.

The application -- filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in August 2011 but just published -- is titled "Bi-Stable Spring With Flexible Display." It describes a flexible touch-screen device that can display information. The device can be worn in any location, according to the patent, though one of the drawings shows it being worn around the wrist.

The patent doesn't specifically refer to the device as a smartwatch and instead envisions it as an electronic type of slap bracelet. Such bracelets are equipped with bi-stable springs that allow them to conform to the user's wrist. But several of the features described in the patent match those that would be found in a smartwatch.

"With a touch screen user input a user can accomplish a number of different tasks including adjusting the order of a current playlist, and reviewing a list of recent phone calls," the patent said. "A response to a current text message can even be managed given a simple virtual keyboard configuration across the face of the flexible display."

The device itself would use Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to communicate with another portable device, presumably a smartphone, to display real-time information on the screen. An on-board gyroscope or accelerometer would arrange the information so that it directly faces the user no matter how the device is worn.

Rumors have run hot lately that Apple is prepping a smartwatch, or iWatch. A recent story from Bloomberg claimed that Apple has employed a team of 100 people to work on the device.

Some reports have suggested that the watch would use a curved glass display and communicate with a smartphone to display e-mail, instant messages, and other data.

These stories are still in the rumor stage, but the patent does shows that Apple is at least eyeing such a device.

(Via AppleInsider)