A pair of reports today offered a much clearer glimpse at the smart watch Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) is expected to begin selling later this year. According to separate reports from the Wall Street Journal and Reuters, Apple will begin producing its smart watch, widely dubbed the iWatch, within the next few months and will begin selling the gadget in September or October. According to the reports, the watch will come in several different sizes, including one with a 2.5-inch screen, and it will feature a touchscreen, up to 10 sensors to track body activities like heart rate, and will be built mainly by Taiwan's Quanta Computer.
There have been several previous reports that Apple is developing some kind of smart watch, but today's news helps shine a much clearer light on exactly what Apple could release later this year. Company CEO Tim Cook has promised to launch a new product category sometime this year, which would represent Apple's first new product under Cook's direction and the company's first new product category in four years, following the 2010 introduction of the iPad.
Perhaps more importantly, today's reports offer a look at the strategic direction Apple may take with its smart watch. Instead of positioning the watch as a companion to a smartphone, Apple appears to be developing a health and fitness product that would record biometric data, thereby providing users with a detailed look at their overall health. Indeed, Apple in unveiling its new iOS 8 operating system earlier this month announced a Health app that would collect and organize such data, but the company didn't provide details on exactly how that data would be collected.
Thus, Apple's iWatch strategy appears to be trending more toward the Nike FuelBand and Fitbit side of the smart watch market rather than the Pebble and Samsung Galaxy Gear side. Watches and bands like the FuelBand and Fitbit aim to collect health data, whereas smart watches like the Pebble and Gear essentially provide a wrist-mounted view into a user's smartphone by displaying text messages and other notifications. As the WSJ noted, Apple could intend to offer a device that provides functions above and beyond smartphones--most smart watches and fitness bands today rely on sensors like accelerometers and GPS to record data--sensors that are already present in most smartphones.
Although the Reuters and WSJ reports were largely complimentary, there were differences in the details. Reuters reported that the iWatch would feature a 2.5-inch screen, with a face that would create an arched shape by sticking out slightly from the band. The WSJ, on the other hand, reported that Apple is planning multiple iWatch sizes. The WSJ also reported Quanta would begin production on the device in two or three months, while Reuters reported the company would begin production next month.
Reuters reported that Apple expects to ship 50 million iWatches within a year of the gadget's release, while the WSJ reported that Apple hopes to ship 10 million to 15 million gadgets by the end of this year. Reuters reported that LG will supply the gadget's screen and Heptagon will supply monitoring components.
Apple declined to comment on the reports.
Research firm Juniper Research in December predicted "smart wearable device" shipments including smart watches and glasses will approach 130 million by 2018, 10 times higher than in 2013.
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