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A combination of rumours and Apple’s own activities suggest an impending smartwatch release.
It's been a few years since Apple released a game-changing product, and though revolutionary new products aren't subject to traditional product cycles, there is an ever-increasing abundance of evidence that a new Apple product category may be coming soon.
Of course, I'm referring to Apple's mythical smartwatch initiative, which many have referred to as the "iWatch." While it remains to be seen just what type of features an iWatch would house, here is why I feel strongly that such a product is, in fact, in Apple's product pipeline.
Tim Cook is interested in wearable technology
During a 2013 interview at All Things D, Tim Cook opened up about all things wearable. While understandably firing a few jabs at Google Glass, Cook noted that wearable technology is a "profoundly interesting" area that constitutes a "very important branch of the tree." Tellingly, Cook also added that the wrist as a spot for a wearable device is "interesting."
Reputable sources are weighing in
Apple rumors are a dime a dozen, but when reputable sites like the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and The New York Times all weigh in, it's worth paying attention. In early 2013, all three publications indicated that Apple was working on an iWatch project. Bloomberg initially said the iWatch team was about 100 employees strong, a figure which has since reportedly grown to 200.
Apple has some of its top people working on the device
Given the caliber of Apple employees rumored to be working on the iWatch, it stands to reason that the project is very real and is being geared for production. In other words, this appears to be much deeper than a research and development initiative. Some Apple employees believed to have contributed to the iWatch include Jony Ive, Bob Mansfield, and Apple Senior Director of Engineering James Foster.
Apple has aggressively hired biomedical experts
Over the past 18 months, Apple has hired a number of employees with vast experience in the biomedical field. This, of course, lends credence to reports that the iWatch will be able to monitor an assortment of health vitals.
Apple has already filed a number of patents regarding wearable technologies, including one from August 2011 detailing a curved wearable screen with a flexible display.
Wearable technologies is an exploding field
It's no secret that Apple likes to enter a product category somewhat late in the game. Not concerned with being first, Apple prefers to be the best. We saw it with the iPod, the iPhone, and we may see it soon with the iWatch. Wearable technological products like the Nike Fuelband and the Jawbone are exploding in popularity, with some analysts believing the field is poised to experience astronomical growth in the coming years.
Jony Ive is a watch aficionado
Jony Ive has always had a keen interest in wristwatches, according to a March 2013 Bloomberg report. Notably, Ive once asked Nike Creative Director Scott Wilson to send over a "ton of Nike Presto Digital Bracelets and the aluminum Oregon Series Alti-Compass watches," the report claimed. These reportedly weren't for personal use, however, as Apple's materials experts soon "followed up with many questions on the materials and processes."
Apple filed for iWatch trademark in Japan
In July of 2013, news emerged claiming Apple had filed for an "iWatch" trademark in Japan. While companies certainly file for trademarks all the time, sometimes as defensive measures, it's hard to ignore this move given all of the other circumstantial evidence.
Apple is investing heavily in Sapphire
Apple today has a well-known business partnership with GT Advanced Technologies to produce sapphire. While this may end up on the iPhone 6, keep in mind that many high-end watches utilize sapphire because it's nearly impossible to scratch, being the second hardest substance on the planet behind diamonds.
Apple has reportedly met with the FDA three times
Apple has reportedly sent senior executives to meet with the FDA three times in the past few years, with the most recent trip occurring this past December. This, of course, led some to speculate that an iWatch will be a health-oriented and sensor-laden device. Still, others speculated that the meetings intended to ensure that the iWatch can be released without being subject to FDA regulation.
Apple has hired fitness and sleep experts
Adding to the narrative that Apple is working on a sensor-heavy iWatch, it's worth noting that Apple has reportedly hired several fitness and sleep experts for the initiative. Most notably, Apple reportedly hired fitness guru and consultant Jay Blahnik, who previously worked on the Nike Fuelband.
Tim Cook has promised new product categories
Tim Cook recently told the Wall Street Journal that the company is planning to enter new product categories in 2014. "There will be new categories," Cook said, "and we're working on some great stuff...I think no one reasonable would say they're not a new category."