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Summary:

While rumors of Apple looking into this category have circulated for a while, no really serious competitor had emerged with a superior, category-defining device. But that’s changing.

iWatch 2 concept

There’s more evidence that Apple is getting serious about building a smartwatch: In early June, the company filed for a trademark in Japan for “iWatch.” Bloomberg reports that the trademark was filed for “products including a handheld computer or watch device.”

The news of the filing comes several months after it was reported that Apple already had assembled a team of 100 designers, software and hardware engineers to work on its digital wristwatch with a “curved glass display.”

A smattering of earlier reports indicate that the iWatch may run iOS and have a pedometer and heart rate monitor, and the ability to make calls and check points on a map. But the big question is, when will this device arrive?

The patent filing doesn’t necessarily mean the launch is imminent. Apple probably grabbed the patent so it will be available when the launch is ready — which could be months from now. It also could have grabbed it so a competitor didn’t snag it first. After all, Apple is no stranger to serious issues with trademarks overseas.

While rumors of Apple looking into this category have circulated for a while, no really serious competitor has emerged with a category-defining device. But that’s likely to change pretty soon. Samsung is rumored to be building its own smartwatch, and just last week news hit that Google is working on an Android smartwatch for possible release later this year.

In March, it was reported that Apple’s watch project was on track for public release by the end of 2013. But CEO Tim Cook appeared to dash that hope in the spring, when he said there would be no new product categories coming until 2014.

Apple may or may not be the first of its mobile peers to build a smartwatch. But the wearable devices category is forecast to be a $1.5 billion industry by next year, and Apple tends to gauge its success by how much of the profits in each category it can devour.

  1. “Apple may or may not be the first of its mobile peers to build a smartwatch.”

    There are already plenty of smartwatches. Sony, certainly a “peer,” has had one for over a year. They’re not very good, sure, but Apple won’t be the first.

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  2. I hope Apple does well with this product, but they’re up against a major problem they may not realize. Quite a few people today, particularly young adults, use their smart phone instead of a watch. That means that Apple has a double sale to make. First it must convince them they need a watch again, and then that they need Apple’s likely to be pricey iWatch.

    In addition to athletes, this gadget will probably sell mostly to those like to be visibly cutting age, meaning those who’ll make it all too obvious to all around that they’re looking at an iWatch not just a watch. And given the high unemployment rates and dismal jobs that recent college graduates are getting, they’re unlikely to start any trend.

    That’s not even taking into account the growing gadget overload. I fly cross-country tomorrow, and I’m wondering why I have to carry two iPhones, a laptop and an iPad. That’s a lot of stuff to keep track of on the road and to remember to bring back with me. Adding an iWatch to that won’t make life any easier, even if it is strapped to my wrist.

    Perhaps our wired society is getting a bit too wired.

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    1. I completely agree. This will be the same debate people faced with the PalmPilot almost a decade ago. Do I take my mobile phone and PalmPilot or both? Even before smartphones were on the market people elected to leave the PalmPilot at home. The smartwatch is full of hype (https://medium.com/i-m-h-o/bbe7f71d945a) and Apple trademarking iWatch won’t help the situation.

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  3. this was actually informative – not like most of what i see online. sharing :)

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  4. anonymous howard Tuesday, July 2, 2013

    “The patent filing doesn’t necessarily mean the launch is imminent. Apple probably grabbed the patent so it will be available when the launch is ready-”

    Shouldn’t that read *trademark*?

    I realize that gigaom is unlikely to have made the article’s accompanying illustration, but I believe an iWatch would be more likely to use a biometric unlocking method than a “slide to unlock” mechanism.

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