Published: May 9, 2014
The Apple rumor industry is a-buzz about a new device. Within the swirl of rumors, it appears obvious and definitive to the average rumor follower what this new iDevice will be. We’ve been promised a new device category this year by none other than Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook himself, and smart watches are the hot item in 2014. So it must be a stylish watch, with a touch screen, that will pair with an iPhone and whose main purpose it to extend its master’s functionality with some biometric sensors thrown in to justify the purchase. Or maybe not.
It’s easy to forget that no one outside of Apple actually knows any of this. Unlike Apple products that follow well-defined release cycles, like the long rumored iPhone 6, there have been no leaks of schematics or factory machine dies. So why assume this new device is an iWatch, why assume it is even a watch?
Apple is known for long internal development cycles using layers of secrecy and obfuscation within it’s own organization. This makes product prediction very difficult, as even Apple’s own board often doesn’t know what’s in the works. But it also allows them to maneuver and maintain the agility to incorporate technology as it comes to age and push aside product development until a product is feasible without sacrificing its original goal.
This long development cycle gives their engineers and designers time to create the perfect product over years of development without breaking promises to future customers. It has the added advantage of leaving the rumor mill scrambling for something to cover and their competitors scrambling to keep up with whatever crazy ideas the rumor mill has announced as Apple’s.
Assuming the new category takes the same development path as the iPhone, it’s highly unlikely more than a handful of people have seen the new iDevice. The developers may be writing the software using prototypes that only approximate the power of the device, and only getting their first real glimpse when the product is announced on stage.
Here’s What We Know About Apple’s Rumored Next Device
In following Apple rumors since before the days of OS X’s release, we’ve watched the rumor mill around Apple grow and with it the predictions have become ever more ridiculous in an attempt to garner page views. With this comes a lot of conjecture and it can be difficult for the average Apple rumor mill reader to filter out.
To determine Apple’s new product category, we have to start with what we actually know or think we know, which again is close to nothing. Here’s the buzz:
- Apple is hiring biometric experts; reason to assume that biometrics is a part of the new product category, but is it the new product category? Is Apple looking to enter the medical industry? Apple is also hiring or buying up companies with mapping and voice technology, is it related?
- They are attempting to hire away watchmakers from well-known brands. But is it for their watch expertise? Its unlikely Apple’s watch will have moving parts, so perhaps their interest is in the watchmakers’ experience making tiny things function?
- It will run the same iOS we’re familiar using with iPhones and iPads. This is a given, Apple isn’t going to create yet another platform for developers to tackle.
- It will aid in tracking health. A health book it all but confirmed, but what if that’s only one part of a larger feature set? It could also be the natural step to the motion sensor introduced with the iPhone 5s’ M7 coprocessor.
- The new device will utilize a sapphire touch display. Apple isn’t a big fan of buttons. The company has also setup a factory in Arizona to create a lot of sapphire crystal. But is it for their unannounced device? All indicators point towards it being far too expensive to be used in larger screen sizes found in iPhones. Sapphire is also the material of choice for high-end watches.
- There are several different rumors of new sensors like ambient or skin temperature, heart rate monitoring, oxygen sensors and even glucose testing. While most of the sensors described are possible, it’s not clear if it’s feasible to include them all while still remaining a useful, touchable, and wearable device.
- The device will be capable of lasting for multiple days given standard usage, before requiring a recharge. The iPad can also last weeks in standby mode, so it’s not unreasonable to expect that here as well. Apple has a proven track record of pushing the boundaries of battery technology by tightly controlling the hardware and software for its devices.
- Rumors suggest the screen will come in two sizes 1.3 and 1.5 inches. But is that too small? We would expect 1.7 inches at minimum, but the screen is the biggest battery drain on any mobile device.
- The new device will contain a custom Apple processor. There have been no credible leaks about what this processor might be, it could be something unique but it could also be a reimagining of an older design. With biometrics on the table, it’s very likely a coprocessor similar to the M7 (used to measure motion data in the A7) will be included.
- Apple will use Lower Energy Bluetooth (a.k.a BLE). This is already supported by many Apple devices. But will there be other antennas? Avoiding WiFi and LTE antennas will allow for extended battery life.
So, Is It A Watch?
Smart watches have been declared the hot new devices for 2014 (and 2013) so it must be a watch, right? Apple is known for always jumping into the hottest new trends or maybe that’s their competitors. The problem is, now that smart watches have entered the market, they have failed to gain much traction. Perhaps they aren’t quite as hot as predicted.
Another company announcing even a hint of their entrance into the smart watch market still makes the daily headlines, it is clear that most released devices aren’t living up to snuff, as they tend to sit in their owner’s sock drawer rather than on their wrist. This is leading many to point out the mismatch of the engineering versus user’s expectations. Also, with the release of each new device, another platform is added to the mix leading third party software developers waiting for a leader to emerge. Regardless, companies continue to throw new devices at consumers in a vain attempt to gain first place.
Most companies don’t have the dedicated followers that Apple has making it almost impossible for them to resist the urge to throw every feature at a device. Apple has a proven track record and doesn’t need to offer ten or twenty models of the same product to lead a market. This is often attributed to their concern with hitting a broad user-base with general needs, even if they don’t know they have the need yet, but the logic is more subtle. People like simple things; they don’t like to be confused by unwanted features.
With their methodology seemingly so different and everything happening behind several closed doors, the question remains. Is Apple in the intricate process of developing yet another smart watch? The tech giant is known for taking its time rather than the throw-everything-in-the-air-and-see-what-floats approach taken by their competition. So while smart watches are the hot topic, we have our doubts that this is what Apple is preparing. Stay tuned for what we think this new iDevice will be.