Rumors of an Apple smart watch have persisted since the start of 2013, and now yet another hint is suggesting Cupertino has wearable tech in its pipeline. According to a new report from Bloomberg, Apple recently filed a trademark for the term “iWatch” in Japan, adding fuel to speculation that has been mounting for months.
The Japan Patent Office’s documents, which were filed on June 3, reveal that this “iWatch” name pertains to products such as a handheld computer or watch device. This trademark filing comes months after sources reportedly told Bloomberg that Apple has a team of nearly 100 product designers working on a wrist-worn device back in February.
Apple is far from being the only company that may be planning to delve into the wearable tech business. Samsung, LG, Google and Microsoft are all rumored to launch wrist-worn mobile devices, and Sony just announced that its second-generation SmartWatch 2 will debut in September.
"Apple are renown for the innovation and unique perspectives it provides to new product types," said Joshua Flood, senior analyst with ABI Research. "I believe if Apple or Samsung or Google brought out a smart watch, the interest in the product type would be taken to a new level."
While Flood says that a smart watch from Apple, Samsung or Google could popularize the genre, Apple's App Store gives the company a specific advantage. According to Flood, iOS app revenues account for the majority of the app market-- an upper hand that can be used toward new apps aimed at smart watches.
"Users of iOS are far more likely to spend money for their apps," he said. "Thus, the company could easily leverage this for its smart accessories and unique apps for new wearable devices."
Reports that Apple may add a smart watch to the iOS family gained traction earlier this year when the company filed a patent for a “wearable accessory device” with a “flexible display coupled to a bi-stable spring.” The patent’s text never explicitly mentioned plans for a smart watch, but the description sounds suspiciously like one. In its claims, Apple writes that the device is meant to be “worn by an end user” and will have a “flat state and a curled state.” Not to mention, the images included in the patent filing bear resemblance to a smart watch.
If patents aren't convincing enough, Apple CEO Tim Cook hinted at Apple’s interest in the smart watch space at this year’s D11 conference in May.
“For something to work here, you have to convince people it’s so incredible you want to wear it,” Cook said on the topic of wearable tech.
The 52-year old Apple chief also said that wearable computing is an area of “profound interest,” but didn’t mention any plans to launch a smart watch. Apple's trademark filing comes just days after Foxconn, one of Apple's key component suppliers, demoed its own wearable device capable of connecting to iOS devices.