Analysts have been warning for months now that Apple needs to come out with a new product if it wants to stay competitive. That call-to-action was underscored last week when Google announced the sale of its Motorola division to Lenovo, thereby automatically making the new Lenovo/Motorola entity the third largest smartphone player on the market.
Now it looks like Apple is getting serious about putting out new products and features—not just revamping existing products. Coincidentally timed just one week after Apple disappointed shareholders (again) by coming up short in its December quarter earnings, reports are now emerging about the long-awaited Apple iWatch.
The New York Times reported late Sunday night that Apple’s iWatch may come with solar charging or magnetic induction charging.
The Times pointed out that over the last few years, Apple has hired a number of engineers from Tesla, Toyota, and A123 Systems with experience in power technology and battery design. Last fall, Apple put up a job posting for engineers with experience in solar technology.
A source told the Times that the watch is likely to have a curved glass screen, and one idea is to put a solar charging layer directly in the screen. Apple previously experimented with solar-powered iPhones and iPods, but most people keep those devices in pockets and out of the sun.
Another power-charging method that’s currently on the table includes magnetic induction, which is currently used in Nokia phones and allows users to charge their device by putting it on a charging plate. The electric current in the plate creates a magnetic field, which charges the phone.
Phil Schiller has previously waved off the idea of magnetic induction charging for the iPhone and iPad by pointing out that it’s not really wireless charging since you have to plug the plate in to power it, which ultimately creates more hassle and problems.
Another method being discussed is movement-powered charging, which uses magnets that move along a circuit board when the user swings his or her arm while walking, thereby charging the watch.
The Times’ source says that all of these charging methods are “years away from becoming a reality,” which obviously means they’re not going to be present in any iWatch unveiled this year.
The iWatch could, however, have a health focus. The New York Times is reporting that Apple recently met with the FDA to discuss “mobile medical applications.” Meanwhile, 9to5 Mac has reported that Apple is going to bring a unique health focus to iOS 8 with “Healthbook,” which come with the usual monitors: calories burned, steps taken, miles walked, etc. Big deal. But here’s where Apple is going beyond just trying to build its own Fitbit or Basis: Healthbook will also be able to monitor the user’s vital signs, including heart rate, blood pressure, hydration, and possibly even blood data points like glucose levels.
Apple could of course build sensors into the next iPhone, but that still means users will have to consciously measure their vitals and data points, which automatically puts the iPhone at a disadvantage compared to wearables like Fitbit and Basis. The more likely scenario is that Healthbook will be uniquely designed for the iWatch.
And since iOS 8 is due out later this year, it seems reasonable to assume that the iWatch will make its debut around the same time.
Apple shares were up 1.3% Monday morning to $507.
Image source: todaysiphone