Innovative iWatch with curved glass could vault Apple to the front of wearable computer parade

by David Needle

February 11 2013

Apple, led by its late cofounder Steve Jobs, wasn’t always first to market, but it unquestionably popularized many technologies created by others. There were smartphones before the iPhone and tablets before the iPad, but it was Apple that gave these devices truly mass appeal.

Could the watch be next?

A number of reports say Apple is busy working on an iWatch, a wristwatch device made of curved glass that would run the company’s iOS software. 

The New York Times reported its sources say such a device is being built by Apple, but didn’t have many other details.

One thing is assured, Apple doesn’t do me-too products and such a device would surely do a lot more than tell time.

It could for example include a version of Apple’s Siri mobile assistant you could easily consult with a secret agent-like whisper to your hand.

The NYT wonders aloud if it might include an improved version of Apple’s Map software giving you real-time directions. It might also be able to receive text messages, monitor your health or be used to make mobile payments, with Apple’s Passbook payment software.

Forbes had perhaps the most ironic idea in its list of features that would make an iWatch “a killer product”: 

  • iWatch can tell me where my mobile devices are.

Ahead of the curve

As for the rumors of “curved glass” the technology is very real. Corning, which makes the Gorilla Glass used in the iPhone and many other mobile devices, has created a bendable glass called Willow Glass that the company says can flop as easily as a piece of paper in the wind without breaking.

Pete Bocko, the CTO at Corning Glass Technologies, worked on Willow Glass. He told the Times it’s been under development for more than a decade and is finally ready.

“You can certainly make it wrap around a cylindrical object and that could be someone’s wrist,” Mr. Bocko said. “Right now, if I tried to make something that looked like a watch, that could be done using this flexible glass.”

Addressing emerging markets

In a report last month, well-known Apple watcher Gene Munster said:

“We believe technology could progress to a point where consumers have a tablet plus wearable computers, like watches or glasses, that enable simple things like voice calls, texting, quick searches, navigation.”

Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, added: “These devices are likely to be cheaper than an iPhone and could ultimately be Apple’s best answer to addressing emerging markets.”

Analyst Tim Bajarin said recently that he believes Apple is the company best-suited to finally deliver the kind of Dick Tracy watch that first appeared in comics 60 years ago. 

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