Friday, February 22, 2013

Newly published patent application seems to point to an Apple iWatch

Rumors of an iWatch heated up on Thursday. A patent application, which was filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in August of 2011 but published on Feb. 21, titled "Bi-Stable Spring With Flexible Display" points straight at an Apple smartwatch.

The patent application describes a flexible touch-screen device that can display information. One of the drawings shows the device being worn around the wrist, in an iWatch mode, but the application said the device can be worn in any location, as a sort of slap wrap or slap bracelet.

In fact, the application doesn't specifically refer to the device as a smartwatch at all. Slap bracelets, Wikipedia says,
... is a bracelet consisting of layered, flexible stainless steel bistable spring bands sealed within a fabric or plastic cover. The bracelet can be straightened out, making tension within the springy metal bands. The straightened bracelet is then slapped against the wearer's forearm, causing the bands to spring back into a curve that wraps around the wrist, securing the bracelet to the wearer.
The slap bracelet was invented by Wisconsin teacher Stuart Anders and sold under the brand name "Slap Wrap." Fortunately for Apple, it appears that the patent on that design has expired based on USPTO information.

Despite the device's "slapiness," it sounds a great deal like a smartwatch. The patent says:
With a touch screen user input a user can accomplish a number of different tasks including adjusting the order of a current playlist, and reviewing a list of recent phone calls. A response to a current text message can even be managed given a simple virtual keyboard configuration across the face of the flexible display.
The iWatch, or iBand would use wi-fi or Bluetooth -- we'd guess Bluetooth would be both easier and better in terms of battery life -- to communicate with another portable device, presumably an iPhone or iPad, to display real-time information on the screen.

An integrated accelerometer or gyroscope would arrange the information so that it faces the user properly no matter how the device is worn. The patent describes the inclusion of a "kinetic energy gathering device," presumably to trickle charge the battery which would necessarily be of limited size. A solar panel array is also mentioned.

It should be noted that a) a patent has not yet been awarded, and b) a patent doesn't necessarily mean a product will be created using it. That being said, numerous rumors about an Apple iWatch have arisen in the past couple of months.

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