Apple preps smartwatch designs
The wrist device is reportedly scheduled to launch this fall and will be equipped with more than 10 sensors, including ones to track fitness.
By Eva Dou and Lorraine Luk, The Wall Street Journal
Apple (AAPL) is planning multiple versions of its smartwatch, likely to be launched in the fall, people familiar with the matter said, as the company tries to counter wearable devices from rivals such as Google (GOOG) and Samsung (SSNLF).
The new wrist device from Apple will include more than 10 sensors including ones to track health and fitness, these people said. Apple aims to address an overarching criticism of existing smartwatches that they fail to provide functions significantly different from that of a smartphone, said a person familiar with the matter.
Apple showed its interest in health and fitness-tracking last month with a new app called Health, designed to collect all of a user's fitness and health data in one spot. However, Apple didn't introduce its own device to collect that data, fueling speculation that the company would unveil a sensor-laden wearable device at a later date.
Apple's smartwatch could launch as early as October with production to begin in two to three months at Quanta Computer, a Taiwanese manufacturer that has long been Apple's supplier for Mac computers, said the people familiar with the matter. Quanta will begin some trial runs next month.
The smartwatch will likely come in multiple screen sizes, said one person familiar with the matter. Another person at a component supplier said shipments of the smartwatches are estimated to total between 10 million and 15 million units by the end of this year. The exact specifications of Apple's smartwatch are still being finalized before mass production starts, said people familiar with the matter.
Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook has pledged that the company will break into new product categories by the end of the year. Apple is under pressure to prove it can continue its run of hit products under Cook. It's been four years since Apple's last major new product release -- the iPad.
Analysts expect the wearable-devices market to take off in the next few years. Market research firm IDC estimates global sales of such devices will more than triple this year to more than 19 million units and swell to 111.9 million units by 2018.
Big technology companies including Google and Samsung are betting on a boom in wearable, computerized devices built around the growing power and slim size of sensors that can detect body temperatures, geographic locations and voice commands of people on the go.
Some of the new wearable gadgets, such as Nike's (NKE) FuelBand, measure physical activity. Others are intended to supplement functions of a smartphone, such as receiving text messages, taking photos or checking the weather. Startup Pebble Technology is selling a watch that syncs wirelessly with smartphones and vibrates to alert wearers to incoming phone calls, Twitter posts and emails.
"I expect Apple to launch multiple smartwatches that come with different designs as watches are fashion accessories. One design doesn't fill all," said KGI Securities analyst Ming-chi Kuo.
—Daisuke Wakabayashi in San Francisco contributed to this article.
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