Out of nowhere comes the granted patent surprise of the year. Apple has been granted a patent for iTime, the name they provided for a wristwatch. It's very different from Apple's first wrist-computer or iWatch in every way. It's simpler and more watch-like. Apple notes that it will work with gestures and specialized push notifications and alerts. Whether this is a head-fake or the real thing is unknown at this time.
Apple's Patent Background
Portable electronic devices are commonplace today. Some examples of portable electronic devices include portable digital assistants, portable media players, mobile telephones, and portable game players. In some cases these portable electronic devices can be carried by a user with relative ease, placed in a pocket of user's clothing, or clipped onto the user or the user's clothing. Some portable electronic devices are small enough to be worn by a user. One example of a portable electronic device is a highly portable media players, such as an iPod Nano. Another example of a portable electronic device is an electronic watch.
Additionally, accessories have been utilized to provide additional functionality to portable electronic devices. Typically, accessories are small electrical products that can attach to a portable electronic device, such as through an external electrical connection port or through a short-range wireless connection.
One example of an accessory is a wireless headset that can wirelessly connect to the portable electronic device to provide hands-free usage. Another example of an accessory is an FM receiver provided as a small electrical product that can be attached to a portable electronic device via a cable, which is useful when the portable electronic device does not already include a FM receiver. Still another example of an accessory is a wireless data capture device.
There are, however, continuing needs to make portable electronic devices smaller and more portable. There is also a continuing need to enhance functionalities of portable electronic devices.
Apple Wins a Patent for a Wristwatch
Apple's invention pertains to a smartwatch which is often referred to as an electronic wristwatch or an electronic wristband. In one embodiment, the electronic device can be a mobile electronic device that can be removably coupled to the electronic wristband.
Advantageously, the electronic device can utilize the additional electrical circuitry or devices provided within the electronic wristband to augment its capabilities. In another embodiment, the electronic device can be integrally formed within the electronic wristband.
The invention may be implemented in numerous ways, including, but not limited to, a system, device, apparatus or method.
As an electronic wristband to be worn on a wrist of a user, one embodiment of the invention can, for example, include at least a central portion and at least one band portion.
The central portion can have a receptacle area configured to receive a mobile electronic device (and different ones at that). The mobile electronic device can include a display and be independently useable apart from the electronic watchband.
In Apple's patent FIG. 1 noted below we're able to see a perspective view of an electronic wristband or smartwatch.
Apple notes that the center portion, noted as patent point #102 above, can be formed of various different materials. For example, the material can include any one or more of rubber, silicone, plastic, Mylar and/or vinyl.
The Smartwatch's Interchangeable Center Portion
Apple's patent FIG. 2 noted below is a front view of the smartwatch or electronic wristband. In one embodiment, the center portion can be configured to receive a mobile electronic device. In theory, Apple could sell different interchangeable components. One removable component could be health-centric while another for general computing. Who knows what else Apple may be dreaming up.
Apple notes that the changeable component, noted as #208 below, can be removably secured to the center portion by one or more methods including detents, connectors, recesses, magnets, hook and loop materials, latches, etc.
In another embodiment, the mobile electronic device can be integral with the center portion. In either case, the mobile electronic device can include a display (#210) for output of information to a user. In one implementation, the display can be a touch-sensitive display that can not only output information to a user but can also receive inputs from the user.
The electronic wristband can also include an audio receptacle for receiving an audio jack (#212). The audio jack can be associated with a speaker and/or microphone, such as an earphone or headset, for audio output or pickup.
Apple notes that one information exchange facilitated by the personal wireless environment is a notification (or alert) that is initiated by one electronic device to a nearby electronic wristband (e.g., electronic wristband #402).
In one implementation, the electronic wristband can receive a notification request from another nearby electronic device, such as an iPhone. Typically, a user would be carrying or wearing the electronic wristband and their iPhone. The notification request can be received (via wire or wirelessly) at the electronic wristband and can cause the electronic wristband to notify the user. In general, the notification request can be considered a push notification from another electronic device to the electronic wristband
As one example, the notification request can cause the electronic wristband to activate a haptic device, an audio device and/or a display device of the electronic wristband to signal the user of the notification. Once the user is notified, the user can in some cases view additional information pertaining to the notification via the display device or hear additional information pertaining to the notification via the audio device (e.g., a speaker).
In some cases, the user can also further interact with the electronic wristband to respond to the notification. For example, if the notification alerts the user of an incoming phone call on their smartwatch, the user will be able to accept or decline the incoming call. Hence, advantageously, the user can use the electronic wristband as a remote Input/Output (I/O) interface.
Apple further notes that an incoming phone call, a text message, a social network post, weather alerts, stock alerts, calendar alters or a news feed directed to the user's iPhone will be pushed to the smartwatch.
Remote User Controls
Besides information exchange, an electronic wristband will be able to be used to provide remote user controls to a user. For example, the smartwatch will allow the user to control their music as if it were an iPod.
It Alert's the user if the Watch is out of Range
Apple describes another feature that's interesting in that the smartwatch will be able to alert the user if the watch is going out of range. For example, if you took off your smartwatch to wash your hands and forgot to put the watch back on, when leaving the washroom area, your iPhone would then notifiy you that your watch is no longer in range. In effect, telling you that you left your watch somewhere - in this case the washroom.That's pretty cool.
Near-Field Antenna, GPS, Accelerometer
In Apple's patent FIG. 5 noted above we're able to see is a cross-sectional side view of Apple's iTime smartwatch and some of its components. Notably, we're able to see a Bluetooth antenna (#520) and the near-field antenna (#522). There's also an audio port (#524), an accelerometer (#524) and a Global Positioning System (GPS) antenna (#526). The accelerometer and the GPS antenna can be electrically coupled to the portable electronic device via the connector.
Arm and Wrist Gestures
Another aspect of Apple's invention pertains to using the smartwatch with new wrist or arm gestures. For example, once a notification request is received on the smartwatch, the user can end the notification with a wrist gesture. The electronic wristband can also seek a response to a notification. In one embodiment, the smarwatch can monitor one or more sensors to detect a user gesture with the user's arm or wrist. For example, the sensors can include an accelerometer and/or gyroscope. Typically, the sensors are digital sensors.
More specifically, the gesture can correspond to specific movements of a user's wrist or arm can vary with implementation. For example, the gesture might be a horizontal movement to decline an incoming call or might be a vertical movement to accept an incoming call.
Another gesture might be a single shake of the user's wrist to accept an incoming call or a pair of shakes to decline an incoming call.
Apple credits Albert Golko, Mathias Schmidt and Felix Alvarez as the inventors of granted patent 8,787,006 which was filed for in July 2011 and granted to Apple by USPTO today.
Side Note: According to a new report from market research firm DisplaySearch, global smartwatch shipments will likely to reach 8.85 million units this year and 32.57 million units next year. That's pathetically low but understandable without an Apple smartwatch model on the market. However, should Apple decide to enter the ring, I strongly suspect that Apple would be able to crush that forecast. Time will tell.
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