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Apple ‘iTime’ patent includes wristband sensors

Apple was granted a patent today for an electronic wristband that can be coupled to an electronic wristwatch. The wristband, which can interact with the watch, can include digital sensors, wireless hardware, and other electronics, and could respond to gestures such as shaking and tapping. Within separate embodiments of the patent, the watch could be integrated into the wristband, or the two pieces could be removably secured together. The device shows “iTime” on the watch face in one illustration.

The device is shown as being able to interact with a mobile phone, portable computer, and desktop computer. This new patent, which was filed in 2011, is simpler than Apple’s other well-known “wearable accessory device” patent published last year. [via Apple Insider]

Apple hires two FuelBand engineers

Apple has hired two more engineers who worked on Nike’s FuelBand, 9to5Mac reports. As confirmed by their LinkedIn pages, mechanical design engineer Ryan Bailey and sensing systems engineer Jon Gale have joined Apple. The report notes Bailey’s wearable experience and Gale’s firmware experience with the FuelBand, both as relating to the iWatch, though their specific responsibilities at Apple are somewhat ambiguous. Although the iWatch is expected to debut in October, it appears that Apple is still hiring recently to assist with the device’s development. The company also hired Patrick Pruniaux, former VP of sales and retail for TAG Heuer, last month.

Apple hires TAG Heuer exec, reportedly plans to market iWatch as “Swiss made”

CNBC news reports that Apple has hired the sales director of luxury Swiss watch maker TAG Heuer to work with the company on the launch of the iWatch, according to a statement from Jean-Claude Biver, head of TAG Heuer’s parent company. Biver notes that Apple reportedly plans to use the prestigious “Swiss made” label to market the iWatch, and that the TAG Heuer sales director left within the last week “to take a contract with Apple.” [via 9to5Mac]

Update: 9to5Mac reports that the “sales director” in question is Patrick Pruniaux, former Vice-President of Sales and Retail for TAG Heuer, and was hired late last month according to a “source familiar with the hire.” Apple apparently also tried to hire several other employees from TAG Heuer, although Pruniaux was the only employee who actually made the move.

Report: Apple using pro athletes to test iWatch fitness features

Apple is reportedly using professional athletes to put its iWatch fitness features to the test in “intense training environments,” according to 9to5Mac. Athletes involved are said to include Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings, and an unnamed Boston Red Sox player, among others. Bryant was notably spotted on Apple’s campus last month with his wife. It’s unknown whether the athletes were brought in only for testing the device, or if they’ll also be involved in iWatch marketing purposes. The most recent report on the iWatch claims the device will have more than 10 sensors, including health and fitness sensors.

WSJ: iWatch to come in multiple designs, have 10+ sensors

A new report from the Wall Street Journal claims Apple’s iWatch will likely be available in multiple screen sizes. Also according to sources, “The new wrist device from Apple will include more than 10 sensors including ones to track health and fitness.” Additional reporting from Chinese website Laoyaoba states that some of these sensors will monitor heart rate, blood glucose, and blood pressure, and that Apple is awaiting FDA approval on the device. By the end of the year, shipments of the unannounced product are expected to total between 10 million and 15 million.  A Thursday report only claimed the iWatch would feature a 2.5” slightly rectangular display, wireless charging, and a pulse sensor.

Report: iWatch to feature 2.5” screen, wireless charging, pulse sensor

Taiwan’s Quanta Computer will start mass producing Apple’s iWatch next month, and the device will reportedly feature a 2.5” “slightly rectangular” display, touch interface, wireless charging capabilities, and a sensor that monitors a user’s pulse, according to Reuters. The report claims that “the watch face will protrude slightly from the band, creating an arched shape.” A previous report noted the device would have a curved OLED touchscreen. Reuters notes that LG Display, which is already capable of producing curved OLED screens, will be the exclusive initial supplier for the watch’s screen. Corroborating past reports, Reuters claims the iWatch launch could occur “as early as October.” Apple declined comment.

Report: iPhone 6 may include barometer, air pressure sensors

Apple’s iPhone 6 could contain a barometer and air pressure sensors, according to 9to5Mac. The report claims that new references within Xcode 6 and iOS 8 are dedicated to altitude tracking and will require new Apple hardware. It’s possible that altitude tracking abilities might be incorporated in the new iPads and iWatch, as well. Barometer hardware could track altitude more quickly and accurately than current altitude-measuring apps that work based on GPS and motion chips. References to ambient pressure tracking were also found within iOS 8, meaning that other air pressure sensors within new devices could alert users to changes in the weather.

FOIA request reveals Apple, FDA medical sensor discussion

Apple and the FDA discussed Apple’s interest in including medical sensors in mobile devices, according to a report from Apple Toolbox, which filed a Freedom of Information Act request to gain insight into Apple’s December meeting with the FDA. The response notes that “[w]ith the potential for more sensors on mobile devices, Apple believes there is the opportunity to do more with devices, and that there may be a moral obligation to do more.” It’s also explained that while sensors would not necessarily mean a device must be reviewed by the FDA, the FDA would likely regulate any software that uses those sensors for medical purposes.

A glucometer, which measures blood sugar level, was cited as a specific example — it would be regulated if the software was marketed toward diabetics, under the label of diagnostic software. If only used to monitor blood sugar for nutritional reasons, a glucometer could be unregulated. Apple also received guidance for Mobile Medical Apps, which was likely a stand-in name for the company’s now announced HealthKit. The FDA noted that “Apple will work closely with FDA as they develop future products.” It’s widely believed Apple will include biometric sensors in its upcoming iWatch.

Report: iWatch to have October launch, curved OLED touchscreen

Apple’s rumored iWatch will launch in October with a curved OLED touchscreen, Nikkei Asian Review reports. The report, which only refers to the device as “a wearable health-monitoring device” and “watch-like wearable gear,” claims iWatch will run on iOS 8 and use biometric sensors to collect health data. Apple plans on selling 3-5 million units monthly, and the company has partnerships with the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic “to develop specific ways of analyzing the collected data and applying it to actual health management.” It’s also reported that Apple and Nike have “likely” agreed to integrate their services, which is not unexpected — Nike has stopped production of its FuelBand fitness tracker, which would have been a competitor.

Update: Re/code is corroborating the Nikkei report, claiming that Apple does indeed plan on scheduling a special event for its wearable device in October.

Swatch plans to fight Apple for ‘iWatch’ name

Swiss watchmaker Swatch plans on fighting Apple on the iWatch trademark, Watson reports. Swatch has its own watch series called the iSwatch. “We assess the likelihood of confusion as given, the marks are confusingly similar. In all countries where the mark is registered, we go against it before,” Swatch Group head of corporate communications Serena Chiesura said in a statement. Though the name of Apple’s rumored smart watch is technically still unknown, the company has reportedly applied to register the iWatch name in a number of countries. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple mulls new App Store-style health and fitness platform

Apple has “aspirations beyond wearable devices” within the health realm, as the company is looking at creating “a full health and fitness services platform modeled on its apps store,” Reuters reports. A source passed on the information after reportedly meeting with an executive member of the iWatch team. The report notes that a health platform modeled after the App Store may create a space for startups to release their own mobile medical applications. Apple has hired a number of biomedical experts in the past year, one of those being former Masimo Corporation chief medical officer Michael O’Reilly. Masimo CEO Joe Kiani said Apple is offering their new hires large salaries, but little information about the work they’ll be doing. “They are just buying people,” Kiani said. “I just hope Apple is not doing what we’re doing.”

iWatch: LG to supply flexible displays, September release?

LG Display will be the sole supplier of flexible displays for Apple’s upcoming iWatch, according to South Korea’s Digital Times. It’s reported that Apple plans on bringing the device to the market in September. As previously reported, the Digital Times article claims Apple will release the iWatch in two different sizes — separate models with a 1.3” and 1.5” display, respectively. A previous Korean report claimed LG Chem would supply stepped lithium-ion batteries to Apple for the iWatch.

New iPads to have Touch ID, A8?

A new research note claims the new iPad Air and Retina iPad mini to be released this year will both come with Touch ID, and an A8 processor. The note comes from KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has a mixed track record on new Apple products. Though the idea that Apple would include Touch ID in new iPad models is far from surprising. Kuo also believes the new iPad Air will contain an 8MP camera. Few details about new iPads have emerged this year, suggesting any updates will likely be minor. Kuo also released a product roadmap suggesting mostly second half releases of new Apple products, along with the unlikely idea that the most expensive iWatch model will cost thousands of dollars. [via MacRumors]

Report: Apple attempting to hire Swiss watchmakers

Apple is trying to lure top Swiss watchmakers away from their companies to work on the iWatch, the Financial Times reports. Jean-Claude Biver, president of LVMH’s watches and jewelry division, said Apple has tried to recruit staff from Hublot and parts manufacturers. “Apple has contacted some of my employees — I saw the emails personally,” he said, noting none of those employees accepted an offer from the Cupertino company. Apple declined comment.

Swatch chief executive Nick Hayek said his company has been contacted by “practically all players” in “smart wearables,” but said, “However, we see no reason why we should enter into any partnership agreement.” According to the report, Hayek seeks to “protect Swatch’s intellectual property advantages over tech rivals, including ergonomic design, longevity and battery life.”

Healthbook app may monitor heart rate, hydration, blood sugar, more

Apple’s upcoming Healthbook app may track users’ heart rate, hydration, blood pressure, blood sugar, sleep, and more, according to a new in-depth look from 9to5Mac. The article offers “complete recreations of screenshots” which appear to answer numerous questions as to what Apple is testing in health and fitness tracking. Bloodwork, oxygen saturation, and blood sugar sections of the app will monitor a user’s blood. Apple could also track hydration and respiratory rate using Healthbook, as well as sleep cycles.

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As one might expect, Healthbook will also be used in fitness tracking, to examine weight, activity, and nutrition. An Emergency Card section would store vital health information that can be used be a doctor or emergency technician in times of health crisis. It’s unknown how Healthbook will acquire the data, though the iPhone, iWatch, and third-party apps or devices could all contribute information. Healthbook could be released with iOS 8, but the report notes—likely for cautionary purposes only—that the app “could be pushed back to a future operating system version or cancelled entirely.”

Report: Apple working to expand Siri functionality for iWatch

Apple is working to expand Siri’s capabilities, including greater third-party integration, according to The Information. The report claims the Siri upgrades are being done with the iWatch in mind. These changes would allow Siri to offer more functionality by connecting to services and apps from third parties. It’s also noted that Siri’s search is being improved, and Apple is working on a way to dynamically decide which information should be displayed on a device with a smaller screen, such as the iWatch. In one given example, a running app could move to the foreground of the device’s screen when the user starts to jog. [via TechCrunch]

Reports: Apple has talked with Tesla, Basis Science

According to recent reports, Apple has spoken to a few companies, possibly regarding acquisitions. Apple’s mergers and acquisitions chief Adrian Perica reportedly spoke to Tesla CEO Elon Musk “last Spring.” Both Tesla and Apple declined comment, though it has been speculated that the companies might collaborate in some way on a domestic rechargeable battery production facility. The same report noted that Apple is exploring “sensor technology that can help predict heart attacks.” Apple audio engineer Tomlinson Holman, the inventor of THX and 10.2 surround sound, is “exploring ways to predict heart attacks by studying the sound blood makes as it flows through arteries.” Such a technology would likely come into play in Apple’s iWatch, if at all — a recent report suggested that iWatch sensors won’t be as advanced as some expect.

Another report notes Basis Science, maker of the Basis Health Tracker Watch, has spoken to companies including Apple and Google about a potential sale. Considering that Apple is working on its own fitness tracking watch, if the company had any prospective interest in Basis, it would likely involve incorporating the watch’s tracking technology into its own upcoming device. A Basis representative said the company doesn’t comment on “rumor or speculation.” [via San Francisco Chronicle, TechCrunch]

Report details Apple iWatch tech, ‘Healthbook’ limits

According to a new report from MobiHealthNews, Apple currently has more than 200 people working on the iWatch, but the smartwatch will be a peripheral device that relies on an iPhone connection for full functionality, rather than intended as a purely standalone product. Qualifying rather than contradicting an earlier 9to5Mac story detailing potential iWatch features, the report notes that sensors in the iWatch may not be as advanced or numerous as some expect, with simpler measurements concentrated on displaying accurate, “real metrics like calories,” rather than abstract Nike Fuel numbers, and a lower likelihood of features such as integrated hydration measurement.

Exercise, diet, sleep, stress, and medication adherence are all believed to be targeted by the device, which will aim to bring meaningful health tracking to the masses. It’s believed Apple that is planning on keeping the iWatch and rumored “Healthbook” app — which may have a different name — unregulated by the FDA, which was the crux of the company’s recent meeting with the agency. In order to avoid FDA regulation, Apple would have to report measured health statistics without analysis.

Cook: Apple not against big acquisitions, new categories coming

Contrary to its history, Apple is not opposed to making big acquisitions, CEO Tim Cook told the Wall Street Journal. “We’ve looked at big companies,” Cook said. “We have no problem spending 10 figures for the right company, for the right fit that’s in the best interest of Apple in the long-term. None. Zero.” The report juxtaposes Apple’s history of making smaller acquisitions with Google’s recent $3.2 billion purchase of Nest, a company founded by “Father of the iPod” Tony Fadell that has hired a large number of other ex-Apple employees.

Cook also reiterated in the interview that Apple will enter new categories this year. “There will be new categories. We’re not ready to talk about it, but we’re working on some really great stuff,” Cook said. The most obvious thought is that, as rumored, Apple will release the iWatch this year — though Cook’s use of “categories” suggests another new type of product could also be on the way.

Also in the interview, Cook revealed Apple has bought back $14 billion in stock since reporting its financial results about two weeks ago. Cook said the company was “surprised” by its 8 percent decline in shares since Jan. 28. Apple has now bought back more than $40 billion of its shares during the past week. “It means that we are betting on Apple. It means that we are really confident on what we are doing and what we plan to do,” he said.

Apple seeks physiologists in job listing

An Apple job listing seeking physiologists is the first official sign from the company that it’s looking to move into the health realm. The job listing — which was posted earlier today and has since been removed from Apple’s website — seeks a “user studies exercise physiologist” to “design and run user studies related to cardiovascular fitness and energy expenditure.” Although numerous reports have noted Apple is going in a health-related direction with its iWatch — including reports that Apple has hired experts from the medical field — this is the first signal that’s come directly from Apple. A recent report claimed iOS 8 and a new app with the codename “Healthbook” would be designed with iWatch in mind. [via 9to5Mac]

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