A patent application filed by Apple three years ago and approved today illustrates a new twist on the iWatch concept: a sensor-packed strap acting as a dock which allows a range of interchangeable modules to be snapped into place.

9to5-image 2014-07-22 at 10.49.53 AMIt’s not anything we’re likely to see make it into production: the docking concept dates back to 2011, and was probably intended by Apple to house an iPod Nano, converting it into a smartwatch in a more sophisticated version of the watch-straps sold in Apple Stores since way back in 2010. But the patent does tell us two things … 

First, Apple has been working on a smartwatch concept for a long time. Apple has always said that it believes in taking its time and launching a new product only when it is convinced it has everything right. While Wall Street has been impatiently demanding new product categories, Apple has been quietly working away behind the scenes on refining the idea.

Second, the focus on fitness and health has been there from the start: the patent describes the strap containing circuitry for things like a heartrate monitor and motion-sensor.


For both docking and standalone approaches, Apple describes how gestures could be used to control the device instead of taps and swipes.

The gesture might be a horizontal movement for one user input option (eg decline incoming call), and might be a vertical movement for another user input option (eg accept incoming call)

As ever, Apple patents give us few clues as to what to expect. The company that famously says no a thousand times for every yes patents everything imaginable and implements little of it. So while this will doubtless give fresh impetus to the rumor mill, don’t be surprised if the actual user-interface is a little more conventional.

We’ve heard plenty of iWatch rumors already, among them that it will come in three different models, in line with earlier suggestions of at least two different sizes, and that it will enter mass production in November. Morgan Stanley has suggested that the ecosystem and brand loyalty could see iWatch sales grow as fast as the iPhone or iPad.

As 9to5Mac has previously reported, Apple has assembled a team of health, fitness, and fashion experts to work on the project.


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27 Responses to “Apple patent granted today shows dockable ‘iTime’ watch concept as well as conventional smartwatch”

  1. “Apple has been quietly working away behind the scenes”

    Quietly? I wouldn’t say that with all the strategy leaks leading to rumors about the iWatch.


    • tuvatech says:

      Are you kidding me? They are working as quietly as possible. You didn’t hear much about the 1 gen iPhone or even the iPhone 3G because Apple wasn’t that big back then. There wasn’t many tech blogs that were trying to bribe someone into leaking some information. Obviously it was easier to keep things quiet back then. But consider this – Apple employees something like 700-800,000 people (either directly or indirectly). Could you really make sure that none of those people leaks anything? Of course not. It only takes 1 for the world to know everything about the new iPhone, iPad or whatever. So be realistic about this. :)


    • jrox16 says:

      Nothing of any substance has been leaked about the iWatch. The proof is that no one even knows for sure outside of Apple if it even exists. We have no idea what it will look like, what the interface will be, or what features it would have. Nothing… Everything we’ve heard is nothing more than tech blogger speculation based on current trends and Apple history and design philosophy.


  2. Just “copied” by watches SonyEricsson LiveView and SmartWatch 1. 2010 and 2011 @ C.E.S


  3. greg7147 says:

    I like the name “iTime”. I’m actually hoping to see an “iTime” announced rather than a “iWatch”.


  4. As Long as it doesn’t look like the drawing, I’m enthused. It has to look classy to work and this doesn’t look classy at all. Personally I don’t see anything that has a square screen really working at all in the “classy” department.


    • Think square but with somewhat rounded sides, I think this is what it will look like. Circular doesn’t make sense to me for what it does, and square or rectangular just look bad.


      • I know from a practical perspective that square or “rounded square” makes more sense for a display, but if they want it to be *fashionable,* it has to be round. There is no way it could be attractive, classy, stylish, etc. and be square. It won’t have mass market appeal unless it has a circular face.

        All classic watches are round (pocket watch, symbol for watch, Swatch, Timex, etc.). All the really cool, expensive watches are also round, (Rolex). More importantly, almost all women’s watches are round too.

        IMO any kind of square, (rounded or otherwise), immediately marks it as a “guy’s watch” and as “geek watch.” I think Apple probably understands this.


      • I wonder if they’ll be a “the shape was staring us right in the face, it’s the shape of an App icon!” woooo!


      • @mr grey ask yourself why watches are classically round. If you come up with a reason, I have hope for you (hint: it’s because it’s displaying time or a clock face, which is round). It can’t be square or rectangular and look decent, but with rounded sides it would look amazing with apple’s extremely great design and materials.

        A round watch would both be extremely informationally limiting, and also be doing something strictly because that’s what it has classically looked like, with absolutely no intelligent thought as to why that is or why it shouldn’t be that way. You don’t make a display which is telling you different information, round. It’s only been round because that’s the best way to display a clock face. Granted it would look fashionable in that you couldn’t tell that it wasn’t a regular watch, but you can make a new design fashionable, if you have great designers, and great materials.

        By the way, look at any fashion show and tell me you would wear the clothes you see, they’re almost all hideous and outrageous just because. Fashion and trends change all the time.

        Also a round watch is actually terrible for something which is a major use-case for this watch, and that of course is exercise. You don’t want to bend your wrist backwards very much with a round watch on, as it will dig into your hand and hurt badly. Multiple rumors have also said that it will have a curved display, which immediately eliminates the possibility of a round display, as no one with intelligent thought would make it round, and curved, it’s only necessary to curve it, if the display is somewhat long, so as to curve slightly with the contour of the wrist.

        There is of course the possibility that there could be two different styles, but I highly doubt that. One could be more focused on fitness, the other more focused on fashion, while both look amazing in their own right. Of course both would still track biometrics.


      • @o0smoothies0o: These comments are just opinions of course, but all I’m saying is that if they want the thing to sell to women, old, young, etc. instead of just a small set of male geeks, it has to look beautiful, cool, expensive, fashionable, etc. etc.

        All the watches in that category are round. That’s basically all I’m saying. How many guys with Rolexes are going to swap for some geeky Google-esque watch? None. How many women are going to wear some ugly, chunky, square thing around their wrist? None.

        I don’t see a square UI as being any real advantage over a round one considering the size either. Most interaction is going to be by gesture or voice for that reason. The screen is just a display.


      • @mr. Grey, Apple can make it something that isn’t geeky for sure, and I specifically said not square, I think square and rectangular look pretty much hideous. I’m talking flat top and bottom, with curved sides, id post a picture of what I mean, but I can’t, so just picture the parenthesis as the sides, and the top and bottom being straight: ( )

        That design for the display and it would be like 1.8″ diagonal, which is about perfect, especially when you consider some slight curvature. At that screen size it isn’t a huge looking awful device which is what they all currently look like, including the Moto. It has to be incredibly thin too, thinness is a huge part in making it look decent.


    • If I were to get a watch it would be square. Circle don’t say classy, it says old and boring. Not to mention a circle smart watch would kinda look weird compared to a square one. As long as its thin and comes in the same colors as the iPhone then it will appeal to the mass market.


  5. jrox16 says:

    Looking forward to Samsung commercials bashing the mysterious iWatch before it’s even announced, lol.


    • rahhbriley says:



    • I liked the screen size commercial because it literally confirmed that Samsung makes actions based on Apple rumors. I have no doubts now, that Samsung probably tried to throw some health stuff together strictly due to Apple rumors. Unfortunately for them, I’m pretty sure Apple’s will be so much more than they have/could do. I was also really embarrassed for them when they announced the heart rate monitor sensor on the, what was it S5? That is completely idiotic…the only way heart rate monitoring is useful, is if it is constant. In other words it needs to be monitored constantly by something attached to your body. Anyone can take their heart rate at any point in time, with a stopwatch or clock. They literally do things which are complete gimmicks.


      • herb02135go says:

        So, is the Samsung Galaxy S5 heart rate monitor a gimmick? By your own definition, it isn’t.

        Samsung already has its own fitness/health-related wearables. Please try to keep up when you are spouting such ridiculous comments.

        If Apple is putting a majority of its effort into fitness it will be mistaken.

        Any wearables will not be rounded. And they will be geared towards women, mostly.


      • Herb I’m gonna be honest, you’re too ignorant to even reply to. Some people are just too lacking in intelligence to understand certain things.


      • I’m 100% behind you, you’re correct.


  6. herb02135go says:

    So Apple patents things it never creates. Isn’t that what a patent troll does?


  7. ssanook says:

    Actually, I like the concept shown here. The sensors, if properly designed and precise should far outlast the watch portion of the iTime devise. So in theory you could continue to purchase and upgrade new technology watch modules while keeping the sensor and possibly the battery pack.

    Redefined for 2014 with sleek styling, this partial reusability and ease of upgrade could be a real selling point.