Apple's chief executive, Tim Cook, told the Wall Street Journal last week that 'There will be new categories. We’re not ready to talk about it, but we’re working on some really great stuff.'
It's not the first time that Cook has said publicly that Apple will launch something completely new in the near future. Last April he told investors that the company was working on a new category of product.
So what will the new product be? A year ago, many Apple-watchers would have put money on a TV set, or at least a new version of the company's favourite 'hobby,' it's Apple TV set top box, complete with voice and motion controls and built-in games console.
Now, however, the so-called iWatch is hot favourite. Whether iWatch will actually be a watch at all is open to debate. It seems likely that it will be worn on the wrist, but telling the time may not be its chief feature.
Several reports recently have pointed towards the health and fitness sector as one where Apple, along with Google, is keen to make its mark. Several Apple focused websites have reported that the company is working on an app, called Healthbook, for iPhone and iPad which will collect data from various sensors to monitor metrics such as blood pressure, distance walked, and sleep patterns. There are, of course, apps and tracking devices which allow you to do this already on an iPhone, but an Apple gadget would likely be better integrated into the iPhone and iPad and may be the only one able to access the Healthbook.
Any Apple device would have to be pretty impressive to be better than, say the Nike Fuelband, or devices from Fitbit and Jawbone. The challenges of building such a device, along with the software to make it useful are huge. That's why, according to reports, Apple has been busy hiring medical and health and fitness professionals in various different disciplines, including physiology and nutrition.
As for how the iWatch will look, that's anyone's guess. But we do know that it will have multiple sensors, and may also incorporate the M7 co-processor, first seen in the iPhone 5s. The M7 is a specialist chip whose job is to process data from various sensors, such as the iPhone's accelerometer and gyroscope. The iWatch will also need a regular processor, a battery, a wireless chip (probably Bluetooth 4.0) and a screen. Patents registered by Apple recently suggest that it is working on ways to make screens double-up as solar panels which can charge a battery but it's unlikely we'll see that technology in the first version of the iWatch. More likely is another technology Apple has patented, which uses the energy generated by movement, such as a swinging arm, to charge a battery.
The next, and perhaps biggest, question, is when? When will Apple launch the iWatch? Given that it's an accessory for iPhone and works in tandem with a new iOS app, it would make sense to launch it around the same time as the next iPhone. Taking Apple's recent release schedule as a guide that would mean September or October. That's still several months away, of course, plenty of time for anything and everything to change.