Apple smart watch: What we know and what to expect

There's a lot of chatter about a possible Apple smart watch on the horizon. Let's break down what we know so far and why this is potentially significant. 

Elise Amendola/AP/FILE
A shopper walks by an Apple store in Peabody, Mass., Monday, June 9, 2014.

Google wants to give you glasses. Nike wants to track your fitness. And now Apple wants to tell you the time?

The tech world has been aflutter about Apple's much-anticipated smart watch, which, if rumors hold true, would be Apple's first major new product release under current chief executive officer Tim Cook, who succeeded Steve Jobs in 2011. Because much of this product still remains cloaked in secrecy, let's break down what we know for certain. 

What's all the fuss about and what do we know? 

On Friday, The Wall Street Journal, citing "people familiar with the matter," reported that Apple is planning to release "multiple versions" of a smart watch. Though no specific dates have been listed, the Journal says a device could be launched "as early as October" with production beginning at Taiwanese manufacturer Quanta Computer Inc., Apple's long-time supplier for Macintosh computers. The Journal further reports that the device will have "more than 10 sensors," which will include sensors to track fitness, according to people cited in the article. The Journal also hints that the new watch could have multiple designs.

This follows Apple's announcement of the new Health app for the upcoming iPhone operating system, iOS 8. Health will allow users to aggregate data from various fitness-tracking apps and devices, such as the Nike+ FuelBand, which allows users to track and record their workout activities. Traditionally, Apple's new software updates have come with hardware updates. 

Further, according to Reuters, citing an unnamed source, Apple expects to "ship 50 million units" of the smart watch within the product's first year of release, although such initial estimates can be subject to change, the article notes. 

Also in the mix for what to expect are a 2.5-inch "slightly rectangular" screen made by LG Display, a source told Reuters. 

Although many have taken to referring to the anticipated product as the "iWatch," Apple has yet to comment on what the hypothetical product will actually be called. 

Why is this significant? 

Tech companies and consumers alike seem to be embracing wearable devices. According to a study from market research firm IDC, these wearable devices or "wearables" will more than triple in number this year, reaching "a total of 19.2 million units in 2014." That number is only expected to increase in years to come with millions more beginning to ship in 2016, according to the report. Wearables currently on the market include Google Glass; the Samsung Galaxy Fit, which can measure heart rate; and the Pebble Smartwatch, which can sync with iOS and Android smart phones to receive alerts about texts, calls, e-mails, and updates from social media accounts. 

An Apple smart watch would also mark Apple's first major new product to come out since the iPad was first released under Steve Jobs in 2010. This comes at a time when, as The New York Times noted in a recent profile of Mr. Cook, investors are beginning to wonder if Apple can continue the kind of impressive growth the company has seen in the past decade. As the article notes, Apple sales grew by 40 percent a year between 2004 and 2013, but grew by just 9 percent in fiscal year 2013. In part, Apple's critics look askance at the lack of "wizardry," or grand new products such as a smart phone or a tablet, to emerge from the tech giant under Cook's reign. 

"Where is the grand design?” Laurence Balter, chief market strategist at Oracle Investment Research, asks in an interview with The Times. "All we hear from Cook is there are some great products coming down the pike."

If rumors turn out to be facts, we may just see some magic this fall. 

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