Apple iWatch Release Date Delayed To 2014? Engineering Problems Reportedly Force Hiring Spree

 @redletterdave on July 15 2013 11:52 AM

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) may not be able to release the iWatch this winter as previously reported, but the company is “aggressively hiring” to ensure its release date doesn’t exceed 2014, especially given the number of rival companies working on similar smartwatch projects including SamsungGoogle and even Microsoft.

On Sunday, The Financial Times reported Apple is “looking beyond its existing staff in Cupertino for the talent required to build [iWatch],” with one source telling the news site that the manufacturing of iWatch involves “hard engineering problems that [Apple has] not been able to solve.”

Apple could be experiencing any number of issues with creating the iWatch. Fitting the ideal chipsets and display to maximize power and performance could be problematic for a small and flexible device like iWatch, but Apple is probably having a tough time with the battery. Batteries tend to be Apple’s Achilles heel, especially when it comes to small portables like iPod and iPhone: Either the battery's life doesn’t last long at all, or it becomes too hot, sometimes to the point of burning or spontaneous combustion. Apple doesn’t want any lawsuits caused by the iWatch burning consumers’ wrists, so Apple likely needs more time to ensure the iWatch is not only functional upon its release date, but also safe.

Another issue Apple may be facing is the wrist strap for the iWatch. Many watchmakers prefer all-metal enclosures; considering Apple is a luxury brand, the company may pursue some form of lightweight metal to help create the iWatch strap. However, if Apple wants the iWatch to appeal to lower-income markets, it may consider investing in inexpensive, interchangeable leather watchstraps, as it did with its sixth-generation iPod Nano.

The Financial Times suggests Apple may acquire a number of smaller companies with expertise in wearable and smartwatch technology, and is “working hard” to retain its current employees working on the iWatch project. Apple reportedly had a team of 100-plus product designers working on the iWatch in February, and in early July, Apple managed to attract Paul Deneve, the former CEO of French luxury label Yves Saint Laurent, to work on “special projects” at Apple. It shouldn’t be surprising to see Apple hiring for the iWatch, but considering how this is the first brand-new hardware project while Steve Jobs is not at the helm, Apple could have launched this hiring spree to make certain the release date isn’t prolonged any more than it needs to be. Ever since Jobs told his employees working on the first Macintosh how “Great artists ship,” shipping on time still takes preeminence at the company.

Apple is definitely serious about releasing the iWatch: In early July, the company began filing trademark applications for the name “iWatch” in several different countries, including Japan, Russia, Taiwan, Mexico, Turkey, India, Colombia and Chile, working with local law firms to ensure their trademark submissions received priority. Just one month prior to this trademarking spree, CEO Tim Cook discussed Apple’s intense interest in wearable technology at AllThingsD’s D11 Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.

“There are lots of gadgets in this space right now, but there’s nothing great out there,” Cook said, after mentioning how most wearable technologies, like the Nike Fuelband or Jawbone Up, can only perform one or two key functions. “But none of them are going to convince a kid that hasn’t worn glasses or a band to wear one. … There are a lot of problems to solve in this space. … It’s ripe for exploration. I think there will be tons of companies playing in this space.”

Rumors of an iWatch have been circulating for some time now, but the first major report on the iWatch arrived in February, when The New York Times reported on Apple’s plans to create a smart wristwatch that could rival “science fiction comics and spy movies.” The iWatch, according to a report from the Economic Times, would feature a 1.5-inch display built by RiTdisplay with the help of Intel, which will presumably supply the processors for the iWatch; Intel chips power most Apple devices, including all Mac laptops and desktops. Presumably, the iWatch would be able to communicate with iPhones or iPads via Bluetooth to display information directly on one’s wrist, but it would also be able to do what most fitness bands could do -- namely, measuring your pulse and body activity, possibly even using it to power the device. But with the App Store and iOS ecosystem, the iWatch could turn out to be the ideal device for texting, FaceTime, navigation and more.

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Originally, we pegged the release date for iWatch in December; assuming the iWatch was ready, Apple would likely release the device as close as it could to the holiday season, but the company would need to separate the iWatch from the other release dates for its new iPhones and iPads, which are expected in September and October, respectively. We initially believed Apple would debut the iWatch at its October event and release the device in December, but if the iWatch isn’t ready, Apple may wait until next summer to unveil the iWatch and next December to release it.

What do you think about this news? Do smartwatches appeal to you at all, or are you at all interested to see what Apple can do with this product genre? Do you hope the iWatch sees its release date this year? Let us know in the comments section below.

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