"iTime" patent details USPTO

Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iWatch is expected to launch sometime this year; however, a patent recently approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark office shows that the Cupertino, California-based company had plans for a smartwatch as early as 2011.

On Tuesday the USPTO approved Apple’s patent for a “wrist-worn electronic device,” referred to as “iTime,” which includes many of the features now found on smartwatches already on the market. Patent details indicate that the device would have features such as accelerometers, GPS modules, wireless communication packages and haptic feedback mechanisms.

The patent was originally filed in January 2011 and is credited to Albert J. Golko, Mathias W. Schmidt and Felix Alvarez.

Apple Insider, which discovered the patent, notes that its design is reminiscent of Apple's sixth-generation iPod nano; the music player was small and square and actually inspired some companies to make wristbands on which to attach the nano, many of which looked like crude smartwatches. Conversely, the central unit on iTime can be removed and used separately from its strap.

A paramount feature of the proposed device is that its strap can also function independently. Users can control the central unit through arm and wrist movements that are interpreted by the strap. For example, a user could shake their wrist to answer a call. Other gestures include bounce and tap, which can be assigned to device controls by the user.

The smartwatch can also share data wirelessly with other devices such as an iPhone, a capability which is also similar to what is seen on current smartwatches.

While an exact release date for the iWatch remains unknown, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo expected that the device will be available between December and early 2015. Tech website Gizmodo also notes that the name of the smartwatch is also elusive, as Apple is known for trademarking alternate names for its products.

Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) analyst Katy Huberty believes the iWatch will sell for $300 and will not only account for 40 percent to 50 percent of profit margin of all smartwatches, but could also match the popularity of Apple’s iPhone and iPad.