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Apple Eyeing Wearable Gadgets, Analyst Says

January 3, 2013

Pebble smartwatch Most of us might already feel that we are too attached to our smartphones, but a new report suggests that might become more of a reality with wearable tech from Apple.

"We believe that Apple will eventually introduce some type of wearable computing product," according to a Wednesday report from Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster.

Munster suggested that wearable computers could replace the iPhone and smartphones in general within 10+ years.

"We believe technology could progress to a point where consumers have a tablet plus wearable computers, like watches or glasses, that enable simple things like voice calls, texting, quick searches, navigation, etc. through voice control," Munster wrote. "Longer term, screens in glasses or projectors could replace the necessity of a screen from a smartphone or tablet."

Munster's predictions come shortly after a report that said Apple and Intel were working on a smartwatch. According to China's TGbus.com, the Bluetooth-enabled smartwatch will feature a 1.5-inch, touch-screen display and work directly with the iPhone, allowing users to make phone calls and perform other operations from their wrists.

Munster speculated that a watch might be the first wearable consumer product Apple could pursue. But Cupertino might also expand its hardware licensing program to allow for more third-party products that connect to iOS gadgets - including clothing, shoes, belts, earrings, bracelets, or hats, which could measure things like body temperature, steps taken, calories burned, or blood sugar.

"While we don't believe the watch itself is something that will excite investors, we believe the trend offers future revenue potential beyond the iPhone/iPad franchise," Munster wrote.

Since a smartwatch would likely be cheaper than an iPhone, these gadgets could "be Apple's best answer to addressing emerging markets." The size, however, might deter female buyers, Munster said.

One smartwatch that is slowly becoming a reality is the Pebble Smartwatch (above), which recently received FCC approval. The smartwatch, which displays information from iOS and Android phones via Bluetooth, was expected to ship in September. That, however, was before the smartphone-connected watch hit Kickstarter, earned $10 million, and racked up 85,000 orders. As a result, Pebble said in July that shipments would be delayed. It has yet to settle on a final release date.

This year, meanwhile, Munster said Apple's focus will be a new iPad mini with Retina display, an updated Apple TV with TV app store, updated versions of OSX and iOS 7, and the new iPhone. Munster also said Apple will launch a TV in time for the 2013 holiday season, a favorite prediction for the analyst.

One piece of wearable tech that is already making headlines is Google's Project Glass. The team behind the glasses this week provided more details about possible features, including phone functions and voice commands.




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