Apple has received a patent from the USPTO (via AppleInsider) that covers multiple kinds of smartwatch devices, such as a modular design that includes a smart strap with built-in sensors and controls that can host a plug-in personal media device (like the previous iPod nano) and an all-in-one that likely bears more resemblance to the coming iWatch we’ve been hearing so many rumors about.
The new patent, which refers to a device dubbed ‘iTime’ in one graphic, mostly deals with a convertible device that incorporates both a central unit that can be removed and used separately from its strap, and the strap itself, which could add features to the central component, including GPS modules, Wi-Fi radios and haptic feedback motors for vibration notifications. The design looks like a typical wrist strap for the older sixth-gen iPod nano, many of which appeared on Kickstarter, but it also can transfer data wirelessly between itself and an iPad and iPhone, according to the patent.
Functionality for the smart band and media player combo when connected to another device make it effectively a smartwatch, but Apple also describes different physical form factors, including a completely contained device, which sounds a lot more like the iWatch we’ve heard described in recent rumors. Interestingly, Apple also describes how gesture controls might be incorporated into such a device, letting a user answer a call by flicking their wrist, for instance.
The most recent rumors suggest a launch of the iWatch either late this year or early next, so we shouldn’t have to wait too long to see what Apple does with its smartwatch. In the meantime, while this may be an earlier design, it is one of the surest signs yet that Apple has been thinking seriously about smartwatches for years.