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Apple wearable rumored to debut with iPhone 6 in September

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More rumors point to a September arrival of an Apple wearable device. But don’t call it the “iWatch” just yet.
James Martin/CNET

Apple’s long-rumored entry into the wearable device market may happen at the company’s September iPhone event, according to a new report.

Recode is reporting that the event, typically reserved for the company’s annual refresh of its best-selling smartphone, will also include the introduction of a new wearable device alongside two new iPhones. It’s unclear whether this device will be a smartwatch, already dubbed the “iWatch” by Apple observers.

Apple is expected to unveil a 4.7-inch iPhone and possibly a 5.5-inch model next month. Less certain is whether the announcement of Apple’s wearable will be pushed back until October, when Apple has typically announced new iPad tablets and Mac computers. If Apple does introduce a wearable at its iPhone event, that would be a departure from the company’s product rollout strategy. It would also be the first new product line from Apple since the introduction of the original iPad in 2010.

Apple’s new gadget will “make good use” of the new HomeKit and HealthKit platforms, Recode says. Both are designed to make it easier for developers to integrate smart home devices and fitness apps into Apple’s iOS mobile operating system. Apple announced in June that HomeKit and HealthKit will be part of its iOS 8 update, due this fall.

Recode, known to have an accurate track record regarding Apple news, originally reported earlier this month that the iPhone event would take place September 9.

CNET has reached out to Apple regarding its September event and will update this post if we hear back.

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“A Hard Sell”

Apple’s entry into the fast-growing wearable scene has been rumored for years. There have been passing mentions of such a project by lower level employees speaking anonymously, and analysts and investors have long expected the product would arrive this fall. Apple doesn’t comment on its product plans. But in May, Eddy Cue, who’s in charge of Internet, software, and services, said the company has “the best product pipeline that I’ve seen in my 25 years at Apple.”

It’s unclear whether Apple is developing only one wearable device. That raises the question of whether Apple’s wearable now rumored to arrive next month will be a smartwatch, similar to devices running Google’s wearable-specific Android Wear OS.

The alternative is a fitness wristband like Nike’s FuelBand. Earlier this year, Nike discontinued hardware development on its FuelBand line and has been rumored, thanks to cryptic hints from Nike CEO Mark Parker, to be in tight partnership with Apple on the software side. Apple CEO Tim Cook has served on Nike’s board of directors since 2005.

Still, Apple would be entering a market already saturated with competing devices from electronics makers like Samsung, LG, and Motorola, as well as hardware startups Pebble, Basis Science, and numerous other, smaller wearable companies. If Apple’s wearable is a screen-equipped fitness band, it will compete with smartwatches as well as health tracking products from Fitbit, Jawbone and a bevy of health-oriented hardware makers.

“Apple works very hard to produce exceptionally great products and doesn’t quickly release things like a wearable. So if one is introduced I expect it to have a chance to set the direction and make the product category finally viable,” said Apple co-founder Steve “Woz” Wozniak Wednesday in an email exchange with CNET.

Woz said wearables might be “a hard sell,” and that Apple can’t release a device that only acts as Bluetooth go-between connecting a wearable with your smartphone. A larger screen for the wearable may help in that respect, he added.

Interestingly, Apple blogger John Gruber, author of the popular Daring Fireball blog, joked earlier this month that the company would be introducing its wearable earlier than anticipated. He later claimed he was only kidding and had “no idea whether Apple is planning [its] wrist thing for September or October.” Gruber’s off-hand conjecture may seem prescient come September 9.

Update at 2:00 p.m. PT: Added comment from Steve Wozniak.

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