By this point, it’s safe to say that Apple is at least considering the exploration of the hypothetical idea of testing a wearable iWatch-type product. So does this newly unearthed Apple patent, which shows off what amounts to a digital slap bracelet, shed new light on the company’s intentions?
Nope! Not a bit, sorry, moving right a long.
The timing’s certainly conspicuous, being just a week after Bloomberg and the NYT and others cited the usual reliable sources that an iWatch was a top priority in Cupertino. But that’s just when the USPTO publish the patent; Apple engineers first filed it in the fall of 2011.
And while the details that Patently Apple digs up are enticing—a flexible display embedded in, yes, a slap bracelet, a large touch screen that can handle playlists, text messages, even maps; charging through kinetic energy—they’re also broad in a way that patents are always broad. That they have to be, to serve their actual purpose.
Patents like this are rarely harbingers of actual products. They’re intended to give Apple control over as many technologies as possible, so that when the time comes it can either act on them or sue the bejeezus out of anyone else who tries to. They’re anticipatory, but they’re also defensive; companies will just as often file a patent with no intention of ever making that product as have a specific endgame in mind. Wearable tech is the next great Monopoly board. Apple’s just collecting as many properties as it can.
Will some of the features outlined in this patent probably appear in an Apple product someday? Sure. But you’re no more going to be seeing this specific item than you will weird Apple face gear or dumb iTunes kiosks. Patents are important, sure. But as Apple knows better than anyone, their place is increasingly in the courtroom rather than the lab. [Patently Apple]