More iWatch rumors; Report says thinner, low-power IGZO displays coming

As we head toward the New Year, rumors are floating around of forthcoming goodies from Apple. Many people think, and Apple has hinted as much, that wearable computing will be among the Next Big Things from Apple. It would be great to see Apple do something like Google Glass, which are essentially glasses with all the capabilities of a high-powered smartphone. Today's Apple rumor is that an iWatch is in development. According to the websites iMore and The Next Web, citing Asian blogs with sources in Apple's supply chain, Apple and Intel are developing an iWatch, a "smart watch" with Bluetooth 4.0 built in. The watch would be able to communicate via the Bluetooth connection to an iPhone or iPad. And it is rumored to have a 1.5-inch OLED display. So what features would it have? No one knows, but likely everything that an iPod nano has, and then some.

Frankly, I don't see any point in an iWatch, unless it comes with the ability to connect to the cellular data network. After all, who wears a watch these days? Most people simply use their phone to check the time. But a watch with connectivity would be so cool, especially if it had Siri. Making requests from Siri via a watch or othe wearable device would be a real convenience. I think it's inevitable, and just a matter of when. I like Siri, but using it entails taking out my iPad mini. A watch or other wearable device will make Siri just that much more useful.

There's also a rumor out and about today, via that well-known rumor mill DigiTimes, that Apple is continuing to seek sources for IGZO displays for future iPhones and iPads. I think this, too, is inevitable. IGZO (indium, gallium, zinc, oxide) is a new display technology that will enable displays to be thinner, sharper, and use less power. That latter point entails a longer battery life or a thinner device because the battery can be smaller, or some combination of both.

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If IGZO displays are so good, why isn't Apple already using them? Apparently Apple's been exploring the use if IGZO displays for the past year, but there's one hitch: as with any cutting-edge technology (the sort that Apple loves to embrace), IGZO displays are hard to manufacture. The yield rates are said to be low, meaning that the manufacturer is unable to make a sufficient quantity of defect-free units to be cost-effective and to fulfill the huge numbers that Apple would require. 

Sharp is so far the leading producer of IGZO displays, but given the low yield rates, Apple is also talking to other manufacturers, according to DigiTimes. Apple's products are so popular, that any component must be available in quantities in the tens of millions. That's a real constraint that Apple has to deal with.

Anyway, I think that in 2013 we'll so both rumors come to fruition: iPhones and iPads with IGZO displays, allowing them to be even thinner and with a longer battery life, and the appearance of a wearable iOS device, possibly an iWatch.

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Jim Karpen holds a Ph.D. in literature and writing, and has a love of gizmos. His doctoral dissertation focused on the revolutionary consequences of digital technologies and anticipated some of the developments taking place in the industry today. Jim has been writing about the Internet and technology since 1994 and has been using Apple's visionary products for decades.