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Investors told wearable tech to be Apple's next big thing

Many of us might feel that we are too attached to our smartphones already, but a new report suggests that this might become even more of a reality with wearable technology from Apple.

"We believe that Apple will eventually introduce some type of wearable computing product," Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said in a recent report for investors.

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," he added.

Munster's predictions come shortly after a report that said Apple and Intel were working on a smartwatch. According to China's, the Bluetooth-enabled device will feature a 1.5in 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 programme 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, which displays information from iOS and Android phones via Bluetooth and recently received FCC approval. It was expected to ship in September 2012, but that was before the smartphone-connected watch hit Kickstarter to the tune of $10 million (£6.15m), and racked up 85,000 orders. As a result, Pebble said in July 2012 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 of course the iPhone 5S. Munster also said Apple will launch a hardware TV in time for the 2013 holiday season.

Concept image credit: ADR Studio