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Apple confirms iWatch intent with new patent filing

Channeling 1990s fashion, a recent Apple patent reveals a wearable video device with a flexible touchscreen display and a "slap bracelet" mechanism.

Adding fuel to the iWatch fire, the patent details a wearable accessory that connects to a portable device via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to display information in real time.

"Accessories for portable computing devices have become quite common," the filing said. "Today typical portable electronic device accessories are passive in nature, the majority of which simply function to protect the screen, or perhaps support the device in some specific orientation."

The filing, which was first reported by AppleInsider, describes a flexible display that can be added to a conventionally designed slap bracelet, in which the bi-stable spring would be made out of thin steel, wrapped in a fabric covering, and heat sealed. A battery, logic board, and other components are mounted to one end, and covered while being worn.

Meanwhile, Apple also described a design in which the flexible display is mounted directly onto the bracelet and then "framed" by a thicker fabric cover.

The slap bracelet — made popular in the late 1980s/early '90s and eventually banned in some schools following reports of injuries — is not the only method the Cupertino-based company is considering. The patent listed mechanisms like actual snaps or Velcro for use as the attachment points.

The smartwatch will obviously do more than simply tell time. In one iteration of the device, Apple describes the ability to direct operations of and respond to alerts from a portable electronic device; the user can accomplish tasks like adjusting the order of a playlist and reviewing a list of recent phone calls.

Similar interactive features are already in use in smartwatches like the Pebble, but Apple may already be a step ahead of its competitors: using an "end detection" sensor, the device can turn off the unused portion of the display when it overlaps for smaller wearers.

Though the patent points to a relatively narrow band, the company said it can configure the display to be much wider — especially useful in those instances when your mobile phone is out of reach.

"This might be desirable when the portable electronic device is stored in an inconvenient location such as a cargo pocket, or the bottom of a backpack," the filing said. "A larger display is almost more desirable for map viewing [...] as a traveler or explorer can easily reference the information with a flick of the wrist while exploring."

A wider device also allows for a larger flexible screen, a bigger battery, and additional sensors.

The iWatch patent comes as no surprise, following months of reports about a wearable device. Last week, Bloomberg claimed that Apple has "100 product designers working on a wristwatch-like device that may perform some of the tasks now handled by the iPhone and iPad." That team reportedly includes members of the company's software and hardware teams.

The New York Times and Wall Street Journal also threw their weight behind the mythical product recently, reporting that Apple is currently testing an iWatch featuring Corning's flexible Willow Glass.

Will the iWatch come to fruition? That seems increasingly likely, but if not, Apple's next big thing could take a number of forms - top of our wish list would be the hotly tipped iTV. For a more grounded perspective on the whole iWatch rumour drama, check out Rawiya Kameir's recent blog, Apple iWatch - what's the point?