Apple Gets Patent for Smartwatch Dubbed iTime

The United States Patent and Trademark Office confirmed the industry's worst kept secret Tuesday by granting Apple a patent for a smartwatch called iTime.

Apple has never publicly confirmed it's working on a smartwatch, but rumors of an "iWatch" have been flying for some time.

Documents released by the USPTO confirmed the rumors, showing Apple filed for the patent in July 2011.

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This "wrist-worn electronic device" plays into what was demoed at Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference in early June, as it described having wireless connectivity features in other devices including, desktop computers, laptops and mobile.

The iTime's electronic wristband acts as a docking station for a device similar to the iPod Nano, according to the patent documents. The device comes across in its patent documents as a crossover between the popular fitness bands on the market and the recently released Android Wear products

"It isn’t something that will be an incremental improvement of something already out. Apple will do it in their own way," said Michael Oh, CEO of Boston-based Apple partner Tech Superpowers. "If you look at the iPad, before it was released, tablets were already out but not in the right way. Apple had the secret sauce. Android tablets are clones of the iPad as they didn’t exist until the iPad came about. When it comes to smartwatches, I feel we are in the era of the pre-iPad tablet. But with the watch, I’m more skeptical that Apple has some sort of secret sauce. I think if they get the price point right and the feature set right, they will sell a tremendous number."

The likelihood of the iTime coming to market soon could be very real given the patent news, Oh said.

"The timing in addition to Apple having promised a new product category by the end of the year, points to this being something quite real," Oh said. "I’m very optimistic. As an Apple fan and a technology buff, I’m really excited to see what it is, because I do feel like for the last couple years ... things have been kind of predictable."

The release of an Apple smartwatch would be the first new product line rolled out under CEO Tim Cook, a move partners are calling "his first big test."

"This will go a long ways to quelling some of the rumblings and rumors in Steve Jobs' absence that innovation has taken a leave," said Douglas Grosfield, president and CEO of Ontario-based solution provider Xylotek Solutions. "I think it’ll be a pretty neat thing to see what they come up with. It’s been a while since we’ve seen any really dramatic innovation from the newest iterations of I devices."