The Key to Apple's iWatch Is in the iPhone 5s


Apple has a team of about 100 engineers working on an iWatch, according to a report earlier this year from Bloomberg. But Apple's iPhone media event came and went, and we've still yet to see this smartwatch.

In fact, Samsung beat Apple to the market. Last Wednesday the company unveiled a $299 Galaxy Gear Smartwatch with a one-day battery life. But what about Apple?

Built right into the iPhone 5s are the likely beginnings of a future smart-er watch.

The M7
Until now, the system-on-a-chip built into Apple's iOS devices played the normal role of a microprocessor with the additional duties of motion sensing. In the iPhone 5s, Apple was able to give its new A7 a dedicated sidekick, the M7 coprocessor. Built specifically to capture motion data, the M7 is able to process motion with a much higher level of efficiency.

As described on Apple's website:

M7 knows when you're walking, running, or even driving. For example, Maps switches from driving to walking turn-by-turn navigation if, say, you park and continue on foot. Since M7 can tell when you're in a moving vehicle, iPhone 5s won't ask you to join Wi-Fi networks you pass by. And if your phone hasn't moved for a while, like when you're asleep, M7 reduces network pinging to spare your battery.

Nike's fitness app, enabled by M7 coprocessor, on the iPhone 5S. Source. Apple website.

This changes up the game for not only health and fitness apps, but for health and fitness devices, too.

Apple's VP of marketing said it better than anyone else: "With new software and applications you're going to get a whole new level of health and fitness solutions never before possible on a mobile phone."

Could one of the solutions he was referring to be the iWatch?

Laying the foundation
The M7 acts as "a better hub for wearable accessories, whether they are made by Apple or anyone else," said Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps, as reported by Financial Times' journalist Tim Bradshaw.

Even more, "Based on motion data collected from real-world use of the iPhone 5s, most likely using its own employees as guinea pigs, Apple will be able to optimise its designs for the iWatch -- thus reducing the risks inherent in introducing any new technology without large-scale public testing," Bradshaw explained.

Though the M7 has immediate implications, it also has powerful implications for Apple's future products that shouldn't be ignored.

Is the iWatch imminent?
Maybe Apple really does have 100 engineers working on an iWatch. And maybe the M7 is their first solution to an imminent move into wearables.

Let's not forget about Apple CEO Tim Cook's comments on wearables at All Things Digital's D11 conference. In the interview, Cook sounded almost certain that Apple would inevitably move into this category:

I think wearables is incredibly interesting, and I think it could be a profound area for technology. ... I think there's lots of things to solve in this space, but it's an area where it's ripe for exploration, it's ripe for us all getting excited about; I think there will be tons of companies playing in this.

All Things Digital's Walt Mossberg followed up with a question: Will Apple be one of the companies playing in this space? Cook answered, "I don't want to answer that one, but, you know, I see it as something -- as another very key branch of the tree."

With the M7 about to hit the market, the question is no longer whether Apple will launch a smartwatch. Instead, the question is: Why not?

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