Everyone wants what Dick Tracy had -- a smart watch that’s way ahead of its time.

From Fiction to Reality

Back in 1946 when the fictional, plain clothes comic book detective wore one, it was a two way radio used to communicate with police headquarters. It gave Dick an automatic edge over the bad guys and made him the cool hero every geeky, and not so geeky, kid wanted to be.

Fast forward a quarter century and sexy sleuth James Bond wore computer-like watches that contained satellite links on his wrist. Depending on the movie, they also functioned as cameras, smartphones, bomb detonators, printers of fortune cookie-like paper strips and more.

And later this year, or at least by 2014, iGadget enthusiasts are expected to be wearing computer-like devices on their wrists that do more than the creators of Dick Tracy and James Bond might have imagined. Respectable sources like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News are calling the anticipated forthcoming device the iWatch. Whether it will be an accessory or a computer is anybody’s guess.

Rumor Roundup: Word on the Street

Though Apple has neither confirmed nor denied the rumors, some industry watchers believe that Cupertino execs are slowly, and intentionally, leaking information. Maybe it’s to reignite enthusiasm among iFans or to reassure the company’s uncertain shareholders that innovation is alive and well at the post-Jobs Apple. 

Either way, here’s what some pundits are saying about the believed to be forthcoming “iWatch.” Whether it will be a computer, a wearable app-enabling mobile device that happens to tell time (like the incredibly well-received, Kickstarter funded Pebble Watch), or spur the development of a new platform is anybody’s guess. We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

From Bloomberg News:

Apple Inc. has a team of about 100 product designers working on a wristwatch-like device that may perform some of the computing tasks now handled by the iPhone and iPad, two people familiar with the company’s plans said.

The team, which has grown in the past year, includes managers, members of the marketing group and software and hardware engineers who previously worked on the iPhone and iPad, said the people, who asked not to be named because the plans are private. The team’s size suggests Apple is beyond the experimentation phase in its development, said the people.

From The New York Times:

But the exploration of such a watch leaves open lots of exciting questions: If the company does release such a product, what would it look like? Would it include Siri, the voice assistant? Would it have a version of Apple’s map software, offering real-time directions to people walking down the street? Could it receive text messages? Could it monitor a user’s health or daily activity? How much will it cost? Could Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, be wearing one right now, whispering sweet nothings to his wrist?

Such a watch could also be used to make mobile payments, with Apple’s Passbook payment software."

From ZDNet:

In September 2012 Apple effectively killed the growing and fun iPod-watch industry when it released the seventh-generation iPod nano which switched from a tiny square form-factor to a rectangular shape that wouldn't work as a watch -- even on Dick Tracy.

That's when rumblings of a proper iWatch coming from Cupertino began to crop up. My favorite conspiracy theory (raised by gdgt's Peter Rojas) is that Apple killed the square iPod nano because it's building its own iWatch and doesn't want to compete with itself. At first this was a stretch (even for me) but it looks like Rojas' theory might have legs."

From Apple Insider:

As rumors swirl over the potential for a so-called iWatch from Apple in the not-too-distant future, the company is secretly developing an entire wearable/attachable computing platform and ecosystem comprised of wireless sensing systems for monitoring not only sports activity, athletic training, medicine, fitness, and wellness in humans, but also for tracking packages and industrial production.

From PC World:

An extension of an iPhone

Rather than trying to build all of that functionality into a watch itself, Apple could make a watch leveraging the power of the iPhone. An iWatch could be paired via Bluetooth with an iPhone and act as a wireless portal to a variety of iPhone functions, without making you take the smartphone out of your pocket or purse.

It would be especially cool if an iWatch displayed maps and navigation information from the iPhone, or if you could push a button on it to query Siri.

One of the reasons there’s so much excitement about the Pebble is that it does things that people wish the iPod Nano-as-watch could do. The Pebble connects to an iOS or Android device, and it can leverage smartphone-based apps to provide functionality through its e-paper display. It has the potential to display alerts and notifications, emails, incoming call details, social network status updates, weather information, and more from your smartphone via the Pebble on your wrist."

From Slashdot

Mobile Payments and Passwords: Certain smartphones pair NFC (near-field communication) technology with “digital wallet” software, allowing their owners to pay for goods by bringing their mobile device in proximity with a sensor. An “iWatch” could further streamline this drive toward frictionless payments. In that vein, the timepiece could also serve as another element in two-factor authentication—why ask your cloud provider to text a four-digit code to your phone, so you can access your email, when you can simply display that code on your wrist via an app.

If the pundits are right, we’ll know exactly what the watch will be called and what it does pretty soon. Some suspect it will be as soon as Spring."