Apples first smartwatch gets ready to roll down the assembly line

Written by Reuters | Taipei | Updated: Jun 21 2014, 14:47pm hrs
AppleApple Inc expects to ship 50 million units of iWatch within the first year of the product's release.
Taiwans Quanta Computer Inc will start mass production of Apple Incs first smartwatch in July, a source familiar with the matter said, as the tech company tries to prove it can still innovate against rival Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

The still-unnamed watch, which Apple followers have dubbed the iWatch, will be the companys first foray into a niche product category that many remain skeptical about, especially as to whether it can drive profits as growth slows in tech gadgets.

The production will be a boost to Quanta, whose work for Apple so far has focused on laptops and iPods, product lines that are in decline. Quantas role, though, is likely to raise questions about what involvement Hon Hai Precision Industry Co, one of Apples biggest suppliers, will play in production.

While the watch has been widely expected, the start date of its mass production and the extent of Quantas involvement were not known until now. Mass production will start in July and the commercial launch will come as early as October, according to the source and another person familiar with the matter. The sources requested anonymity because Apples production plans are private.

Apple will introduce a smartwatch with a display that likely measures 2.5 inches diagonally and is slightly rectangular, one of the sources said. The source added that the watch face will protrude slightly from the band, creating an arched shape, and will feature a touch interface and wireless charging capabilities.

The source said Apple expects to ship 50 million units within the first year of the products release, although these types of initial estimates can be subject to change. The watch is in trial production at Quanta, which will be the main manufacturer, accounting for at least 70 percent of final assembly, the source said.

A third source said LG Display Co Ltd is the exclusive supplier of the screen for the gadgets initial batch of production. It also contains a sensor that monitors the users pulse. Singapore-based imaging and sensor maker Heptagon is on the supplier list for the feature, two other sources said. Apple declined to comment. Quanta, LG Display and Heptagon also declined to comment.

Apples smartwatch will follow similar devices by Samsung, Sony Corp, Motorola and LG Electronics Inc gadgets that tech watchers say have not been appealing or user-friendly enough to ignite a wave of mass adoption. But the market is growing fast, with data firm IDC saying that worldwide shipments of wearable computing devices, including smartwatches, will triple this year over 2013.