wearable devices


[Insights] Apple Watch Faces Allegations of Blood Oxygen Monitoring Patent Infringement, Resolution or Redesign Incurs Substantial Costs

In late December 2023, Apple faced sales suspension of certain Apple Watch models in the United States due to concerns over patent infringement with Masimo’s blood oxygen detection technology.

Despite Apple’s appeal for reinstatement, regulatory authorities will review updated designs presented in mid-January 2024 to determine whether sales suspension persists. The potential financial and time costs associated with settlement or redesign may prompt Apple to reassess the necessity of incorporating blood oxygen detection.

TrendForce’s insight:       

Apple and Masimo’s Prolonged Legal Battle Set to Conclude in Mid-January 2024, Verdict on Blood Oxygen Monitoring Patent Infringement

Since the introduction of the S6 in 2020, Apple Watch has featured blood oxygen monitoring technology, addressing the demand for detecting hidden hypoxia and hypoxemia, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many smartwatches released during the same period also incorporated this functionality.

The blood oxygen monitoring technology in Apple Watch utilizes traditional pulse oximetry. The built-in sensor consists of red, green, infrared LEDs, and a photodiode sensors that converts light into electric current.

In essence, the technology relies on shining light onto wrist blood vessels to capture data on the difference between oxygenated and deoxygenated blood. Algorithms are then employed to determine the blood oxygen content.

Hence, this technology involves not only software-related analytical applications but also hardware configurations and usage considerations.

In fact, the infringement dispute between Apple and Masimo has been ongoing. Since 2020, Masimo has accused Apple of patent infringement. The legal battle continued until October 2023 when the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled in favor of Masimo, determining that Apple had indeed infringed. Consequently, in late 2023, a sales ban was imposed on certain models of Apple watches.

Despite Apple’s appeal allowing them to resume sales, regulatory authorities will reassess Apple’s redesigned models in mid-January 2024 to determine if improvements have been made.

Currently, the most severe impact of the ban is on models with blood oxygen functionality from the S6 onwards, including the S8, while only the SE series, without this feature, remains unaffected.

Diminished Need for Blood Oxygen Monitoring in Temporal Context – Apple May Reconsider Necessity

Given the current situation, there are several possible developments. Firstly, Apple may reapply for approval of a redesigned model by regulatory authorities, allowing them to resume sales after making necessary adjustments.

However, this approach involves not only software modifications but also hardware changes, encompassing testing, review processes, and relaunching, which could take several months. Considering Apple’s usual product release schedule in September each year, the company faces significant time pressure.

Secondly, Apple may opt for a settlement with Masimo. In the past, Apple has resolved disputes over chip technology and intentional slowdown of older devices with Qualcomm and in collective lawsuits with users.

However, settlement amounts were substantial, approximately $4.5 billion with Qualcomm and potentially up to $500 million in the case of collective user lawsuits. Compared to Apple Watch’s annual revenue in 2023, which may not have reached $20 billion, such outcomes may be less favorable for Apple.

If Apple cannot bypass Masimo’s patent through updates, settlement and payment of ongoing patent fees may become a necessary consideration. However, this to some extent may prompt Apple to reevaluate the necessity of the blood oxygen monitoring feature.

After all, for smartwatches equipped with blood oxygen monitoring is intended for health, not medical purposes. Besides Withings’ products, most smartwatches with this feature have not obtained approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In other words, they cannot be used for medical purposes.

While having more features at the same price would enhance the product value for consumers, the current context of the post-pandemic era and Apple’s user loyalty suggest that the demand for additional functionalities may vary.

If Apple does not intend to further integrate blood oxygen data with other physiological data, there might be room to reconsider the necessity of redeveloping the technology and the continued existence of the blood oxygen monitoring feature in future Apple Watches. The value of incorporating such functionality may be subject to greater flexibility in this scenario.

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(Photo credit: Apple)


[News] Apple Reportedly Accelerates Production of MR Headset “Vision Pro” for Potential February Launch

At the WWDC 23 in June this year, Apple introduced its first headset, Vision Pro. The device is set to be available for purchase as early as next year, with a price tag of USD 3,499.

According to the report citing sources by Mark Gurman, Apple has accelerated the production of the MR headset “Vision Pro” in China in recent weeks, suggesting preparations for a potential launch in February next year.

Reportedly, insiders have revealed that in the past few weeks, Apple has been in full production mode for the Vision Pro in China. The goal is to have the customer-facing business department ready by the end of January, allowing the product to debut in Apple’s retail stores in February.

Additionally, Apple has been rumored to have sent an email to software developers lately, encouraging them to use the latest tools to test their applications and submit software for feedback, indicating preparations for the Vision Pro’s imminent release.

The report highlights that the Vision Pro is Apple’s most intricate product to date. Due to its customized components, it requires assembly and packaging at the sales point, necessitating a sales strategy and equipment different from those used in the past.

As per a report by the Financial Times in May of this year, Apple initially aimed for annual sales of 3 million units for the Vision Pro, but later reduced the target to 1 million units. In July, there were further reports that due to the complex design of the Vision Pro and issues with the display yield, Apple lowered the target shipment volume from 1 million units to 400,000 units.

Considering factors such as pricing and the absence of certain essential features, TrendForce has previously anticipated a modest shipment volume of approximately 200,000 to 400,000 units for Apple Vision Pro in 2024.

The market’s response will heavily depend on the subsequent introduction of consumer-oriented Apple Vision models and the ability of Apple to offer enticing everyday functionalities that will drive the rapid growth of the AR market as a whole.

TrendForce also notes that the Apple Vision Pro boasts cutting-edge hardware specifications and innovative design. However, a substantial price tag of USD 3,499 and the requirement for an external power source to operate for a mere two hours pose challenges to consumer adoption.

Currently, the Apple Vision Pro lacks sufficient applications for mainstream users, making it more attractive to developers and enterprise customers who can capitalize on its innovative features to create diverse applications. Consequently, the higher price point of the product is justified.

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(Photo credit: Apple)

Please note that this article cites information from Bloomberg and Financial Times


[Insights] Google Unveils Pixel Watch 2 and Charge 6 Band, Leveraging Generative AI as Key Value Addition

Google focuses on AI and sensor upgrades with Pixel Watch 2, while Charge 6 smart wristbands may stand out in the market through AI applications.

TrendForce’s Insights:

In early October 2023, Google held its annual fall product launch event, introducing new smartphones, smartwatches, earphones, and AI assistant services. Regarding the Pixel Watch 2, Google opted for a relatively conservative upgrade compared to its competitors, with more significant changes expected in the smart wristband market through the application of generative AI.

1. Google’s New Products Align with Industry Trends, Focusing on AI – Pixel Watch 2 Highlights Sensor Upgrades

The third quarter of the year is an important period for major tech companies to hold product launch events. Following Apple’s event in September and the recently concluded Meta event, Google also hosted its Made By Google fall event in early October. Much like these other companies, Google focused on AI as the central theme of the event, enhancing its range of products and services. The highlights of this event include the Pixel 8 series smartphones, featuring AI-powered image editing, the Pixel Watch 2 with new sensors and monitoring capabilities, and the Pixel Buds Pro smart headphones that can adjust audio settings based on the user’s conversations. Additionally, Google, being a leading player in Generative AI, introduced an AI version of its Google Assistant service called “Assistant with Bard,” which is expected to enhance its app offerings through quick organization, predictive capabilities, and content generation, with deployment on a wider range of devices in the future.

A closer look at the specifications of the Pixel Watch 2 reveals that, compared to its predecessor released just a year ago, the hardware upgrades are not substantial. The primary differences include changes in the watch case material to align with environmental concerns, an upgraded processor, and a slight increase in battery capacity. However, the most significant improvements are in the sensors. The Pixel Watch 2 builds upon its existing features by introducing an electronic sensor for continuous skin conductance monitoring and a skin temperature sensor. Additionally, it has replaced the previous optical heart rate sensor with a multi-path sensor, enabling more precise measurements in different physiological conditions. This allows the watch to provide users with more accurate data, including temperature, heart rate variability (HRV), and other metrics.

Enhanced by advanced AI algorithms, the Pixel Watch 2 can analyze users’ sleep quality, stress levels, activity duration, and calorie expenditure. This allows the watch to provide all-day body response tracking, stress notifications, and guided breathing exercises, offering a range of new features.

2. Google Struggles in the Smartwatch Market; Smart Wristbands Poised for Market Differentiation through AI

Google’s latest release, the Pixel Watch 2, follows a strategy similar to that of other major players like Samsung and Apple in the smartwatch market. It represents a modest upgrade with little change in external appearance, and hardware specifications closely align with existing products in the market. On the software front, besides the new stress management features, other additions such as security checks, emergency sharing, and fall detection closely resemble those of the previous generation.

The primary reason for this conservative approach lies in the challenging global economic conditions and a declining industry landscape. Google’s smartwatch products face relative weakness in the market, lacking the extensive user base and brand loyalty enjoyed by giants like Apple, Samsung, and Huawei. Google also lacks the niche market segmentation seen in players like Garmin. These factors collectively position Google in a cautious stance regarding the development of smartwatches.

While Google has displayed a bit of hesitation in the smartwatch sector, its recent introduction, the Fitbit Charge 6 smart band, has garnered significant attention. Although its price exceeds that of the Huawei Band 8 and Xiaomi 8 Active, released later in 2023, by several folds, the Charge 6 leverages Google’s resources and hardware-software upgrades to emphasize its value. For instance, it incorporates a new machine learning algorithm derived from the Pixel Watch, ensuring more accurate heart rate monitoring. This marks Google’s first smart band integrated with Google Apps, offering seamless integration with widely used applications such as Google Maps, Google Wallet, YouTube Music, and more.

Furthermore, Google has hinted at the development of generative AI features during the Made by Google event. These AI-driven features are anticipated to analyze fitness trends and provide insights through chatbots, with potential integration into smartwatches and smart bands. With these advancements, Google aims to elevate its smart bands’ reputation through AI applications, setting it apart in the market, even in comparison to competitors like Huawei and Xiaomi.


[Insights] What Are the Next Strategies for Smartwatch Brands Amidst Sluggish Demand

  1. Gloomy Global Economy Affects Smartwatch Sales, Predicted 2023 Shipments at 130 Million

In 2023, the trajectory of the smartwatch industry is shaped by two major forces. On one hand, it’s driven by the shift in demand from the smart wristband market, becoming a gateway for brand manufacturers to create market momentum on a global scale. However, it also grapples with the impact of the sluggish economy, which affects consumers’ disposable income, leading to a reduction in market demand.

It’s estimated that the market will grow to 130 million units by the end of 2023. Brand manufacturers’ share of shipments hasn’t seen significant changes, and they continue to introduce innovative products. Apple leads with over 30%, followed by Samsung at nearly 10%, alongside Huawei, Garmin, Fitbit and others.

  1. Manufacturers Opt for More Cautious Strategies, Focusing on Minor Upgrades and Diversified Research

Given the uncertain landscape, major smartwatch manufacturers like Apple, Samsung, and Huawei are expected to embrace a more conservative development approach. While they will keep innovating and introducing new products, their design philosophy leans towards incremental upgrades.

High-end watch models will be introduced with caution, targeting well-defined niche markets. Furthermore, some brands are likely to venture into other smart wearable devices, but many of these new devices face challenges in terms of data analysis, application integration, and market maturity, which means it will take time before they become commercially viable.

  1. AI Focus: Major Manufacturers Prioritize AI Integration for Accuracy and Innovation

Without making substantial changes to their existing structure, companies are proactively utilizing AI technology as the cornerstone of their development strategy. This approach yields benefits such as fine-tuning existing sensor data for more precise measurements and the creation of applications that cater to consumer needs.

As AI applications heavily rely on chip performance and battery life, companies like Apple are upgrading their chips. This move aims to elevate past auxiliary functions into mainstream operations through AI. Moreover, this technology may further integrate with their Vision Pro devices’ gesture controls, enhancing the overall user experience.




AUO debuts First Commercial Micro LED Smartwatch, Marking Micro LED’s First Year of Mass Production

(Source: TechNews) AUO has been developing Micro LED technology since 2012 and has accumulated profound display expertise and processing capabilities, including resources from PlayNitride and Rohinni. Using its accurate mass-transfer technology, AUO transfers Micro LED chips onto AM-TFT backplanes. AUO also collaborates with Ruida Technology and BenQ Materials to develop Micro LED display driver ICs and packaging surface treatment materials, respectively and uses its image calibration technology to enhance picture quality performance in the display industry.

AUO launched a 1.39-inch commercial smartwatch this year, breaking through technological barriers. The smartwatch has a round design conforming to smartwatch standards, with a high pixel density of up to 326 PPI, maintaining color saturation and high contrast while improving the lifespan of large viewing angles and high-brightness displays. It is energy-efficient and meets the demand for clear information display under bright sunlight, leading the way in mass production.

Upgraded smart cockpit visual effects with Micro LED transparent display

AUO uses Micro LED transparent displays to redefine in-car usage, with high brightness and contrast, along with optical films on printed glass or special structures, to present different textures and integrate with the interior decor. The A-pillar to A-pillar LED immersive display screen achieves a display-on-demand cabin experience without interfering with information reading.

AUO has integrated a 17.3-inch Micro LED transparent display with a 12.3-inch LCD display to create a no-dead-angle naked eye 3D effect. It also includes a DMS recognition system to detect driving behavior and provide safety warnings. This technology can be used in future self-driving car dashboards to create a safer and more comfortable driving experience. Additionally, AUO displayed a 60-inch Micro LED transparent window screen that can be customized for different applications such as car windows, home entrances, smart storefronts, and commercial displays, providing a rich and fascinating visual experience.(Image credit: AUO)

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