Here’s Why Apple Is Scouting for Pro Athletes

Source: Michael Wa (ye-wa) / Flickr

Source: Michael Wa (ye-wa) / Flickr

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is recruiting some of the world’s most famous professional athletes, but it’s not to boost the roster of the company softball team. According to an unnamed source cited by 9to5Mac, Apple is seeking out athletes in order to test the fitness-tracking capabilities of its rumored iWatch device. The iWatch testing program reportedly involves prominent athletes from the NBA, NHL, and MLB; including Los Angeles Lakers basketball player Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Kings right winger Dustin Brown, and an unnamed player from the Boston Red Sox.

As noted by 9to5Mac, Kobe Bryant was spotted on Apple’s Cupertino campus last month, where he supposedly met with head designer Jony Ive. However, not surprisingly, the participants in the iWatch testing program are unable to confirm their involvement due to non-disclosure agreements. While these athletes were supposedly recruited to test the iWatch’s capabilities, it seems natural that many of these partnerships might also later evolve into endorsement deals for Apple’s wearable tech device.

According to reports from multiple media outlets, the iWatch will feature various fitness-tracking and health-monitoring sensors that will measure calorie consumption, blood sugar levels, oxygen saturation, sleep activity, and many other data points. A recent report from The Wall Street Journal indicated that Apple is planning on releasing multiple versions of the iWatch with different screen sizes, including at least one model that will be packed with over ten types of biometric sensors. Another report from Reuters predicted that one of the models will have a slightly rectangular 2.5-inch screen. Sources cited by Japan’s Nikkei reported that the iWatch’s display would feature a curved organic light-emitting diode (OLED) touchscreen, while research done by PTT Research analyst Matt Margolis suggested that Apple might protect the display with a sapphire glass covering.

While most sources agree that the iWatch will collect health-related data points for Apple’s recently unveiled HealthKit data storage platform, there is some debate over how the device will be marketed. China’s Laoyaoba website recently reported that the production of the iWatch is temporarily on hold while Apple waits for approval from the Food and Drug Administration. This would seem to suggest that Apple’s iWatch will be marketed primarily as a medical device. However, 9to5Mac’s source indicated that the iWatch will be “positioned as a fashion accessory.”

An iWatch marketed as a fashion accessory might explain why Apple was attempting to poach Swiss watchmakers from various watch brands owned by multinational luxury goods conglomerate LVMH, as the Financial Times reported in March. It might also explain why Apple hired former Yves Saint Laurent CEO Paul Deneve last summer, as reported by Reuters. Finally, the rumors of a “fashion accessory” iWatch align with predictions made by well-connected KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a research note issued in April and obtained by 9to5Mac, Kuo wrote. “Fashion is the name of the game; most expensive model likely priced at several thousand US dollars.”

Whatever the technical specifications and price of the iWatch may be, it seems clear that the wearable tech device is gearing up to be one of Apple’s most anticipated product launches. Although Apple has not even confirmed the existence of the device, industry rumors and vague comments from Apple executives have fueled the hype surrounding this fabled product. “Later this year…we’ve got the best product pipeline that I’ve seen at Apple in my twenty-five years at Apple,” stated senior vice president of Internet software and services Eddy Cue at Re/Code’s inaugural Code Conference last month. Apple fans should find out if the iWatch lives up to the hype in October, when the device is widely expected to be launched.

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