An Apple patent filed in January 2011 for a “wrist-worn electronic device” has been published today by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Referred to as iTime, the patent’s accompanying diagrams reveal a smartwatch with a square face and wide straps that could be fitted with components such as GPS modules, accelerometers, antennas, GPS receivers and haptic enablers.

Screen Shot 2014 07 22 at 14.19.06 Apple patent from 2011 reveals iTime smartwatch design with detachable center module

Similar to Android Wear, the main unit would connect to a secondary “mobile electronic device,” which almost certainly means your smartphone, and would also be operational without the electronic wristband. If you’ve ever fitted a conventional watchstrap to a square iPod Nano, you’ll have some idea of what Apple is shooting for here.

The device would be operational without the wristband – the full functionality isn’t disclosed, but it does mention reminiscent “media storage and playback”. Once it’s coupled with the electronic band, a secondary set of features are unlocked by “wirelessly communicating user input received by the mobile electronic device to a second electronic device.”

Screen Shot 2014 07 22 at 14.18.44 Apple patent from 2011 reveals iTime smartwatch design with detachable center module

The patent suggests the device would also detect wrist movement – perhaps to wake the iTime when you glance down at the watchface – and support notifications from the paired smartphone or tablet.

If you’re fluent in legalese, a summary of the device is listed below:

“As an electronic wristband to be worn on a wrist of a user, one embodiment of the invention can, for example, include at least a central portion and at least one band portion. The central portion can have a receptacle area configured to receive a mobile electronic device.

The mobile electronic device can include a display and be independently useable apart from the electronic watchband. The least one band portion can be coupled to central portion and suitable to assist with securing the electronic wristband to the wrist of the user.

The at least one band portion can also include at least one electrical component provided internal to the at least one band portion and operatively connected to the mobile electronic device when provided in the receptacle area.”

Given this patent was filed in 2011, it’s safe to assume this design – if it was ever the frontrunner for an Apple smartwatch – has undergone significant changes. Even so, it’s a telling sign of the direction Apple is moving in and confirmation it’s interested in the product category.

Screen Shot 2014 07 22 at 14.23.36 Apple patent from 2011 reveals iTime smartwatch design with detachable center module
Rumours of the smartwatch first emerged in February 2013, when the Wall Street Journal reported a “watch-like device” that the company was experimenting with. The New York Times quickly corroborated the report, but Apple has remained tight-lipped about its development.

USPTO [via AppleInsider | TechCrunch]

Featured image credit: KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/Getty Images