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The Altius screenshots leaked less than a week after both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal ran articles suggesting that Apple -- Samsung's main competitor in a variety of markets -- is working on a wearable product, probably a watch.
The Times and Journal report that Apple has been working with Foxconn, its manufacturing partner, on the watch. Other than "curved glass" and "iOS," there's not much to go on. Apple has hired people -- some suggest as many as 100 engineers -- who have backgrounds in sensors and related technology.
[ InformationWeek's Thomas Claburn asks whether adding a processor and wristband to an iPod Nano form factor makes sense. For his take, see Apple iWatch: 7 Reasons It Won't Fly. ]
The leaked screenshots from Samsung are at least something to look at. What do they tell us?
The user interface shown in the images is stark, mostly black-and-white. It has a Holo-esque look, which is the design language used by Android 4 and up. Given Samsung's tight ties with Google, it's unlikely that the Altius would run anything other than Android, but it would also be premature to discount Samsung's own Bada or Tizen platforms. Most of the text on the screens is in Korean, but translations point to ties with Korean wireless network operators. This suggests cellular wireless radios may be onboard.
Based on what's visible in the screenshots, the Altius would of course include a watch screen in addition to a media player, mapping of some sort and messaging notifications. The way some of the icons run off the right edge of the screenshots suggest a touch-based user interface that would allow owners to scroll sideways to access more information.
The screenshots measure 500 x 500 pixels, but there are no indications how big the screen of the Altius might be. By way of comparison, the Motorola MOTOACTV smartwatch has a 1.6-inch display with 176 x 220 pixels. The Sony SmartWatch has an OLED display that measures 1.3 inches and packs 128 x 128 pixels. It is unlikely the 500 x 500 pixel measurements are indicative of what the final resolution will be, unless Samsung is planning to offer a watch with a massive screen.
For now, neither the Apple iWatch nor the Samsung Altius are real products. Neither company has confirmed plans to work on such devices. It is entirely possible that they are, but until such a time as they get around to announcing them, the iWatch and Altius will remain the stuff of sci-fi dreams.