Apple has filed a trademark application for an "iWatch" in Japan, fuelling speculation the US tech company is preparing a wearable computing device to compete with Google and Samsung.
The company has long been rumoured to be working on an iWatch, which would be Apple's biggest gadget launch since the iPad mini last year.
The trademark application was filed on June 3, according to the patent office.
No one from Apple in Tokyo was available to comment on the application.
Wearable computing, including Google's Glass eyewear, is considered the next frontier in consumer electronics following smartphones.
Competition in the "smart watch" market is already heating up, with Google, Microsoft and Samsung Electronics rushing to develop their own watch-type computing devices.
Sony last week unveiled the latest version of its SmartWatch, which links with smartphones to receive alerts about phone calls, emails and updates from social networks. It also can play music.
ABI Research estimates that 1.2 million smart watches will be sold globally this year.