If Apple patents were written on a scroll it would likely roll right around the globe, twice. So we take these stories with a pinch of salt. That said Apple is looking into smart pedometer algorithms, potentially for the iWatch or an activity tracker of its own.
The patent for Apple's "wrist pedometer step detection" shows Apple's interest in this area if nothing else. Beyond that, the patent details a smart algorithm that is able to recognise where the device is being worn to work out steps taken accurately. And it learns.
Current step trackers suffer from misinterpreting arm swings and knocks leading to inaccurate counts. Apple's proposal will intelligently divide generated raw data into an accurate step count. The system is able to constantly adapt and learn. So when a discrepancy is registered the device will compare that to previous patterns, if the new threshold is greater than or equal to the last valid threshold the device will automatically adjust to count it as a step.
And it will do this from anywhere on the user's body. Rather than suggesting Apple is working on a device that can be removed from the wrist strap, it's more likely it wants a unified algorithm that will work in both wearables and iPhones. The combination could be super accurate.
The patent was first filed in 2012. All of Apple's competitors are moving into the wearables market with Sony and Samsung into second generation devices. Surely the iWatch will make an appearance soon.