A year ago, the Apple Watch Series 2 introduced water resistance and built-in GPS. It was evident then that Apple was attempting to loosen the dependency the device has on the iPhone. With Apple's annual Fall event approaching, rumors are starting to be heard.
Given that it has only been a year since the last refresh (breaking the initial thought that the Apple Watch would be on a two year cycle) what we've heard so far is nothing too drastic. That said, however, there are a couple of potentially major changes that may be enough to get you to upgrade.
The biggest addition we've heard for the next Apple Watch is an LTE chip. Naturally, the first reaction to this is that the watch will natively be able to call and text, no longer acting as an input device for the iPhone. Personally, the prospect of that doesn't sound too appealing to me. Sure, I've taken a handful of calls on my watch while I've been in the middle of some household repairs, or my phone wasn't within reaching distance. As an early adopter of the Apple Watch, I've never found myself in a scenario where I was actively looking to initiate a conversation from the watch.
Where LTE may be incredibly useful, though, is in improving the app experience of the watchOS apps. To this point, a majority of watchOS apps are simply scaled down versions of iOS apps that are glorified notifiers. I love my Apple Watch, but it only serves two major purposes for me: activity tracking and notifications. If the new Apple Watch has it's own LTE chip, though, watchOS apps can start to become independent applications, gathering their own data and developing their own experiences. The addition of an LTE chip will also help to improve the activity tracking on the watch. Coupled with the built-in GPS, the LTE chip will assist in helping to locate you in the world, and more accurately track your walks, jogs, runs, and other activities.
A concern over the addition of the LTE chip though is the battery life on the device. The Series 2 boasts 18 hours of battery life, and Apple has been known to continually increase the battery capacity with each new model. An LTE chip that is continually scanning for connectivity takes a toll on any battery, though. Given the footprint of the 38 and 42-mm watches, there is only so much power to be had. I would expect that the battery will receive an upgrade in the next model, however the battery life will remain about the same as it is today, due to the increased usage of the LTE chip.
It is expected that Apple will offer both LTE and non-LTE versions of the next Apple Watch; similar to how it offers it's iPad models. I can only hope that the LTE version isn't significantly more expensive, and that Apple has negotiated with carriers to keep the monthly cost low.
Improved Activity Tracking
Thanks to Apple and other wearable companies, our entire world is increasingly gamified. I am admittedly addicted to closing out my rings on the Apple Watch. So much so that the only watch face I've used for over a year now is the "Activity Analog" face. I love being able to immediately glance down and see where I'm at for the day. This is also incredibly frustrating though. Halfway into a 4-mile hike and your exercise ring only shows 6 minutes of exercise is a total bummer.
TFW when you go on 4 hour hike along the coastline, and your Apple Watch only gives you 15 minutes of exercise. 😑— Chris Bohatka (@cjb5790) August 9, 2017
As far as rumors go, this one has been one of the most vague. The extent of the improved activity tracking for the next Apple Watch is attributed to "additional sensors". One of these sensors is undoubtedly the rumored LTE chip, but that is all we have to go on.
Regardless of what new or improved sensors there may be, this is the one rumor I am hoping (re: begging) comes true. As stated previously, the number one use of my Apple Watch is activity tracking. I use the watch to track my runs, hikes, and other activities (kayaking, for example). Frankly, the Apple Watch does a very poor job of it. So poor that I've been considering picking up an additional wearable, such as the Garmin Fenix 5, specifically for activities like those. Even apps like Strava, that do a significantly better job at tracking runs/cycling than the Apple provided Exercise app, are still tethered to the iPhone. This is where the new LTE chip will prove it's worth.
We may also see some form of sleep tracking in the next Apple Watch. Earlier this year Apple purchased Beddit, the company behind a sleep tracking wearable and iOS companion app. We've seen Apple acquire app companies in the past to integrate their existing tech into default OS features (Siri being the most notable). Sleep Tracking has long been one of the most requested features for the Apple Watch. It is honestly one of the only features I've missed having switched from the Jawbone Up to the Apple Watch a few years ago. Having only just acquired Beddit this past spring, it seems aggressive that watchOS 4 will ship with embedded sleep tracking. Though Apple is known for delivering new integrations with a quick turnaround. I would be surprised if we didn't see Kevin Lynch unveiling new sleep tracking capabilities in watchOS 4 next month.
The rumor of the Apple Watch including a FaceTime camera has been around since the beginning. Ever since Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Gear with it's front-facing camera, everyone has expected each refresh of the Apple Watch to allow for FaceTime direct on the device. Our visions of the future, from The Jetsons and Star Trek to 2001: A Space Odyssey have always included video chat wrist watches. Apple has seemingly been timid to introduce this feature, though. Probably due to the small screen size on the watch; developing a user friendly experience to show both your video and your call feed has to be challenging. Since we're on the verge of another refresh, this rumor has been circulating again.
I still don't think the Apple Watch is ready for a camera, at least not in it's current form factor. I personally believe we won't see a camera until we get a full redesign of the wearable. In it's current state, the only place for a lens would be on the band, sitting just above the screen. This would prove to be a good profit move for Apple, allowing anyone wanting the feature to purchase an additional accessory to enable it, but that's not something the Apple we're accustomed to would generally gravitate towards.
Given that the primary (if not only) use of the camera on the Apple Watch would be for FaceTime, I think Apple will hold out for a new Jony Ive inspired design that hides the lens within the screen (similar to the renders we've seen of the iPhone 8). Let's not forget that Apple continues to market the watch as a fashion accessory, and a camera lens protruding from a bulky bezel or watch band seemingly shatters that image.
So, What's Next..?
Realistically, the Apple Watch Series 3 (or whatever they decide to call it) will most likely receive the S model treatment of the iPhone line. An increase in specs, and potentially one or two smaller features that will leave the market in limbo of whether to upgrade or not. Spoiler alert: I'll be the guy who sets his alarms for the 3am east coast pre-orders.
What do you guys think about the next Apple Watch? What do you want to see in the next model? Will you be upgrading, or perhaps buying one for the first time? Let us know in the comments below.