This week brought us a couple of reports that a new Watch will be coming sooner than many tech experts thought. The Series 1 and 2 Apple Watches were released in September of 2016, and as with the 1st Gen, or Series 0 Watch as some call it, there was reason to think Apple would give them more than a just a one year product cycle. However, according to both Mark Gurman and others at Bloomberg and John Gruber of Daring Fireball, a new Apple Watch will be here before the end of the year.
The Bloomberg report claims that the new Series 3 Apple Watch will be LTE-enabled via a cellular modem provided by Intel. This is a really big deal, since it would break the Watch’s total dependence on the iPhone and make it a completely stand-alone device. This could potentially open up the market for the Apple Watch beyond iOS users, which couple definitely widen its reach.
The addition of a cell modem would also add to the appeal of the Watch for fitness use without the iPhone. The GPS-enabled and waterproof Series 2 took a step in this direction, but an LTE connection in an updated device would, for example, allow runners to leave the house without their iPhones and still be able to take calls and stream music while out for a run. There are several examples of how this could really benefit users who want to exercise without exposing their phones with unnecessary wear and tear.
This rumor of the inclusion of LTE makes a lot of sense when you think about some of the new watchOS 4 features that were announced at WWDC. Using AI, Apple will now automatically sync over music for local storage on the Watch that users will want to listen to during workouts. What is the point of this feature if the Watch isn’t going to be used alone? During the announcement, a big deal was made about how well the Watch and AirPods work together. Adding LTE to this mix makes the Watch an even-more compelling mobile device.
There are potential pitfalls that would come along with an LTE modem, as heat dissipation could be problematic and battery life could also take a noticeable hit. Then there is the question of how cell data plans will work on the new device. I have a feeling that it will be a similar situation to what we have with LTE-enabled iPads, but we won’t know for sure until a device is officially announced. Another question is whether a potential Series 3 Watch will be available without LTE, like iPads are. For those who don’t want the battery drain, or need the device independence, the LTE will just be the source of an unnecessary price increase.
The tidbit that John Gruber adds is also interesting. It seems that he has heard from a source that the Series 3 Apple Watch will also feature a new form-factor. If you know anything about Apple bloggers, then you know how connected Gruber is. He also doesn’t engage in click-bait rumor-mongering like so many other Apple writers, so if he’s putting information forward, it is definitely worthy of note. On the surface, the rumor of a new form-factor makes sense. Apple usually re-thinks a mobile device’s design after two consecutive generations. The iPhone 7 was an obvious departure from this pattern, but it is one of few exceptions.
However, if Apple really is adding LTE to the Apple Watch, it is hard to believe that they would also be able to make the device smaller or thinner. The new Watch will need enough battery to support an LTE radio, and making it too thin could also make heat dissipation a problem. I’m not saying that a form-factor change won’t happen, but it may not be what we usually expect from Apple. It is possible that a Series 3 could be bigger, rather than smaller. It will be very interesting to see how Apple handles such a change.
I am a big fan of the Apple Watch, and have owned one and worn it almost every day since launch. Whenever anyone asks me what I think of it, I always recommend it, but I also always caution anyone who shows interest that it is a tool, not a toy. Many users do so many things with their smartphones, and are conditioned to pick them up and do something with them at all times. The Apple Watch isn’t like that. Apple tried to bill it as the next great app platform at launch, and they do have some limited usefulness for certain tasks, but the power of the Watch is in active notifications, fitness, and message and email triage. It is best as a tool that performs its core tasks and then gets out of and stays out of the way,
I am interested in what the Series 3 Apple Watch will bring to the table. I may not need LTE connectivity all the time on my wrist, but I am very interested to see how it adds to the usefulness of the device. I have been waiting to see if anything can jumpstart the app situation on the device. The speed issues with loading apps have been improved, but adding an independent wireless connection could make them work just as on the iPhone and iPad. Not every app is suited to the small screen, but this should make the Watch a more viable solution for those apps that are a good fit.
What do you think of these new Apple Watch rumors? Are you a Watch user looking to upgrade, or is LTE and a new for-factor not enough to sway you this time around? If you don’t own an Apple Watch, is this the version that may push you over the edge? Let me know in the Comments below, on Flipboard, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.