It’s time for Apple to revolutionize wearables – all over again
Since the Apple Watch’s first revision in September 2016, Apple has released a new model every year, like clockwork. Accordingly, Apple Watch Series 7 is likely to land next month.
But what are we hoping to see in Apple’s cutting-edge timepiece? How can Apple’s device retain its lead in a rapidly evolving industry? And which Apple Watch Series 7 rumors not only have substance but also sound like a good idea? Let’s find out.
A new design
Not every new Apple device needs a redesign. Doing so would lead to a horribly wasteful accessories ecosystem. But the current Apple Watch case has changed little in years, and is out of step with contemporary Apple industrial design.
We’d like to see Apple Watch follow the design language of flagship iPhones and iPads, replacing its relatively bulbous form with a flat-edged case. This would play a clever visual trick, eradicating bulk without heavily reducing the device’s dimensions.
A bigger, always-on display
Should Apple Watch get that flat-edged case, it could gain a key advantage flagship iPhones and iPads received during their recent redesigns: a larger display, but without the need for a larger form factor. Smaller bezels could enhance this further – and every pixel counts when you’re using a tiny screen.
With that in mind, it’s interesting to see this nugget listed in Apple’s update notes for watchOS 8 – the new Apple Watch operating system that will ship this September: “Always on display works with more apps, including Alarms, Maps, Stopwatch, and your favorite third-party apps.” We’re already a long way from the days where you had to comically shake your wrist to ‘wake’ an Apple Watch – but we’d like its display to optionally stay active all the time. Perhaps that dream is imminent.
It’s possible the Apple Watch will get a new CPU that will increase the device’s raw power. But what we really want is a battery life revolution. Right now, a typical Apple Watch can get through a day and change before its battery runs dry. That lifespan drops precipitously when you use the device’s GPS capabilities, for example while exercising.
Ideally, an Apple Watch would go for days between charges. But if that kind of update remains unviable, we’d like to see a boost in fast-charging – especially given Apple’s recommendations you use Apple Watch to track your sleep. Enabling you to charge an Apple Watch on any wireless charging pad would be a boon, too, cutting down on electronic waste.
Reinvigorate the app ecosystem
There’s a rich ecosystem of apps and games for iPhone and iPad, but Apple Watch (much like Apple TV) feels forgotten. In part, this is because there aren’t that many new and exciting apps arriving on a regular basis. Perhaps Apple needs to lead, providing inspiration to developers.
In part, though, the blame lies with app discovery, which remains poor on iPhone and Apple Watch alike. The usual suspects are placed front and center time and time again. To encourage Apple Watch app creators, Apple must make their wares far easier for Apple Watch owners to find.
Enhanced health capabilities
Apple’s watchOS 8 preview suggests incremental health updates are arriving this fall, the most notable being the Breathe app’s rebrand to Mindfulness, and the Sleep app recording your respiratory rate. But there have long been rumors about blood sugar detection, which would prove genuinely revolutionary for diabetics.
However, the last of those seems an ambitious ask for 2021, and it would need Apple to seriously ramp things up in terms of accuracy. After all, the Apple Watch ECG app is solid to the point medical staff can work with its data. Oxygen readings? Not so much. They’re bettered by $15 devices from Amazon.
Full device independence
There are many welcome features in watchOS 8 that point to a future when owning an Apple Watch will no longer require you to own an iPhone. There’s a Contacts app, a means to locate other Apple devices, improved text editing and better sharing. But many apps remain heavily reliant on their iPhone counterparts.
So our final hope is that Apple will cut the cord. At some point, Apple Watch needs to stand alone. Steps on that journey began with cellular devices and the Apple Watch’s own App Store. It will end only when pairing an Apple Watch with an iPhone is an option rather than a requirement. Will that happen this year? That’s unlikely, but if we also get a radical redesign, perhaps Apple will be radical in other areas too.