Apple Watch 2: All the rumors about the specs roundup
In April 2015, the Apple Watch finally became available for sale. It became, simultaneously, one of the finest smartwatches in the land and, at least according to the perception in some quarters, a relative disappointment for the company.
Why the ambivalence? Apple hasn’t released sales figures, but it hardly seems like a flop — IDC ranks it second in the wearables market, behind only Fitbit, which has sold more than 20 million of its namesake devices. Any other company would be celebrating that as a breakout freshman product. But this is Apple, after all. You know, the company that sold roughly 75 million iPhones in the first quarter of 2015.
Still, wearables appear to be a market poised for big time growth and, as such, sustained attention from Cupertino. In October, Apple updated its Apple Watch software to let apps run on the watch itself instead of working as iPhone extensions, mitigating the absolute interdependence of the initial scenario. The second version of the Watch OS also features new watch faces, improved third-party apps and better overall performance.
But those improvements were ultimately incremental. And in the meantime, the Watch has seen some fairly meaty price cuts at mainstream retailers like Best Buy.
We expect the introduction of the second-generation Apple Watch to come sometime in 2016. In the interim, we will count the minutes, obsessively glancing at our wrists for news, all the while curating the most interesting predictions, best guesses and rumors about what the future holds.
Announcement and release dates
Though no official invitations have been made yet, Apple’s next big event is rumored to be scheduled for this coming March. Given that the original Apple Watch would be coming up on its first birthday in April 2016, it’s likely that such an event would be focused on its successor. (There are murmurs that such an event could include the introduction of a new iPhone — perhaps the rumored 6c — as well as a possible iPad Air 3.)
In terms of timing, multiple reports have cited the accidental disclosure made by one of Apple’s suppliers suggesting that the Watch 2 may be slated for a Q2 release; Quanta Computer chairman Brian Lam also remarked that mass production of the device would not start until the third quarter of 2016. Of course, without any official indication one way or another, there are others pointing to a debutlater in the year, in the spring or summer.
What’s new and different about the 2016 Apple Watch?
One widely reported rumor out of South Korea, predicts that the Apple Watch 2’s form factor won’t diverge much, if at all, from the original’s rectangular, iPod Nano-ish essence. And perhaps that’s for the best. In terms of craftsmanship, there isn’t a more elegantly made piece of wearable tech than the Apple Watch.
Certainly, many folks are hoping for better battery life. With the first generation Apple Watch, even moderate use can burn down the battery in less than 24 hours. In fact, one of the earliest Apple Watch 2 rumors to surface, back in July, characterized LG and Samsung as working to produce a thinner OLED display for the second-generation model, which would allow for a larger battery in a similarly sized device.
And though Apple has sometimes sacrificed functionality for best-in-class aesthetics — the merely adequate battery life of the iPhone 6 and 6S would serve as one example — it seems unlikely that Apple would want to deliver another Watch equipped with anything less than 24 hours worth of run time. Especially with competitors like the Pebble Time Steel capable of going more than a week between charges.
There is speculation that Apple could add a camera to the Watch 2 , the company is considering building a camera into the top bezel, ostensibly enabling users to FaceTime via the device. The debut of Watch OS 2 has already made it possible to pick up or hang up calls using the watch’s controls.
Another fertile area for functionality enhancement would be the watch’s capabilities when not connected to an iPhone. Still, today’s Apple Watch independent capabilities — activity tracking, music playback, and mobile payments — don’t extend fully into messaging, making it still feel like a tethered product. Though the recent Watch OS 2 update has improved the situation, a second-generation model could include integrated wireless capabilities to enable more functionality independent of an iPhone.
Other possibilities being discussed include the ability to track sleep and smart straps that would include extra sensors for tracking fitness. In fact, Apple CEO Tim Cook hinted in an interview last month that the company could build “something adjacent to the watch” that would be more medically focused and would require US Food and Drug Administration approval. That could be an app, he said, or “something else.”
The original Apple Watch was priced along a rather remarkable spectrum, starting at $349 and soaring to $17,000. But could those aforementioned pre-Christmas price drops be a trial balloon for a new pricing strategy in 2016? Or are retailers merely clearing “old” first-gen inventory in anticipation of a new device in as little as 90 days? Time will tell.