Apple Plans Major ‘Watch X’ Overhaul for Device’s 10-Year Anniversary
Apple’s next line of smartwatches is expected to be a minor upgrade. Behind the scenes, though, the company is working on a revamped “Watch X” update for the device’s 10th anniversary. Also: We’re now able to map out Apple’s full line of future M3 chips based on app logs, and trademark listings confirm that the company considered the Reality Pro name for its headset.
Last week in Power On: Apple admits there is a smartphone slowdown ahead of September iPhone 15 launch.
Apple Inc. is planning a splashy upgrade for its smartwatch, but you won’t see it this year. The 2023 models, due next month, will be a minor refresh — the kind of incremental update that has characterized the product in recent years.
Inside Apple, executives have pondered the idea of switching away from this slow-but-steady annual upgrade cycle. The deliberations haven’t gotten far (Apple has dutifully released a new watch every year since the category debuted in 2015), but recent updates to the device underscore why this is even a discussion.
Unlike with the iPhone, changes to the main Apple Watch are fairly minor on a yearly basis. Last year, the Series 8 model’s main addition was the body-temperature sensor. The year before, the big change was a larger display. And the year before that marked the last time Apple boosted the performance of the device, when it launched the Series 6 with a faster chip and blood-oxygen reader.
Fact is, Apple isn’t giving consumers many reasons to buy a new watch with each generation. The company did launch an impressive new Apple Watch Ultra last year that spurred upgrades at the high end, but 2023 will (once again) be another low-key year.
Apple is set to unveil the Apple Watch Series 9 lineup alongside the latest iPhone at an event that’s currently scheduled for Sept. 12. The new watches will remain the same size as current models — at 41 and 45 millimeters (or 49 millimeters for the Ultra). The most noticeable differences will be faster processors and fresh colors.
In terms of new features, it’s arguably the most minor upgrade in the product’s history. If you spent $799 on an Apple Watch Ultra last year, it’s unlikely you’ll want to spring for this version.
Of course, Apple doesn’t release new watches strictly to get people to upgrade each year. The company adds features on an annual basis to attract first-time smartwatch buyers or people with far older models. It also hopes to entice users of Samsung and Fitbit wearables.
For that reason, Apple will probably stick with the once-a-year upgrade cycle, but the company has made changes to other products’ release schedules. Early in the iPad’s history, it was updated each year (in 2012, the flagship model was even refreshed twice). These days, the main iPads aren’t updated sooner than every 18 months or so.
Because of the Apple Watch’s slow evolution over the years, the design has remained largely the same since the Series 4 launched in 2018 — aside from the Ultra model.
But that’s poised to change. Apple is planning a “Watch X” model to mark the device’s 10-year anniversary, and it promises to be the biggest overhaul yet. (The category was unveiled in 2014 and released the following year, so Apple is planning to launch Watch X either in 2024 or 2025.)
With the X model, Apple designers are working on a thinner watch case and have explored changing the way bands are attached to the device.
Starting with the original Apple Watch, bands have slid into the sides of the chassis and attached with a locking mechanism. Keeping that design the same let the bands stay compatible with old and new models, but it has downsides. People involved in the development of new Apple Watches say the system takes up a considerable amount of space that could be better filled with a bigger battery or other components.
To that end, the company has explored a new magnetic band attachment system, though it’s unclear if it will be ready or used in the Watch X revamp. Even bigger changes are coming as well: a microLED display that tops the color and clarity of the current OLED screens, as well as a technology for monitoring blood pressure.
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