It's taken a long time, but we finally have some updates on what is going on with the new Apple Watch model that we pretty much all agree is coming out this fall. Mark Gurman reports:
The updated versions will also be able to integrate GPS-based location tracking, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans aren’t public. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.
There's not a lot here, and the only other real note Gurman has is that this new Apple Watch will not have a cellular connection.
The Apple Watch launched in April 2015 and just barely met the bar for being a minimally viable product from Apple. It was hampered by slow, sometimes confusing software, but it checked just enough boxes to be a successful V1 smartwatch. And even with its limitations, it did things like make phone calls, which Android Wear did not do at the time (and most still don't allow). watchOS 2 added a more capable app platform, and the upcoming watchOS 3 makes the whole darn thing a lot more usable with incredible speed improvements and dynamic additions to the platform's APIs.
Now that the platform is on stable ground as a tethered device, the next step is clearly to make the Watch more independent from the iPhone. As it stands, there are a few things that the Apple Watch can do when away from your phone, but it loses much of what makes it a wonderful accessory when out of the range of your phone. Two big hardware enhancements Apple could use to compensate for these deficiencies are adding GPS and a cellular connection.
Gurman's source says that GPS will be in the Apple Watch 2, which will be truly great for people who use the Apple Watch as a fitness device. I'm absolutely in this camp, and the big reason I still have my giant ass iPhone 6s Plus in my pocket when I go for a run is that the 1st gen Apple Watch does not have GPS. If you run with the Apple Watch sans iPhone, it does a pretty decent job of guessing how far you've gone, but it's not as accurate as GPS data would be.
Assuming my favorite podcast app makers (Pocket Casts and Castro, I'm looking at you!) release watchOS 3 apps in September that let me load podcasts directly only my Apple Watch, I could absolutely leave my iPhone at home when I run. Hell, I'll probably get 10% faster just for losing the extra weight of that giant phone!
Gurman is pretty sure there will not be a cellular data connection in the new Watch though, and that is a little sad, if not totally expected. Battery concerns seem to be the cause of this omission, and Apple really can't walk backwards on battery life at this point. My Apple Watch comfortably makes it through a day without issue right now1, but if it drops below that and is no longer something I can take for granted, the entire product becomes less appealing.
That said, cellular data must be something Apple crams into the 2017 Apple Watch 3, because this will be a game-changing feature. No, the Apple Watch isn't going to replace your iPhone, but it sure would be nice to be able to lave your iPhone at home sometimes and still be connected. Being able to send an iMessage while I'm on a run and left my iPhone at home would be amazing! I don't need to download YouTube videos or anything data-intensive, but having just a little data connection I could know is just always there would go a long way to making the Apple Watch more than an iPhone accessory.
- Even on the watchOS 3 beta. ↩