Why A 20-40% Thinner Apple Watch is Not in the Cards for 2016

Posted by Matt Birchler
β€” 3 min read

There was a report last month that the next version of the Apple Watch is coming out in a few months and will be 20-40% thinner than the original model. In a world where tech gets thinner every couple years, this seems like a rather pedestrian prediction, but I think it's going to prove to be far off the mark. I think we absolutely will see a second generation Apple Watch this year, but it will look nearly identical to the current model.

My number one reason for thinking that the Apple Watch is not going to get any thinner (and certainly not 40% thinner!) is because of all the problems the Apple Watch has today, it's thickness is not even in the top 100 issues. Seriously, show me the articles from people who stopped wearing their Apple Watch because it's too thick. Show me the pictures of people wearing their Apple Watches next to a traditional watch and commenting on how comically big it is. Show me a single comment from anyone saying they would love to buy an Apple Watch but wish it was thinner.

These people and these articles don't exist. It's as simple as that. I have not shown my Watch to someone in the real world and had them say "wow, that's big!" I have the 42mm model and most people actually think this is the smaller model. Everyone's reaction is that it looks smaller than they expected.

It depends on what sort of watch you like, but the Apple Watch is about the same width and thickness of a standard watch. I'm holding my Apple Watch next to my old Fossil and Timex watches1 and the Apple Watch has a smaller face than both of them (they appear to be 46mm faces) and right in between them in terms of thickness.

What people really want to see are changes that would make a thinner model impossible. We want more processing power in the form of a much better CPU. We want an always-on display so we can always tell the time without tilting our wrist. We want to see more powerful applications that can do more things faster. We want to see more health sensors that will tell us more about our bodies than we maybe ever wanted to know. We want all these things and we also want twice as much battery life.

If we really want to get all of those features, and I don't think any of those are unreasonable, then we simply can't cram all the hardware required to pull that off in a body with half the volume. It's a simple matter of physics! The Apple Watch was released one year ago and Apple got the best hardware they could cram into such a small space. Clearly the hardware was just good enough to function in early 2015, and expecting something to get 2x the performance and battery life one year later while cutting the size of the device in half is just not going to happen.

Above are the options in front of Apple right now. Their first option is to make a new Apple Watch that has all the same battery and performance issues as the current model, but is considerably thinner. Their other option is to keep the physical size of the device nearly identical and give us significant improvements in performance and possibly battery life. Considering nobody seems to be holding off on buying an Apple Watch because it's too thick, I think Apple would be mad to go crazy thin on this second model. They should boost the hardware capabilities as much as possible and then think about making it thinner in the future.

  1. Fancy, I know.