When will the Apple Watch 2 launch in the UK? What new features and specs should we expect from the new Apple Watch?
When Apple announced its much-anticipated Apple Watch back in September 2014, people got very excited about the concept of an Apple-designed smartwatch. Fast-forward 21 months: the Apple Watch has been on sale for well over a year and people are wondering about the next-generation Apple Watch 2. When will the Apple Watch 2 launch, and what new features can we expect?
The Apple Watch 2 didn’t get a mention at Apple’s 21 March press event (although the Apple Watch did get some love at that event, in the form of new straps – more on that below). Then in June, the Apple Watch 2 wasn’t announced at WWDC 2016, but there was lots of news about watchOS 3 and what that means for your Apple Watch.
In this article, we round up all the rumours we’ve heard regarding the so far unannounced Apple Watch 2: when it’s going to launch, the specs and new features to expect, and likely design decisions. And we list the features and tech specs we’re hoping Apple will include in the second Apple Watch – particularly an ARM Cortex A32 processor – and why they’re essential to improving users’ experience.
Update 20 June 2016: Digitimes reckons a recent increase in supply of Apple Watch components is a sign that the launch of the next watch will be in September 2016, alongside the next iPhone. This is based on analysis of Apple’s famously complex hardware supply chain and can’t be taken as gospel – but we hope these rumours are true.
Although there is no solid release date for the second-generation Apple Watch 2, we now expect it to be announced in September 2016. We had hoped that we would get our first glimpse at the second-generation Apple Watch at the March 2016 event, but instead Apple used it to show off new watch straps as a ‘Spring’ collection, and surprised us with an Apple Watch price drop. (We also saw a new Phone SE and a 9.7in iPad Pro.)
You can find out more about the new Apple Watch straps and pricing in our Apple Watch buying guide, or continue reading for all of the Apple Watch 2 rumours we’ve seen so far.
Another rumour regarding the release date of the Apple Watch 2 comes from China – more specifically, the chairman of Quanta, Barry Lam. Quanta manufactured the first-generation Apple Watch, and we expect it’ll also be the manufacturer of the second-generation device, so when the chairman announced a general release date window at an investors meeting, people paid attention.
According to reports, Lam claims that we’ll be seeing limited stock of the Apple Watch 2 near the end of Q2 2016, with more stock becoming available in Q3 2016. Based on this, it looks like the Apple Watch 2 will have a possible June 2016 release date, which falls in line with the analyst claims above.
Apple launches new Apple Watch straps at 21 March event
Although the Apple Watch 2 didn’t get a mention at Apple’s March 2016 event, but the smartwatch didn’t go entirely unnoticed. Apple announced that the Apple Watch was the number one selling smartwatch in the world, and that people loved the fact that changing the strap changed the look of the watch. With that being said, Apple announced a flurry of new Apple Watch bands including £39 nylon bands available in seven colours, some of which can be seen below.
Along with the new line of Apple Watch straps, Apple also announced a number of new colour options for the sports and leather collections, as well as a black variant of the hugely popular Milanese loop. The Apple Watch range also received a price drop, with the Apple Watch Sport now starting at £259 for the 38mm variation and £299 for the 42mm.
New Apple Watch 2 release date, price and specification: Design and build
We’ve got an idea of when to expect the Apple Watch 2, then. But what will it look like?
Apple is said to be exploring more variations of the Apple Watch, beyond the Sports, Steel and Edition tiers available with the first-gen Apple Watch. It’s said that the company is planning to introduce new models that should sit between the most expensive steel Apple Watch (£949) and the cheapest Apple Watch Edition (£8,000).
The gap between the top of the middle price band and the bottom of the top price band has always looked rather wide, and Apple seems to be looking to attract customers willing to pay between £1,000 and £8,000 for an Apple Watch: which is potentially quite a lot of people.
However, it’s unclear how the new tiers will differ from current models. It’s been suggested that the new tier could feature more advanced bands or new materials including tungsten, palladium, titanium or even platinum.
Despite what’s been said about potential new models, according to reports in April 2016 from Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities, the Apple Watch 2 might not actually adopt a new design, with only the internals getting some love from Apple. We’ve come to expect incremental specs improvements to hardware from the company in iPhones and iPads of recent years, so it’s not outside the realms of possibility that this is the option Apple will go with.
Apple Watch 2 design rumours: Third-party battery straps
We’d all also had our eyes on a cool company called Reserve Strap. Its clever design made use of the Apple Watch’s accessory port in a strap with a battery that allowed the watch to, it’s claimed, hold a charge for up to a week. However, the company announced its disappointment recently that in a change to the Apple External Accessory Protocol in Apple’s watchOS 2.0.1 update, the accessory port will no longer support the Reserve Strap’s functionality.
For those who had pre-ordered the strap, the company advises that if you don’t upgrade your OS, you’ll be OK – but for all those who will no doubt want to it seems, for now, the battery boost idea will have to go back to the drawing board.
Apple Watch 2 design rumours: Multi-function bands
Along with updating the body of the Apple Watch in its second-generation device, it looks like Apple may be introducing a new multi-function band alongside it. As first spotted by AppleInsider, Apple recently filed an interesting patent by the name of “Magnetic Wristband”, and details a magnetic wristband for the Apple Watch that offers additional functionality.
According to the patent, the magnetic wristband will, obviously, feature a set of magnets embedded into it, allowing the two sides to join together. For consumers, this means that when worn, the magnets would hold the Apple Watch in place (much like Apple’s Milanese Loop) – but it’s when the watch is taken off that the new band comes into its own.
The strap could be wrapped around the watch, which would suspend the screen in the middle of the straps, ideal for protection when being stored or transported. As well as offering additional protection, the strap could also double up as a stand (ideal for Apple’s nightstand mode) as it’s been designed to roll up behind the Watch, propping it up.
Apple Watch 2 rumours: Tech specs
That’s what we think the next Apple Watch will look like. But we’ll talk next about the inside of the Apple Watch 2: what changes can we expect to its tech specs?
Apple Watch 2 specs: Why the Apple Watch 2 needs an ARM Cortex A32 processor
ARM has revealed a brand new design for an ultra-tiny CPU built specifically for wearables like the Apple Watch and we want the ARM Cortex A32 in the next-generation Apple Watch 2.
ARM processors have long formed the heart of Apple’s iOS devices, even though it builds its own SoCs, or systems-on-a-chip, under the A and S banners. So it’s no stretch to see this new chip’s timing being perfect for an Apple Watch upgrade, and it could solve many of the Apple Watch problems we’re having.
Inside the ARM Cortex A32
First and foremost, the A32 promises better battery life, with faster performance and lower power usage. It’s up to 25 percent quicker than the current ARM offering, and it achieves this while reducing power consumptions.
“The Cortex-A32 delivers 25% more efficiency (performance per mW) than the Cortex-A7 in the same process node. Cortex-A32 delivers this efficiency through a combination of both performance improvements and power reduction,” says ARM.
The Cortex-A32 processor incorporates new power management features compared to Cortex-A7 and Cortex-A5 processors, thereby providing more capabilities for embedded applications that require minimal idle power consumption.
The new ARM Cortex A32 looks set to solve many of our gripes with the Apple Watch. It’s faster, so apps and the interface can respond more quickly.
The ARM Cortex A32 has better power management so the Apple Watch may have a longer battery life (or be less quick to shut off the screen).
The new chip also offers better media playback functionality which may improve the Apple Watch’s audio and video playback ability.
New Apple Watch chip could be 32-bit powerhouse
The new ARM A32 uses the new ARMv8-A architecture but in a 32-bit only environment. This 32-bit environment is critical because a 64-bit processor draws too much power for the Apple Watch, and the newer ARMv8 architecture enables the device to be more efficient.
The current CPU in the Apple Watch (branded the S1 but designated “APL0778”) uses the older ARMv7 architecture with a PowerVR SG543 graphics processing unit.
ARMv8 has so far been limited to power-hungry 64-bit processors, like the ARM A35, the type that sits inside the iPhone 6s and iPad Pro. The new Cortex A32 is largely an ARM A35 with a 32-bit architecture.
ABI Research has the best analysis of what’s currently inside the Apple Watch.
The new ARM Cortex A32 is designed for wearables, like the Apple Watch, as well as the upcoming Internet of Things (iOT) and small microcontroller boards like the Raspberry Pi.
ARM says: “[ARM Cortex A32] is suitable to use in a range of embedded markets that require higher performance than a microcontroller, or have the need for a rich OS such as Linux, Android or Windows.”
The new ARM Cortex A32 is designed to scale down to an incredibly small footprint. The smallest configuration of the Cortex-A32 processor occupies less than 0.25×0.25 mm and consumes less than 4mW at 100MHz in 28nm.
On the other hand, a larger Quad-Core configuration is available running at 1 GHz, matching the kind of desktop-class power found in mobile phones and Raspberry Pi devices.
According to ARM, the Cortex A32 offers these benefits:
- ARMv8-A (AArch32) instruction set
- Enhanced floating point performance
- Substantially faster software encryption
- Enhanced media performance
“The ARM Cortex-A32 processor is the smallest, lowest-power ARMv8-A application processor designed to bring efficiency and architectural improvements The Cortex-A32 is based on an 8-stage in-order pipeline that has been extensively optimised to implement the 32-bit instruction set of the ARMv8-A architecture profile in the smallest possible die area while significantly reducing dynamic power consumption compared to the current leader, the Cortex-A7 processor.
Apple Watch 2 specs: Battery life
There was great speculation about the battery life of the Apple Watch on the run up to its (second) announcement. Apple put this worry to bed, claiming that the Apple Watch has an “all day battery life” but would still have to be charged each night, much like the iPhone. The issue with “all day battery life” is that you have to charge it almost every evening, which isn’t always possible.
Looking at rivals like the Pebble Time Steel, which has a pretty amazing battery life of around 10 days, it makes the Apple Watch battery seem a bit disappointing. Yes, the Pebble Time Steel uses a less power hungry display, but even a five-day Apple Watch battery life would be better than having to charge it every night.
It also opens up more functionality in the Apple Watch, mainly with regards to sleep tracking. With a longer battery life, users could wear the Apple Watch to bed and get accurate stats about their sleep – information that’s pretty popular, judging by the success of apps like Sleep Cycle.
According to a rumour picked up by gforgames, Apple is working with LG and Samsung to produce thinner OLED displays for the second generation Apple Watch to accommodate a larger battery. The larger battery should provide the Apple Watch 2 with a longer battery life, though the report doesn’t specify just how long it might last. The report also claims that the Apple Watch 2 will bring no real changes to the screen size, resolution or overall design of the watch, with Apple not jumping onto the round smartwatch display bandwagon anytime soon.
Apple Watch 2 rumours: New features
Update 27 June 2016: Current rumours suggest that the Apple Watch 2 will feature a touch-sensitive crown, allowing you to better interact with watchOS.
Many of the new features that Apple Watch will get access to in the coming months and years will be software-based: either updates to watchOS, or new Apple Watch apps. But Apple is sure to squeeze in a few headline features when it next update the hardware. Here’s what we’re expecting.
Apple Watch 2 features: Front-facing camera for selfies & FaceTime
We’re now hearing from multiple sources that Apple is going to add a front-facing camera to the second-generation Apple Watch, although opinions differ on whether this is intended to cater for FaceTime or selfies (or both), and whether it will offer video or just stills photography.
According to 9to5Mac, Apple is planning to add a FaceTime video camera to the Apple Watch 2, which will enable users to make and receive FaceTime calls via their wrists. The new FaceTime camera is said to be integrated into the top bezel of the Apple Watch 2, though we’re not too sure how many people would actively FaceTime via a watch. It would get annoying holding up the wrist for more than a few minutes, for one thing.
Still, Apple has already made its watch partially FaceTime-ready: watchOS 2 brings support for FaceTime audio calls. Does that indicate that it’ll soon move on to video calls? Perhaps.
9To5Mac does note, though, that Apple trials many prototypes of its products before settling on the final one, so the FaceTime camera might not make it into the final model that makes its way into stores.
Patently Apple, meanwhile, has spotted an Apple patent that appears to support the inclusion of a selfie camera – a front-facing stills camera, in other words; not necessarily one that’s capable of FaceTime video – in an Apple Watch in the future.
Patent 20160174025, which pertains in seemingly broad terms to methods for FACILITATING ACCESS TO LOCATION-SPECIFIC INFORMATION USING WIRELESS DEVICES but actually focuses on wearables, contains a reference to digital photography:
“Camera 229 can include, e.g., a compact digital camera that includes an image sensor such as a CMOS sensor and optical components (e.g. lenses) arranged to focus an image onto the image sensor, along with control logic operable to use the imaging components to capture and store still and/or video images. Images can be stored, e.g., in storage subsystem 204 and/or transmitted by wearable device 200 to other devices for storage. Depending on implementation, the optical components can provide fixed focal distance or variable focal distance; in the latter case, autofocus can be provided. In some embodiments, camera 229 can be disposed along an edge of face member 104 of FIG. 1, e.g., the top edge, and oriented to allow a user to capture images of nearby objects in the environment such as a bar code or QR code. In other embodiments, camera 229 can be disposed on the front surface of face member 104, e.g., to capture images of the user. Zero, one, or more cameras can be provided, depending on implementation.”
Update, January 2016: Reports claim that the upcoming Apple Watch 2 may feature the much-rumoured front-facing FaceTime camera… but not much else. As first noted by Tech Crunch, citing several sources, it appears that the Apple Watch 2 may not be a complete redesign with major changes to its design and features, and may be more of an ‘S’ update similar to the iPhone refresh cycle. It’s also claimed that Apple is still unsure of the Apple Watch refresh cycle, as its more of a companion for your smartphone rather than a standalone device (for now, anyway).
Apple Watch 2 features: New health sensors
In an interview with The Telegraph, Tim Cook hinted that the company may make a medically approved device, but it wouldn’t be the Apple watch. Cook explained that the disruption that FDA accreditation would cause to the product release cycle, which ultimately put him off having the Apple Watch vetted for full-blown health use. Although with this being said, it hasn’t completely put him off the idea of building a product for use in the medical world:
“We don’t want to put the watch through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) process. I wouldn’t mind putting something adjacent to the watch through it, but not the watch, because it would hold us back from innovating too much, the cycles are too long. But you can begin to envision other things that might be adjacent to it – maybe an app, maybe something else.”
Ahead of its official launch, there was a lot of talk regarding the Apple’s wearable and specifically, that it’d be loaded with health sensors. So far that’s not proven to be the case, with heart-rate and activity tracking offering a standard level of fitness tracking, but nothing more. Even though Cook has stated that it’d be a different device, is this just a way of throwing us off the scent of the upcoming Apple Watch 2? It looks like it could come with a full suite of health sensors, which is something we’d welcome.
Following the interview, a number of Apple job listings have come to light and with them, a look at what Apple may be currently working on. In December 2015 and January 2016, Apple posted two listings looking for biomedical engineers with a background in “medical, health, wellness and/or fitness sensors, devices and applications”. Although there is no mention of the Apple Watch in the listings, it’s widely assumed that the roles are related to the listing for a fitness software engineering manager, which went up in November and is specifically for the Apple Watch.
BuzzFeed News also reported that over the last three months, Apple has stolen employees from all over the medical field. An example given by the news outlet is Anne Shelchuk, who has a doctorate in biomedical engineering. Shelchuk left the ultrasound software company ZONARE Medical Systems back in November to work with Apple’s health technology team, according to her LinkedIn. Along with Shelchuk, Apple has reportedly snapped up medical engineer Craig Slyfield, system design engineer Nathan Clark, who has a patent for a device that separates cells, Jay Mung, who worked on sensor algorithms for Medtronic’s continuous glucose monitoring systems and Jennifer Hillier, a former exercise physiologist at the University of California.
Apple Watch 2 features: Less reliance on iPhone
Update 14 July 2016: Canalys and IDC, both of which are industry analyst firms have stated that wearables are set to rise in popularity within the next couple of years. In Canalys analysis, the firm predicted a total 7.5 million smart watches to feature cellular connectivity. This number does depend on Apple’s inclusion of cellular connectivity in their upcoming Watch 2, but it seems that the analyst firm is confident that the feature will be included.
There are an increasing amount of rumours around the Apple Watch 2 featuring a built-in GPS. This would allow it to provide better tracking abilities and further distance itself from having to run side-by-side with an iPhone.
With its GPS functionalities, the Apple Watch 2 could be considered as a serious contender for those who want to use it for fitness tracking. This is due to the watch having better capabilities of accurately tracking your progress.
Apple plans for the second-gen Apple Watch to have more functionality when it’s separated from an iPhone, and has apparently named the project “tether-less” internally. As it stands, the Apple Watch can only support activity tracking, music playback and mobile payments without a paired iPhone, with many other features including text messaging, emailing and using third-party apps impossible without an iPhone for the Apple Watch to communicate with. The release of watchOS 2 brought the ability for third-party apps to run natively on the Watch, but the apps still require an iPhone to send and receive data.
However, the with the Apple Watch 2, Apple is reportedly looking to make it more capable when your iPhone isn’t connected, simply by adding a new wireless chipset into the wearable. What difference will this make to the Apple Watch experience? While it probably won’t be able to handle data-heavy requests (such as software updates), other tasks could be handled without the assistance of an iPhone.
The new wireless chipset should also enable a heavily requested “Find my Watch” feature similar to “Find my iPhone” which is said to utilise Wi-Fi router triangulation technology, as opposed to GPS.
There are a few rumours suggesting that the Watch 2 will be able to run on its own, allowing it to run independently from an iPhone. In this respect, it’s rumoured that the Watch 2 will have an untethered mode, allowing you to directly connect your Apple Watch 2 to a network, directly from the watch itself. We don’t think Apple will allow this, due to the battery impact it will have on the device.
There are even more rumours surrounding the inclusion of a 3G or 4G-enabled Apple Watch 2 that will bring a lot new connectivity options to the upcoming watch. However, this might raise concern for those wanting a better battery life.
According to a blog post from Apple, all apps developed from 1 June for the Apple Watch must be ‘native’ – that is, apps that can operate from the Watch instead of the user’s tethered iPhone. This may have a positive impact on speed, given that apps will now all run right there on your wrist.
This also ties in in part to another report from the Wall Street Journal that the Apple Watch 2 may get cellular connectivity. We’ve seen smartwatches from Samsung that ship with 3G connectivty, and allow users to make ans receive calls without their phone. It complicates things slightly for mobile operators as Apple will have to make it clear how the user is billed for cellular usage over two devices.
However, potential cellular connectivity for Apple Watch 2 is exciting, as severing the tie between the Watch and iPhone is an important technological step to the Watch being the all day every day personal assistant Apple is clearly dreaming of. Being able to bring up native apps over a network connection without your phone might unlock new possibilities for watchOS developers.
That’s all the rumours we’ve seen so far about the Apple Watch 2’s features, but rest assured that we’ll update this article when more emerge. And we discuss plenty more potential new features in our Apple Watch 2 wishlist, on the next page.