Very little is known for sure about the Apple Watch 2, and Cupertino has remained tight-lipped throughout 2016. The only thing for certain is that changes need to be made.
"There were many off-the-shelf, non-ideal or slightly outdated components in the first Watch and all of these can easily be improved on," says Daniel Matte, who leads the Wearable Technology Analysis service at Canalys.
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As the gossip reaches hysterical levels we went in search of the opinions of industry analysts and insiders, to cut through the current rumour crop and tell us which are most likely to become reality.
Apple Watch 2: Built in GPS
The lack of GPS hardware has been a major grumble for current owners serious about fitness tracking. A GPS chip would mean the watch would morph into a more serious running mate, logging workouts and taking it one step closer to cutting its e-leash with the iPhone.
"I think Apple will continue to make the watch truly independent for certain types of use cases, including GPS," saysBernard Desernauts, CEO of Wristly, the largest independent Apple Watch research platform.
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However, Stephen Leech, a Silicon Valley iPhone and iPad developer, believes that Apple are having problems with cellular connectivity that could stop GPS features reaching beyond basic distance reporting:
"I don't think that specification for the phase 2 eSim will be finalised in time for the new wearable's release, so GPS could still be limited for users," he said.
Apple Watch 2: Waterproofing
Taking the watch underwater has been the subject of a lot of the chatter ahead of launch - as well as numerous tests on YouTube, proving that the Watch performs better in the blue stuff than its current IPX7 rating would suggest.
"We've measured swimming as a key activity that Apple Watch owners engage with regularly, so obviously being able to include swimming activity is a natural expectation," reveals Desernauts. "7% of current owners, me included, swim with their Apple Watch despite warnings and potential loss of warranty and a further 14 percent regularly bathe and shower with it. So, all in all, it's pretty clear that increasing from IPX7 to higher levels of waterproofness would yield improved market attractiveness."
Apple Watch 2: Battery life
When the world's leading semiconductor IP company ARM revealed a brand new design for a CPU for use in wearables this year, many believed that it was destined for the new Watch to improve battery life. However, Apple analyst Rene Ritchie is not convinced. "It's just not a possibility," says Ritchie, "like an ARM reference design for a company that makes its own ARM IP."
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However, further rumours that the S1 processor that ran the show in the first watch will be replaced with a shrunken 16nm S2 chip, appear to be founded on fact. "I think it's likely that the Apple Watch 2 will have significantly better battery life and moderately better performance because of the latest chipset fabrication processes," reveals Daniel Matte. This would potentially free up room for some of the health sensors that, Matte believes, will be delivered with the new product.
Apple Watch 2: Apple Watch S
There's a lot of chatter that we will not even be seeing a '2' when Tim Cook takes to the stage. Instead, he will be holding an 'S' and the product will follow the same upgrade programme as the iPhone. This would mean that we would see a device where all the changes happen under the hood, with spec upgrades and minimal design tweaks.
"Personally, I think that there will be enough going on when the next product ships to justify a 2 tag," says Stephen Leech. "In this instance, I think it's a possibility that there could be a dual release. For example, a product that carries GPS and a faster processor and one that only ships with the processor. This means that Apple can shout about the new Watch and a "starting at" price that's significantly lower than the high end product that every one will be lusting after."
Apple Watch 2: Micro LED screen
In 2014, with very little fanfare, Apple swooped on LuxVue Technology, a Santa Clara display developer with a focus on low power, microLED displays.
The acquisition has fuelled rumours that they would look to introduce the technology as soon as there was a need and it was cost effective. And when it comes to the Apple Watch, there is certainly a need."The display on the Apple Watch is terrible and is practically useless in direct sunlight," says analyst Stefan Svartling. "Apple needs to give it a better display," he continued.
Micro LED offers broader colour range and brightness settings making them more efficient than the current watch's AMOLED display.
"The size of display on the Apple Watch perfectly suits this emerging technology," says display technology engineer Adam D'Souza. "And as it looks like a thinner watch isn't a priority for Apple at this stage of their tick tock cycle a Micro LED would make even more sense to slim down the bulky casing."However, the real question with Micro LED isn't if, but when.
"Micro LED panels are still more expensive to produce than OLED," adds D'Souza. "I believe the margins are still too great for Apple to commit to the technology for the next Watch. Instead, I think we will only get to see Micro LED in the third quarter of 2017."
Apple Watch 2: Front Facing Camera
Think of the many ways that Apple has revolutionised our lives: changing the way we communicate with one another, how we go online and listen to music. And now, with the next Watch, it seems that they also want to revolutionise how we FaceTime our mums and take post workout selfies. A 2016 patent, filed by Apple, features a front facing camera, integrated into the top bezel.
"This would be a radical departure from the current Apple Watch, and I'd consider it too soon for it to happen," says Ramon Llamas, an influential wearables analyst at IDC. "A front-facing camera has yet to catch on in the market. Remember the very first Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch? It came with a camera, and then was subsequently removed from further iterations because the resolution wasn't great, and it also had a certain creepiness factor to it."
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Apple Watch 2: Less reliance on iPhone
Another insightful nugget of Wristly research revealed that using Apple Watch apps without the iPhone topped the demands of users, with 80% of respondents stating it was "very important". Now, with watchOS3 their wishes have been granted.
Access to cloud and internet will soon cease to be chaperoned from the iPhone, believes the Wristly boss. "I don't expect LTE to be available by default to all Apple Watch models," says Desernauts. "I see it more akin to iPad where an option for it could be made available, while it remains non essential for the base product. I also don't think the technology is sufficiently advanced in terms of radio and power consumption to provide this without a "smartband" extension of the product."
Apple Watch 2: Third party battery straps
Apple has been keeping the US patent office busy this year and have filed (and been granted) a new patent named "modular functional band links for wearable devices" that has caused commentators to believe that the next incarnation will be supported by a host of clever cuffs.
When the new WatchOS update disabled diagnostic port access the Reserve Strap and other similar third party straps that were already out there became redundant. This leads a lot of analysts to believe that Apple are working on straps in-house, but haven't got the product they want yet.
"It's pretty clear that Apple was quite interested in the battery band and they invited Reserve Strap's team to their offices and bought a bunch of their units," says George Jijiashvili, an analyst for CCS Insight, who specialises in wearable technology.
"There is a possibility that Apple might open up a programme for third-party Apple Watch straps and accessories, like Pebble has with their smartwatches. But since this is Apple, I'd expect it to prefer having complete control over its hardware and all this this leads me to believe that an own-branded battery watch strap is likely to be released within the next year."
Apple Watch 2: "Greeting" info exchange
Say 'hello' to what has been one of the most talked about Watch patents this year – "greeting exchange" – which allows you to swap data by high five, fist bump, handshake, hug or bow. It's thought the ability to exchange files between watches could extend to being able to set the watch to tailor what info it pushes to another device after it detects a certain gesture – a handshake with a business contact or a man hug with a mate.
"The technology is already there and this just seems to be a cool bit of functionality that was made for the Watch," says Leech. "It's a bit gimmicky, but will probably distract a lot of potential buyers from the fact that they are, essentially, buying an Apple Watch S."
Apple Watch 2: Additional buttons
The Watch' s Digital Crown has had a patent makeover with two buttons stuck onto the, previously plain, left hand ridge of the watch. There's no functionality detailed in the patent application except a general comment that they could be capacitive or physical.
"A downside of the Apple Watch, is that accessing your most-used features requires you to stop, look at the screen, and with almost surgical precision navigate to a particular app on a small screen," says Jijiashvili.
"I think it would be logical to allow users themselves to decide what those buttons do. With physical buttons, you can, for example, quickly check the football scores, weather or access the music player – all while on the move. Usefulness of programmable physical buttons is something that I've personally found very useful and intuitive when using Pebble and I believe this will be a welcome addition to the Apple Watch."
However, not everyone is convinced.
"Do we really need more tiny buttons to do things that the UI might do in a simpler, more natural way?" argues watch designer Daniel Will Harris. "Does it always have to be about hardware? I guess if that's what you think you're selling, it does. But Apple should know better than that, their customers aren't really buying hardware; they're buying a promise and a dream. Dreams should have fewer buttons, not more."
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