You know it, we know it, the world knows it. In 2018, it's pretty likely - sorry pretty much nailed on - we will see a new Apple Watch next year.
Tim Cook and company work like clockwork, so just like its smartphones there should be a new smartwatch on the way too. Whether it's called the Apple Watch Series 4, Apple Watch 4 or something entirely different, we can start the guessing game now, but as sales of the Watch seem to be on the steady rise, the next iteration could be Apple's most important yet.
Why? Because the new Watch could cement itself as the number one smartwatch (and watch brand) ahead of the likes of Samsung, Garmin, Fitbit and fashion brands like Fossil who are all getting in on the connected timepiece action as well.
So what will Apple have in store for us? Well, it's got the art of secrecy down pat, but we can start to paint a picture based on patents, recent acquisitions and industry sources as to what the new Apple Watch will come packing.
Here's what we've got so far. Let us know what you'd like to see in the next Apple Watch in the comments section below.
Time for a new design and smarter bands
The rectangular body of the Apple Watch remains divisive; some people love it, others hate it, some have grown to like it. Is it too bold to think that maybe, just maybe Apple would consider making a round smartwatch? We have seen the patents that suggest Apple has at least thought about it. Maybe it's time, after three versions of very similar looking watches, that it does something different.
It's probably a given Apple will try to make it slimmer, lighter etc etc, but we could get new finishes, colours, maybe some different sizes, and even a new display. Apple's touchscreen display is one of the best in terms of overall quality so while it might not change up the tech, it may alter the look and way its integrated with the band.
Speaking of bands, the idea of Apple creating smarter bands is something that won't go away either. It could be a way to add further smarts without impacting on the Watch's design and risk making it a chunkier beast to wear. We've already seen smart bands from companies like AliveCor's EXG heart rate monitoring KardiaBand. It wouldn't be all that of a surprise to see Apple perhaps offer some of its own alternatives.
Sleep tracking in the house
When Apple snapped up sleep tracking company Beddit back in May this year our first reaction was that it has to mean the Apple Watch is going get sleep tracking. While Apple's smartwatch works as a pretty formidable fitness tracker, it does lack a built-in option to monitor your bed time. There is a bunch of sleep tracking apps for the Apple Watch, but this acquisition should open the door for an in-house option that should hopefully make it better integrated with Apple's own Health software. It could also bode well for Apple's health tracking ambitions (more on that later) and offer more insightful heart rate data metrics.
One of the most likely reasons Apple hasn't factored in sleep tracking just yet is to do with battery life, but as we've seen with the Series 3, things are noticeably improving on that front. So it could well be time for the feature to finally come to its smartwatches.
Getting a speed boost
Apple's smartwatches are by no means slouches in performance, but it appears big changes are afoot in the components department that could be a big deal for the next Apple Watch. That's according to Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities, who reports that Apple is planning to introduce new circuit boards across its product range in 2018 and that will include the company's next smartwatch. While it might not sound like the most exciting reveal of what we could expect from Apple's new smartwatch, it will allow the folks at Cupertino to ramp up performance speed and save on internal space, which could free up room for more interesting sensors and other technologies to deliver a more feature-packed Watch.
Stepping up sports tracking
After shifting the focus from fashion to fitness, we've seen the Apple Watch turn itself into a genuine sports watch alternative. We've had speedy built-in GPS, a waterproof design that has unlocked some of the best swim tracking we've tried on a smartwatch, and now it even plays nice with the equipment in your local gym.
But there's definitely room to make improvements both on the software and the hardware front. Apple's own Workout app still feels a bit like a work in progress while we'd like to see better support for strength training and activities like yoga. We're sure these are things that Apple is working on.
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Patents do serve as glimpses into what Apple is thinking about for its Watch, and one recent filing suggests it could be prepping to improve its swim tracking skills in the open water. The folks at Patently Apple have come across an application that suggests Apple is working on a radio navigation system for its smartwatch using frequency signals to estimate your location. So it's clear this is one smartwatch maker that is not resting on its laurels as far as its sports tracking skills are concerned.
Serious health tracking
We said this was going to be a big deal in our Wareable 50 predictions for 2018 and we firmly believe that Apple will be a big player in this push to make its smartwatch better for health tracking. We've already seen evidence to suggest Apple's next Watch will have a strong health focus, like the study it recently announced in collaboration with Stanford University that will use the Apple Watch heart rate sensor to help detect irregular heart rhythms to notify if users if they might be suffering from atrial fibrillation.
According to sources that Bloomberg has spoken to, the next Apple Watch will feature an electrocardiogram (or EKG) heart rate monitor, a method of reading the biometric information that is more common in the medical industry and is considered the gold standard. The EKG monitor would be activated by squeezing the Watch's frame with two fingers sending a current to the wearer's heart and checking for any abnormalities.
While Apple believes its optical sensor currently inside the Apple Watch is good enough to help detect serious health conditions, the idea of adding the most reliable tech would go some way to increase Apple's ability to reduce the possibility of data inaccuracy.
When will the Apple Watch Series 4 officially launch?
As we've already mentioned, Apple tends to work like clockwork when its come to announcements and launches. The Watch Series 3 was announced in September this year while the Series 2 landed and launched in the same month back in 2016. So it's realistic to think the same fall launch will happen for the Series 4.
That should also mean that WWDC 2018 will be when we hear more about what Apple will be doing on the watchOS front before it starts rolling out the update to its new Watch and current Watches before the end of the year. Swim tracking was the killer feature for the Series 2 and LTE in the Series 3, so what will be talking about for the Series 4? There'll be plenty of speculation ahead of that big unveil next year, that's for sure.