Apple Watch 2: Should you wait for new smartwatch or buy now?

Jan 22, 2016

Uncertainty looms for tech giant's next wearable, but most critics expect it to launch this year

The release of Apple's first smartwatch in April last year left some critics frustrated.

The device, long rumoured and much speculated about, received mixed reviews when it finally launched. Its design was praised, but overall many reviewers felt that the smartwatch as a concept remains in need of further development.

Much was said about the "overall potential" and "eventual capabilities" of the product, according to Tim Bajarin of Time magazine.

Apple will hope that their next wearable – strongly rumoured to be coming later this year – lives up to that promise, bringing the functionality that critics crave. But if you're in the market for a smartwatch now, should you wait to see if the next device surfaces soon or take the plunge now with one of Apple's current offerings? 

Battery life

One of the key areas Apple will be looking to improve is the battery life.

The current Apple Watch is billed as having a battery which can "last all day". But most critics agreed that charging a wearable every evening is not ideal and one missed charge can mean no watch the day after.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Apple Watch is often drained by the end of the day and "just barely" lives up to its claimed all-day life.

Compared to other smartwatches, improving the battery life is a must for Apple. Doing so could allow users to wear the device to sleep, using it alongside sleep-monitoring apps to collect data and help get a better night's rest.

Battery life is almost certainly going to be improved and G for Games reports Apple is looking at using thinner glass for the display in order to accommodate a larger battery.

FaceTime camera

A front-facing camera could feature on the next Apple Watch, which could be used for FaceTime calls, according to 9 to 5 Mac. The current rumours suggest the company could place a camera into the top bezel of the device, enabling users to make and receive video calls on their wrists.

When Apple Watch OS 2.0 was released, elements of FaceTime compatibility were introduced, including the ability to answer FaceTime audio calls and answer video calls that would be redirected to the mated handset. It would seem the next logical step is to introduce full video-call ability to the watch.

However, there are other design tweaks Apple should consider, according to critics.

Speaking to Wareable, Daniel Will-Harris, a New York-based watch designer, gave his thoughts on Apple's current smartwatch and what the company should be aiming for in terms of the design of the Apple Watch 2.

If it is to appeal to both tech-savvy buyers as well as timepiece enthusiasts, the display "needs to lose the garish, childish hues we've had to endure since iOS 7 and use a selection of colour themes ranging from tasteful to playful", he said.

A display focusing less on Apple's love of vibrant colours and instead something that would be more subtle might not sit well with those who buy products for the sake of them being from the tech giant, but the firm should entertain customisable colour schemes in the next watch, especially since personalisation is something the company is keen to push on their current offering, Will-Harris suggests.

He also adds that the digital crown on the first watch is unnecessary and ultimately, Apple needs to consider changing the shape of the watch.

"It needs to be circular because this is the perfect representation for time, because it repeats anew every day. From the first sundials to the phases of the moon, time has always been circular."

More choice

The current line-up, consisting of the Apple Watch Sport, the Apple Watch and the Apple Watch Edition, could be expanded.

Introducing more design variations would give consumers more choices and could also be beneficial for Apple in terms of profits.

According to Macworld, the company is interested in attracting more customers who are willing to part with between £1,000 and £8,000. This price range sits between the most expensive standard Apple Watch and the cheapest Apple Watch Edition.

It's unknown how Apple could distinguish the new additions to the range from the current line-up, however.

More functions when not paired to an iPhone

Granting the Apple Watch more functions and features without piggybacking off the iPhone would be a big draw for potential adopters.

At present, the Apple Watch cannot complete many tasks without the assistance of a paired iPhone. Simple things such as music and activity tracking can be done without a handset, but useful features including text messages and emailing are not available without an iPhone nearby.

Apple is said to be looking at giving the watch greater wireless capabilities so it doesn't have to rely on the phone as much. Improving the number of jobs the watch can handle directly could mean small data tasks and a "find my watch" feature will be possible on the next generation product.

Wireless IQ charging

Less of a rumour and more of a hopeful plea. Most reviewers say the current system, which uses magnets to sucker a large wireless charging surface neatly onto the rear of the watch face, is a good design.

But introducing an Apple Watch which can charge using IQ inductive charging would mean the next watch is compatible with what is fast becoming the industry standard in wireless charging.

Wireless charging is still yet to be widely adopted, but if the next Apple Watch were to use the technology, or be compatible with it, it would make charging much simpler while out and about.

Smart straps

Macworld highlights the potential for the next Apple Watch to make use of smart straps, like those available on the Pebble Time.

This could introduce new features and complement existing ones - how about a strap housing an extra battery pack to help improve on the short lifespan of the current Apple Watch? Another feature such a strap could offer is lights that flash when the wearer gets a notification, which could tie into apps as well. Some sites have suggested Apple could offer a fitness-based smart strap tailored for people who use their watch during workouts.

It seems the tech giant  is interested in developing straps with functions. AppleInsider reported on a patent filed by Apple titled "Magnetic wristband" that shows off a new design using a magnetic closure style and two configurations.

Inside the strap lie lines of magnets arranged in north-north-south-north-north configuration, going in the opposite direction on the second strap so that when wrapped around the wrist, the magnets interlock. However, the design is able to bend in the opposite direction and can cover the watch face and chassis of the device, providing useful protection when not being worn or being stored.

Such a wristband could also be used to fashion a stand for the Apple Watch, while the magnetic element means it can be mounted onto metal surfaces. Apple tends to file a lot of patents that never translate into products, but the this seems a realistic idea of what a strap with functions could do.

Built-in GPS

Another idea from Macworld's wish list is for the device to have a built-in GPS.

At the moment, the Apple Watch uses the iPhone paired with it for most functions, including GPS. With the introduction of standalone GPS, the Apple Watch 2 would gain a huge advantage over its predecessor and one that would go down well with gym enthusiasts who currently have to take both their iPhone and Apple Watch with them on a run.

The big change, though, would be the introduction of maps as an individual feature on the Apple Watch 2, something many prospective customers say online they would like to see.

Release date

The strongest early rumours suggest Apple will reveal the Apple Watch 2 in March 2016, followed by a release soon after.

Reports focussed on an Apple event penned for March are strong and alongside the introduction of the second-generation watch, the company may also introduce the new four-inch iPhone 7 mini or iPhone 6C.

9to5 Mac points out that this would be the second March event in a row for Apple, signalling a shift away from its habit of holding major launches exclusively in the second half of the calendar year.

They also recently reported that Quanta – the Taiwanese company responsible for manufacturing key Apple products – will trail a production run in late January.

Some disagree, though. Macworld reports that Quanta claim we will see limited stock of the Apple Watch towards the end of the first half of 2016, with most devices hitting the shelves in the third quarter – a possible June 2016 release date.

However, the most recent rumour that has poured doubt on an early 2016 release. Techcrunch says several sources have told them a new Apple Watch won't be making its debut at any keynote hosted by Apple in March and that new accessories for the current model may be the only smartwatch-related reveal. They add that they've heard whispers of a revised Apple Watch 1 model, possibly with the addition of a FaceTime camera, but the current supply chain movements show no indication that an all-new design with new hardware is fast approaching.

If the much rumoured March reveal does not happen, they say that a September introduction alongside the iPhone 7 is likely.

Compared to the fairly solid annual reveal of the iPhone 7, the uncertainties surrounding the Apple Watch 2 launch date means many consumers may pluck for the current Apple smartwatch. All rumours so far have indicated a release some time this year, though, so those who decide to wait it out can expect to hear news and rumours frequently as an unspecified release date only draws nearer.

Apple Watch: Google Maps finds its way to wrist of Apple fans

30 September

Google Maps has come to Apple Watch, suggesting that Google is now taking Apple's platform more seriously.

The development, announced at a Google press conference yesterday, comes as part of an update to the Google Maps iOS app on the iTunes App Store.

Google Maps is a popular mapping application, widely preferred by iPhone users over its controversial Apple equivalent. The Watch will feature a scaled-down version of Google Maps, intended as a companion app to its more feature-heavy counterpart used on the smartphone.

For instance, the Watch version will only offer users directions and does not feature a fully-fledged map, according to early reviews. However, it does allow users a string of familiar features, including the ability to tap buttons to quickly find routes to saved locations such as 'Home'.

The Watch app syncs to your iPhone, allowing you to switch between gadgets as you navigate, and supports all the methods of transportation familiar to iPhone users, including driving directions, walking, biking and transit.

This is the second app from Google designed for the competing smartwatch platform. The previous app, Google News & Weather, was a very light affair, widely viewed by analysts as a mere testing of the water.

"With the launch of Google Maps for Apple Watch, the indication is that Google is now taking Apple's platform more seriously," says TechCrunch. "That could also mean that we may see other Google apps in the future coming to Apple Watch, including (hopefully) top apps like Gmail or Hangouts, for example."

Apple's home-grown map software has proved to be an embarrassment to the tech giant. After it was revealed to be ridden with hilarious errors, CEO Tim Cook issued a rare public apology. The company then stopped claiming the app was the "most powerful mapping service ever".

Apple Watch goes 'ultra fancy' with $1,500 Hermes edition

10 September

A new collection of luxury Apple Watches, created in partnership with French manufacturer Hermes, will go on sale next month, having been unveiled last night at Apple's 2015 launch event.

The collection comprises a range of different leather straps handmade by Hermes in France: the Single Tour, Double Tour and Cuff.

The Double Tour, which wraps twice around the wrist, is available in a 38mm stainless steel case with leather straps in four colours: Fauve, Étain, Capucine and Bleu Jean (essentially brown, dark grey, red and blue) – while the Cuff is available in a 42mm case and Fauve strap. The Single Tour is available in a 38mm case with straps in Fauve, Noir or Capucine or a 42mm case in Fauve or Noir.

Each features a customisable watch-face with three typefaces, three numeral displays, as well as a stopwatch, date and world clock. "This of course lets one personalise their Apple Watch Hermes (to a degree) to suit style or mood," says the Daily Telegraph.

The newspaper describes it as a "smart and distinguished collaboration" and says the "welcome nod towards the importance of craftsmanship and artisan techniques is yet another way Apple has separated its wearable offering from the pack".

The Telegraph adds that "although these pieces may not be considered beautiful by all horological devotees, it is surely a considerable step in the right direction".

Describing the range as "ultra fancy", Wired imagines what the partnership could create in the future. "Just think: a diamond-encrusted watch or a super-luxe rose gold variety." It adds: "Hermes makes pretty gorgeous watches in its own right, so there's reason to hope that it might elevate the Apple Watch's, um, somewhat lacking aesthetic."

But the current collection doesn't come cheap, with prices ranging between $1,100 and $1,500 (£714 and £974). The collection will be available at select Apple and Hermes stores from 5 October in the UK, US and a dozen other countries around the world.

Apple Watch sales grow in Best Buy stores as demand increases

26 August

Demand for the Apple Watch has been "so high" that retailer Best Buy will roll out sales of the device to 1,050 of its stores by the end of September.

Last month, the device was only on sale in just 100 Best Buy stores across the US, but strong demand has led the electronics chain to expand its reach.

On the company's earnings call yesterday, CEO Hubert Joly said demand for the Apple Watch has been "so strong" that from next month it would sell the devices in more than 900 of its "big-box stores".

"Apple Watch will be available in all 1,050 of our big-box stores and in approximately 30 of our Best Buy Mobile Stores by the end of September," he said.

Joly said that Best Buy also aims to expand its Apple "stores within a store" programme, which houses Apple products in a branded area in each shop.

"The stores-within-a-store will have new Apple fixtures and are larger with more display tables for phones, computers and tablets. We've already implemented approximately 350 of them and expect to upgrade a total of approximately 520 by holiday. The additional display tables are great for the merchandising of Apple Watch, which went on sale on BestBuy.com and in more than 100 of our stores in August."

The success of the Apple Watch in Best Buy stores seems to contradict findings from marketing company Slice, which suggested that after a period of early interest sales of the Apple smartwatch slumped dramatically.

Apple has so far refused to release any specific numbers on its watch sales but a report from 1010Data earlier this month suggested that the company has already captured 88 per cent of the smartwatch market, Business Insider reports.

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