Apple Watch 3: everything we know so far

Can Apple’s third smartwatch retain its crown?

27 August 2017
by Stuff Staff

The Apple Watch 2 is easily our favourite smartwatch, but it’s still some way short of gadget perfection.

Demanding fans have requested everything from built-in LTE to sleep-tracking and a sharper screen.

Of course, this growing wish list doesn’t take into account the laws of physics. But it seems that at least some of these features will be arriving with the imminent launch of an Apple Watch 3.

Rumours suggest the third installment of the Apple Watch series will be unveiled at the same September 12 event as the iPhone 8.

So how will Apple manage the balancing act of adding new features to the Apple Watch without turning it into a wrist-mounted walkie talkie? Here are the most likely suggestions from the rumour mill.

WHAT NEW TRICKS WILL IT HAVE?

The most heavily rumoured is built-in LTE, which would let the Apple Watch do a lot more without your iPhone.

Both Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal think a cellular Apple Watch is likely, with the former suggesting that it might be present on “at least some Apple Watch models”.

What’s unclear is exactly how far this connectivity will go. Some sources suggest the Watch 3 will go all the way and let you make phone calls and texts without your phone, while others suggest a eSIM that only transfers data like song streaming is more likely. Either way, it’s going to mean some added billing complication for the mobile networks.

Other rumoured features include a front-facing FaceTime camera for making video calls and some built-in sleep-tracking powers. The latter stems from Apple’s recent acquisition of Beddit, although some battery life improvements will need to be made before we consider using the Apple Watch overnight. Despite its impressive fast-charging, we still give ours an overnight charge every couple of days.

Aside from the less likely prospect of modular straps and smart bands arriving to add functionality like glucose monitoring, the Apple Watch 3’s other new features will likely come from its new watchOS 4 software…

Fact or fiction?

The LTE rumour is strong and fits into the Apple Watch’s increasing independence from the iPhone. But it seems more likely that Apple would offer an LTE model as an extra premium option, rather than the standard for the Watch 3.

For starters, there are the size and battery life issues it’d create. It’d also mean some complex negotiations with worldwide carriers. Either way, it seems more likely that most of the Watch 3’s new functionality will come from watchOS 4 rather than any radical redesign.

WHAT SOFTWARE WILL IT RUN?

With watchOS 4 due to launch this autumn, it’s highly likely that the Watch 3 will be running this out of the box.

What new toys will it bring? The main improvements include a new Siri watch face for contextual info, better navigation, improved fitness features like auto-counted swimming sets, personalised coaching and (eventually) compatibility with gym equipment.

In short, it’ll likely be the slickest smartwatch software around, and the perfect sidekick for novice or intermediate fans of running, cycling and swimming.

Fact or fiction?

If the Watch 3 is indeed announced at Apple’s September event, it’s a dead cert that it’ll run watchOS 4.

We’ve seen watchOS 4 in action, and it’s a subtle but big improvement in both functionality and usability.

With the Watch 3 rumoured to have a new S3 processor, the combination could make it the best smartwatch experience we’ve seen by some distance.

WHAT WILL IT LOOK LIKE?

Now that is a great question.

Conflicting rumours mean the Watch 3’s design is still very much up for debate. Most sources claim that we can expect a very similar square display – so one that’s still 1.65in in size with a 390×312 resolution.

Nikkei Asian Review, though, seems pretty confident that Apple will go for micro-LED over OLED for the display. This is because micro-LED has advantages like being thinner, brighter and not needing a backlight like LCD panels.

More likely is that we’ll some new options for case materials, with Apple Insider long predicting the arrival of titanium or platinum cases. Apple has also been looking into using Liquidmetal, which has so far only been used on its SIM ejector tool, on a major product for almost ten years. Could the Apple Watch 3 mark its big league debut?

Either way, Daring Fireball’s John Gruber has tossed in a rumour curveball by suggesting that, instead of minor design tweaks, the Apple Watch will have an “all-new form factor”. This would be a surprise, but then the Apple Watch has been rocking essentially the same look for three years now.

Fact or fiction?

Our money is on a a subtle refinement of the current Watch design, rather than the new form factor rumoured by some.

The Watch’s square-faced design has proven popularity and Apple has already shown that it’s happy to bring freshness with new materials like ceramic and straps, rather than a complete overhaul.

A new micro-LED display is certainly possible, though, as is a new wireless charger that will happily juice up your Watch no matter what angle you leave it at.

WHEN WILL IT BE OUT?

An announcement at the iPhone 8 event on September 12 looks highly likely, with Chinese business site Economic Daily suggesting that the Watch 3 is in final testing and ready to begin mass production.

Although there was a big gap between announcement and availability of the original Apple Watch, it seems likely that Apple will follow the more typical schedule of the Watch 2 and have it on shelves within one to two weeks of the event.

In other words, keep a space free in your Christmas stocking.

Comments

comments

Subscribe to the Magazine