It is highly expected that Apple will announce the latest edition of the Apple Watch on Tuesday, seemingly called the Apple Watch Series 5. But where does Apple go next? What improvements can it add that will interest Series 4 or even Series 3 or Series 2 owners to rush out and upgrade.
The current Watch’s lack of competition is part of the issue. Apple leads the smartwatch industry to an almost absurd degree. According to Strategy Analytics, last year it accounted for over half the total sales of all smartwatches, more than twice as many as Samsung and Fitbit — the number two and three places on the leaderboard – combined.
Also, Apple is coming off a big redesign for the Apple Watch last year, the first time it had done since the launch of the product back in 2015. This means it is very likely that the Series 5 models will keep using the Series 4 design rather than something new. The biggest updates expected for the Apple Watch this year are either aesthetic – such as the leaked titanium and ceramic cases – or software based such as the standalone App store or sleep tracking.
Earlier Watch updates did not face the same issue, as there were a host of features that were missing, including proper waterproofing, practical microphones and speakers, and a standalone LTE connection which would release it from an iPhone. However now, all those things are incorporated in the Watch already and Apple’s chances of adding new features are slim.
Of course, that doesn’t imply the Watch is perfect. Battery life still is less compared to Fitbit’s Versa line. Siri is still very inconsistent due to the small screen size, which is a problem when it’s also the only method for text entry. And of course, the best part of any smartwatch – an always-on display which doesn’t need sweeping hand motions to show the time – still seems far away from Apple’s reach.
However, the features that are expected to be coming to Apple Watch this year may also point to the future. As Apple famously said when it first introduced the Watch, the very fact that it’s constantly on your wrist makes it “the most personal device ever.” One way Apple can help achieve that goal is adding new styles and features which let you match a new Watch to your aesthetic. Others can be new health features such as sleep and period tracking.
Apple has such a massive market lead that the only true competitor for a new Apple Watch is an old one, particularly when you factor in the software lock-in — Apple allows its own Watches to integrate much more with iPhones than any competitors, making it the only option for millions of iPhone users out there. Furthermore, Apple’s industry-leading support for older hardware, with the forthcoming watch OS 6 set to be available on all except the very first generation of the Apple Watch, implies that Apple needs to have good reasons to convince current customers to buy a new one.
However, without much competition pushing it forward, it’s likely that Apple can just keep on cruising with its huge market presence and iterative upgrades.