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Apple Watch Series 3 Rumors: What Apple’s Planning for its Next Smartwatch

Although the smartwatch is still very much a niche category, it’s hard to deny that the Apple Watch has established itself at the top of the heap for wearables. Two years after the first Apple smartwatch appeared, we’ve already seen one significant update to the device, along with a bump to the original model. Still, we can’t help but wonder what Apple has planned next.

Unlike the upcoming iPhone 8, which has seen a blitz of rumors and reports, the next Apple Watch has mostly flown under the radar. But there are some rumors floating around out there, and given Apple CEO Tim Cook’s fondness for the device, it seems a certainty that the company is far from done with updates to its smartwatch line. Here’s what you can expect from the Apple Watch Series 3.

Apple Watch 3 Rumors at Glance

  • Release could be in fall 2017 to coincide with iPhone 8 but may be pushed back to spring.
  • 4G for staying connected away from your phone.
  • Camera to enable FaceTime calls on the go.
  • Improved battery life, which would be achieved through microLED screen technology.
  • Modular wristband for adding features, such as glucose readings for diabetics.
  • watchOS 4 will provide more complete fitness and health assessment.
  • Price to remain in $300 to $500 range.

When will the Apple Watch 3 come out?

Compared with the iPhone, which has received regular yearly updates since its release in 2007, Apple Watch updates come out with less regularity. The Series 2 models arrived in fall 2016, a year and a half after the original model’s spring 2015 debut. If that pattern were to continue, it would peg spring 2018 as the most likely release date for a Series 3 model.

However, if there’s one thing Apple is known for when it comes to product announcements, it’s surprise. Depending on the company’s strategy and production, there’s a reasonable chance of a six-month swing — in either direction — in that release date.

Most recently, a report in China’s Economic Daily News, spotted by MacRumors, suggests that a third-generation Watch will ship in 2017, appearing at a fall event that would likely place it alongside the next iPhone. That’s a definite possibility, so expect reports to  pick up if that date proves accurate

What features will Apple add to the next Apple Watch?

With its initial Apple Watch release, Apple seemingly tried to include everything and the kitchen sink in the wearable device. That certainly left less room for low-hanging fruit in future models, though the Series 2 Watch added a few major missing features in the form of GPS and better water resistance.

That leaves one other significant capability lacking from current versions of the Apple Watch: cellular connectivity. While the current Apple Watch models can work without an iPhone present as long as there’s a known Wi-Fi network, you can’t take just your Apple Watch with you and expect to have full connectivity.

However, adding 4G to the Apple Watch comes with its own challenges, such as increased size and weight and the need for better battery life, not to mention added cost from a cellular provider. Apple may not have figured out those issues yet for the Watch Series 3, so it’s hardly a sure bet for the next iteration of the device.

Rumors have also abounded since the release of the first Apple Watch that the company would add a camera to the device, largely fueled by an Apple patent from 2016. Such a camera would likely serve several purposes, from holding FaceTime video chats to taking selfies to being used as an input method — scanning bar codes, for example.

While a camera did not materialize for the Apple Watch Series 2, it remains a possibility for Series 3. However, the enthusiasm is somewhat dampened based on the ergonomics of the solution — holding up your arm for long periods  is tiring and uncomfortable — and the security/privacy concerns of adding a camera to a device on your wrist.

Current speculation has focused on somewhat more mundane updates from the next Apple Watch, including a report that Apple is working to improve the device’s battery life — perhaps in advance of adding cellular connectivity — and another that it might update the watch’s OLED display technology. While some have suggested that microLED technology could provide thinner, lighter and brighter screens, that technology has yet to be put into mass production and may not be ready for a 2017 release. That said, a recent report in DigiTimes, spotted by 9to5Mac, does suggest that the company will turn to a new glass-film touch-screen technology that would presumably reduce thickness and weight as well.

Is a modular wristband on the way?

Apple might not only change t just the style of its watchbands in the next version of the wearable, but make them smarter, too. That would likely be accomplished by adding more tech inside the bands themselves, whether that means something like extra battery cells, additional sensors, a camera, a second display or more. Much of this theory is also based on an Apple patent for modular technology in a wristband from earlier this year.

One thing a modular wristband could include is an additional health sensor for glucose monitoring. A report from CNBC says that Apple has an engineering team working on a noninvasive method of measuring blood sugar, which could be a huge boon to diabetics. The technology is said to be far enough along to have reached the clinical trial-stage, though it would still need regulatory approval.

What can we expect from the next watchOS update?

While the Apple Watch’s hardware gets a lot of attention, Apple’s watchOS software is doing most of the heavy lifting in terms of the watch’s usefulness and capabilities. The watchOS 2 and 3 have greatly refined the experience of the Watch, which, hopefully, means that watchOS 4 will continue to bring new life to existing Apple Watches as well.

If Apple follows its traditional release schedule, watchOS 4 will likely be announced at this summer’s Worldwide Developers Conference, which starts June 5. A final release would come in the fall, likely around when Apple rolls out new versions of iOS and macOS.

As to what features will find its way into watchOS 4, rumors have been pretty sparse about software, since there’s no supply chain to provide leaks. There have been suggestions that Apple has been looking into adding sleep tracking to its array of health features. Additionally, the same report from Bloomberg says the company may also add a fitness-assessment capability, which would interpret the heart-rate data the Watch already logs. For instance, the Apple Watch could measure how long it takes you to go back to resting heart rate after exertion to determine your level of health.

How much will the Apple Watch 3 cost?

Apple products traditionally target the higher end of a price range, and both the original and Series 2 versions of the Apple Watch definitely fall into that category. We’ve seen the base versions of the watch hover in the $300-$500 range, and a Series 3 Apple Watch would be likely no different.

The big question is how many editions of the Series 3 Apple will create. The original Apple Watch had three models — the aluminum Sport, the standard stainless-steel Apple Watch and the pricey gold Edition — while the Series 2 changed it up by offering the Apple Watch in either aluminum or steel, special co-branded Nike and Hermès versions and the top-end ceramic Edition. Expect the Series 3 to follow the Series 2 pattern; the multi-thousand-dollar Edition models made a splash, but Apple has seemed to move away from aiming for the truly luxury market.

What we want to see from the Apple Watch 3

Like most Apple products, the Apple Watch is a marriage of hardware and software. So, regarding improvements to the overall device, there are several things we’d like to see in both arenas that could lead to a better Apple Watch.

Regarding hardware, improvements to battery life and connectivity are certainly at the top of the chart. Being able to use the Apple Watch in more situations and for longer periods  would go a long way to integrating the device more into our daily lives. Improved battery efficiency could also enable long-awaited features, like an always-on display.

A thinner and lighter Watch wouldn’t go amiss, either, and it could even be interesting to see Apple toy with the idea of a round display, a feature  rivals have tried, with mixed results. And, as ever, faster performance would be at the top of the list for many users who still find the Apple Watch sluggish at times.

But there’s far more opportunity for improvement with the watchOS software. Some elements of the original Apple Watch design have not aged well — the honeycomb home screen, for example — and could use revisiting in a future watchOS update. Likewise, opening up watch faces to third-party developers could give users even more personalization and customization options than what Apple provides. Native apps for Notes and the recently rebranded Apple Podcasts would be welcome additions, too; though, let’s not go crazy: no need for iBooks on the Watch — not yet, anyway.

Credit: Jeremy Lips/Tom’s Guide

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