Apple Watch 6
The Apple Watch 6 will have some surprises. Bigger than you think. Maybe even more More ‘Pro’ than you think.
We’ve just had a partial announcement of what watch OS 7 holds in store for us when fully released in September 2020. Let’s have a look at what we think will be added at the same time to the upcoming Apple Watch 6 (AW6), including other to-be-announced features on watch OS7 and the necessary hardware changes behind it all.
If we first look at the hardware in the current Apple Watch 5, we can set the scene for what is to the AW6 later this year because it is the hardware capabilities that provide the platform on which Apple can innovate with software
Background: Apple Watch 5 – Current model
There are 6 models of the Apple Watch 5, namely these
GPS: A2092 (40mm), A2093 (44mm)
GPS + Cellular: North America: A2094 (40mm) A2095 (44mm), Europe, Asia Pacific, and China mainland: A2156 (40mm) A2157 (44mm)
with each one requiring a separate FCC designation. However, most of us just see the ‘big’ version and the ‘small’ version as well as the ones with/without LTE/cellular. It won’t surprise you when I say that Apple is cleverer than that when it comes to differentiating between their products, thus there are cosmetic variants differentiated by combinations of cases, bands, and exclusive watch faces. Here’s a quick overview
- Apple Watch – aluminium/stainless steel cases
- Apple Watch Nike+ (formerly Sport) – aluminium case and Nike bands
- Apple Watch Hermes – stainless steel case and Hermes leather/sport band
- Apple Watch Edition – ceramic/titanium cases
Background: Apple Watch Evolution
I won’t go into too much detail here but the technical evolution of the innards of the Apple Watch over the last 5 years is surprising when considered holistically. There was more change than I expected to find. More interestingly the current Apple Watch 5 seems to coincide with the end of the life cycles of several of its components – change is coming. Here are some examples of what I mean
- AW2 (Glonass), AW3 (Glonass, Galileo, QZSS) – with China a key market for Apple I would expect to see Beidou in there, although US politics may get involved.
- AW1-AW5 all have WiFi 4 (up to 802.11n) – Yet Wi‑Fi 5 (802.11ac) is in widespread use and Apple could introduce hardware to support faster Wi-Fi connections and maybe also 802.11ax/WiFi 6 capability for the future (rumours state that such WiFi chips have been ordered by Apple)
- AW2 saw the introduction of WR50 water resistance, WR50 (50m) is probably enough. WR100 ‘can’t hurt’.
- AW4 saw the introduction of EKG/ECG to an improved optical HR sensor as well as an improved gyroscope.
- AW5 got the first compass and AW3 got the first barometric altimeter, the existing sensors already give enough accuracy for the AW6.
- With the exception of AW3, every Apple Watch has had a display improvement of some sort, although the pixel density is constant at 326ppi over every model.
- AW4 saw increased screen sizes for both the ‘small’ and ‘larger’ screen models, so the size of the Apple Watch screen remaining constant is not a given. But the rounded rectangle is a consistent case for the Apple Watch.
- Apart from AW5, every model has received a new processor (AW4/5=64bit dual)
- Apart from AW2, every model has received increased storage (AW5=32Gb)
- RAM has never remained the same on 3 consecutive models. AW4/5 are both the same on 1Gb DRAM !
- AW4/5 both had launch prices of $399
- AW1 onwards had an ambient light sensor but no AW yet has been able to properly record body temperature.
To me, all that is pointing towards a more powerful device for September, one which is a bigger incremental change than we saw last year with the AW5, perhaps with next-gen screen tech, Underlying the change will be components with less of an appetite for battery juice and perhaps a better battery in and of itself – all of which could signal a notable improvement in the overall battery life. And that would make sense as watch OS 7 enters into the realms of deeper sleep features…simply put, at the moment you cant sensibly charge the watch and deliver a proper sleep experience.
Current Considerations: Apple Watch at a Cross Roads?
You can be sure that Apple’s marketing team have modelled changes to the competitive landscape. But here are some facts and related speculation
- It’s possible that Apple Watch’s market share is peaking for the current product set. #AlarmBells #Ringing. They need to differentiate the product offering now (finally!), what this means is they need to introduce distinct product offerings to reach new customers or better target sub-groups of existing customers.
- The Apple Watch 4 is discontinued AFAIK but the AW3 still sells at the lower $199/$169 price point. This fact validates the lower $199 price point as meeting a real market pricing need, indeed the Apple Watch 3 (three) has sold vastly more units than ay other Apple Watch series). The financial importance of the NON-headline AW3 model should not be underestimated, it’s the best-selling wearable EVER.
- The AW3 is obviously an ageing model and might not even be in production any more, perhaps with stocks currently being run down?
- I also point out that most other Apple products have a ‘pro’ version.
These points mostly all support the annual update to the AW6 having the regular GPS and Cellular regional versions, a cut down 6 SE model to replace the AW3 and the possibility of a PRO model.
A fundamental driver in wearable tech right now is medical usage. Sure daily smarts, sleep and sports are all important but the key evolution now, and where much investment is being made, is into medical-grade tech.
Wearable tech is spreading through many demographics and Western populations are ageing. The elderly and the young will be ever-more important markets
Apple Watch goes through 2-year hardware cycles, with a notable hardware release one year being followed by a more modest improvement the next year. On that basis, AW6 will be a ‘notable’ release.
As a sports person, I know that SpO2 is of minimal interest to me yet Afib for the young and SpO2 (blood oxygen) for more vulnerable people is a key piece of tech and, more importantly, tech that’s used by the competitors. Apple has fallen behind.
We now know some of what will be in watch OS7 and Apple specifically said that the June 2020 announcement was only PART of what was coming in September with the full software release. Presumably, the full watch OS7 will contain features specific to the AW6 that are not intended for earlier models and perhaps also features that will differentiate a lower-cost SE model from a premium/Pro AW6.
The recent announcement of the addition of sleep tracking really was obvious and nevertheless represents a major update for Apple, although if and how it might link to a revamped Apple BEDDIT is anyone’s guess. Apple might have grand designs for sleep or they might just be playing feature catch-up with the competition.
Another interesting innovation that was announced is the ability to share watch faces. Nice, clever…but ‘shrug’.
A further leak has been that the ‘force touch’ screen action is removed in Wear OS7. Again supporting Apple’s change in screen tech that I am certain will come in September.
People have a strange way of finding out what Apple is up to. One thing that would be near-impossible to determine prior to launch would be the release of new sizes or shapes. With competitors like Zepp producing a rectangular and circular format smartwatch, Apple must realise that many people prefer round format watches, just as Garmin did even when a rectangular face is a superior sports format.
Similarly, it will be hard to determine exactly when the crown will go. Apple has patents for non-crown interfaces but the competition like Zepp and Oppo have already released Apple Watch Wannabees without a crown.
Apple Watch 6 – Predictions
Predictions with the percentage likelihood of them happening.
- Timing 8th September, maybe 9th. My bet would be a press release or announcement and perhaps not an actual release (ie you won’t be able to buy one quite yet)
- Form changes
- 40/44mm versions and LTE/non-LTE version will be retained, indeed the basic rectangular case design will be similar to AW5 95%
- Circular watch face as either a total redesign or as an option 30%
- Removal of the crown? The crown will eventually go on AW8, as the Aw6 and AW7, will be similar and the crown is just that little bit ugly. Chance of the crown going from the AW6? 20%
- The Hermes, Edition and Nike variants will be carried over to AW6. 95%. There may be some, mostly, inconsequential new case materials. Likely, the SE will have low-quality case materials (plastic).
- There will be an Apple Watch 6 PRO, perhaps at a higher $450 price point. 20%
- There will be a lower-priced Apple Watch 6 (SE) at $250 which will move over time down to $199 as AW3 stock runs out. 98%, will lack processing power, ECG/EKG/SpO2 and always-on Screen
- Both standard and SE versions will have notable hardware performance improvements over the AW5/AW3 pair of current watches 98%
- specifically delivering a faster device but, more importantly, a more energy-efficient architecture to deliver a 2-day+ battery life 90%
- 64-bit quad-core processor 90% (not the SE)
- 64 Gb storage 90%
- 2 Gb DRAM 90%
- Notably, power savings will come from
- a new microLED screen (change from existing OLED). Perhaps this screen will only be on the PRO model? 50%
- a new GPS chip made by Apple called S6 99% (6SE will use an older chip like the M9)
- Modified optical heart rate sensor module
- To deliver SpO2 (blood oxygen) monitoring, perhaps NOT on the SE model. AW6 only – 95%
- To include body temperature measurements 50%
- No ECG on 6SE
- Even more software innovations! doh!
- Apple has signalled they want to do more on mental health but I think a good avenue for Apple would be a comprehensive expansion of their entire personal safety & wellness offering…so that includes accidents (an elderly trip or a bike crash), medical alerts (AFib, SpO2), wider female health features and a ‘help mommy! I’m about to be mugged alert’
- Both Apple and Google (with Wear OS) will do a lot more with making their watch tech suitable for minors. A child-size hardware format is possible but unlikely despite the potential for millions of unit sales. However, leaks suggest the opposite and that, in fact, Apple is considering a child-version. Most likely this will be the 40mm version but with software-enabled restrictions for kids.
Thoughts? Comments below, please
Here are predictions and leaks for pretty much every other GPS sports device available right now
More Info: wiki