What Apple could introduce for our wrists in 2019.
The Apple Watch Series 4 was a big step for Apple versus its previous watches: a refined design, a larger screen and some FDA-cleared ECG tech to boot, but this year’s Apple Watch Series 5 could be even better.
Even though the Apple Watch is the best smartwatch right now, that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. The Apple Watch is missing some important features present on some of its competitors, especially in the fitness tracking realm. This is what we expect to see in the Apple Watch Series 5 based on the rumors and its missing features.
Missing feature: Sleep tracking…
Bloomberg ran a report back in February that Apple is planning to integrate advanced sleep tracking into the Apple Watch, but maybe not until 2020. The Apple Watch can’t track sleep, at least not natively. Instead it relies on third-party sleep tracking apps that can be installed on the watch, but they’re by no means a fully integrated solution that works seamlessly via Apple’s own Health and Activity apps. The iPhone has had a sleep-related bedtime clock for years, and getting proper sleep seems to line up with Apple’s other core heart health and wellness missions (Apple acquired the sleep-tracking company Beddit in 2017.) Maybe 2019’s watch will make a step toward improving the hardware to enable sleep tracking.
…Which requires better battery life
The Apple Watch would need better battery life for sleep tracking. Currently, it can last up to a day and a half before needing a recharge. The Apple Watch Series 5 could add a more efficient processor that can switch to a low-power mode at night… or, perhaps just increase the size of the battery. Reports of improved battery life are already out there. Qualcomm’s new Wear OS chips last year were aiming at similar longer-life features, too.
EKG was a standout feature on the Apple Watch S4… what’s next?
What are the odds of another FDA-cleared health feature?
If there are any sleep tracking functions on the Watch S5, they likely wouldn’t be FDA-cleared. Findings from clinical studies are published before clearance like that happens, and we haven’t heard anything yet. Fitbit, which has had sleep tracking functions on its trackers for years, has been pursuing FDA clearance for sleep apnea detection and has a new sleep score beta that’s been in place since 2018 to collect more data. That could be more along the lines of where Apple may be headed between S5 and S6 watches.
Blood pressure isn’t likely, although competitors are exploring ways to track it on watches. The Omron HeartGuide is an inflatable-wristcuff watch that’s more a medical device than a regular smartwatch. Samsung has a study with UCSF that’s exploring how successful the Galaxy Watch Active’s heart rate monitor can be at estimating blood pressure, but the study is opt-in and still hasn’t produced definitive results yet.
Will there ever be a watch face store?
The Apple Watch is the last major smartwatch without a way to get new watch faces… Samsung, Fitbit, Google Wear OS and Garmin all enable some form of watch face store.
Last year, a dedicated watch face store seemed like a real possibility, according to rumors. But that never came to fruition. Will it happen in 2019?
The new Galaxy Watch Active can charge wirelessly on the back of the new Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus. The Apple Watch doesn’t use Qi yet.
Could the Watch S5 charge on the back of the next iPhone?
Now that AirPower is dead, the Apple Watch feels lost on a proprietary charging island. The Series 5 Watch was meant to work with AirPower, but doesn’t currently work with Qi wireless chargers. Maybe the next watch will… or maybe the next iPhone will enable wireless charging from its back like the Samsung Galaxy S10, and allow it to work with AirPods and Apple Watch models.
When will an Apple Watch work without an iPhone?
The iPhone used to require a computer to set up. So did the iPod. The Apple Watch remains an iPhone-only device right now. Will Apple allow Android connections, or will the Watch ever gain a standalone setup for health-conscious users without iPhones? If Apple is serious about being a health device for everyone, that might need to happen eventually.
Could a new base model Apple Watch emerge at a lower price?
The Apple Watch Series 1 was a great smartwatch that managed to be more budget-friendly that the $400 (or more) Series 4. Currently, that “affordable” model is the Watch Series 3, which is still pretty expensive at a starting price of $279. The rising cost of the Watch S4 and the dropping prices of Fitbit trackers, which can cost as little as $70, and the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active, which sells for $200, means Apple lacks a solid under-$200 watch option. Maybe a basic “Apple Watch” model, in the spirit of the 9.7-inch iPad called “iPad,” could fit the bill.
Or, will the Watch have more expensive designs?
Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts that the next Apple Watch will feature a ceramic design option, possibly indicating a higher price tier… or maybe not. Apple’s ultra-expensive Watch models have gone away, but the base price of the Apple Watch keeps creeping higher. The steel Apple Watch Series 4 has a ceramic back, but a sapphire crystal and a steel case.