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The Apple Watch 2 is set to be unveiled - What to expect from Apple's second generation wearable

Alan Martin David Ludlow
6 Sep 2016
Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Dock with Watch in Nightstand mode
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Plus everything else you need to know, including rumours, features and release date

We're just a day away from the event which is nearly certain to reveal the Apple Watch 2 to the world.

On the surface, it may look extremely familiar. The new Apple Watch is likely to look very much like the existing model, with a few minor cosmetic changes. Many people expect this to be an 'S' model release, similar to how Apple releases new phones: every two years we get a new design, the intervening years keeps the same design, but updates the internals. However, I don't think that the product will be called the Apple Watch S, I think that it will just keep the same name, similar to how the Mac line-up doesn't get incremental model names. For clarity, I'll keep calling it the Apple Watch 2 here.

I ran rumours that the Apple Watch 2 would have a better tethered mode (see below for more information), but the New York Times ran an article saying that the Watch 2 would go one step further and have built-in 3G or 4G. This would require a separate data plan. My question is, who would want or pay for this? The Watch doesn't do enough on its own to warrant having its own SIM card and it's unlikely you're likely to go far without your phone as well.
Apple Watch Milanese Loop Space Black leak

What you need to know, quickly

Need the information fast?  here's everything you need in a quick, bite-sized digest. Obviously, everything here is based on unconfirmed rumours, so things can change quickly, but the below is, at least, a quick view of how things stand at this point in time.

What is it?

Apple's second stab at a smartwatch, designed to put notifications, smartwatch controls and Apple Pay on your wrist

When is it out?

We're likely to find out at Apple's even for 7 September, but "very soon" seems likely.

What's new?

Battery life improvements and built in GPS are looking most likely right now, but a new design isn't out of the question

In Detail

Apple Watch 2 - Design

There have been rumours of a round screen, but the most likely thing is that the Apple Watch 2 won't look significantly different to the first Apple Watch. There are several reasons for this, but top of the list has to be that Apple typically keeps the same design for at least two generations of product. That means that existing accessories and bands would be compatible with the new model, while Apple gets the benefit of economies of scale, by continuing with a similar production line.

Apple Watch 2 - Specs

As you might expect, 17 months on from the original Apple Watch, a faster processor is a certainty, and rumour has it that Apple is eyeing up a 16nm processor from TSMC. On top of that, we're expecting built-in GPS and a stronger battery. There are also whispers of waterproofing and a barometer to measure atmospheric pressure.

Bad news, however, for anyone hoping the much-waited Apple Watch 2 would cut its required ties to the iPhone. Bloomberg reports that while Apple were considering this approach, they found the resultant sacrifices to battery stamina just made it unworkable for now.

The good news is that the same sources indicate that the Apple Watch 2 will get its own GPS tracking unit, meaning that those who use the Apple Watch for running might be able to carry less when they go.

Apple Watch 2 - Screen

MK News claims that LG will be the sole supplier of the displays. Apparently, LG's fast production times and high-quality components have convinced Apple that it's the company to go with. I think sticking with the same screen is a good idea, rather than moving to a round display, as it ensures that all existing apps will work with the Watch 2. It's also a very high-quality display.

However, another report from DigiTimes suggests that Apple may be abandoning OLED screen technology for a Micro-LED one. That may give picture quality a hit, but if the report is correct, it should mean the device can be slightly thinner, and less power hungry. 

Which brings us to...

Apple Watch 2 - Battery life

Battery life is the one thing that everyone would always like to see more of. At the moment, with a day of heavy use, my Watch has around 60% charge left, so it could last the night, although it would need to be charged in the morning. The problem is that Apple will find it hard to fit a bigger battery into the case, so it's going to have to look at alternative ways of extending battery life. The big power saving would be by changing the processor's fabrication process from 28nm, as used in the Watch, down to 14nm, as used in the iPhone 6S. Simply put, a smaller fabrication process creates chips that are smaller, cooler and, crucially, use less power. It's possible that new power saving techniques can be implemented in software, too. The net result is likely to be an improvement measured in hours, rather than days, but that's still a good start.

Apple Watch 2 - Smart bands

Smart bands could be introduced, adding new functionality to the watch strap. These smart bands would also most likely work with the original Watch, adding new health and sleep monitoring tools to the Watch's repertoire. As Apple has yet to open up the specs of its management port, there are no details as to what exactly could come, but smarter peripherals will definitely be on the way.

Apple Watch 2 - Magnetic Wristband

While most Apple patent stories go nowhere, as the company files a lot of patents and doesn't produce a final product with a lot of them, the latest one has me interested. In a patent titled Magnetic Wristband, discovered by AppleInsider, Apple has designed a new type of watch strap. The basic plan is for a strap that transforms into a variety of different uses, from a stand to a method of protecting the watch.

According to the patent, the watch strap will have a series of magnets embedded into it (one side has alternating North, South magnets; the other side as the same, but using an inverse pattern), letting the two sides combine and join together. When worn as a normal watch, the magnets would simply hold the Watch in place. However, when you take it off, the magnetic strap offers a couple of different alternatives. First, the strap could be could be wrapped around the Watch, suspending the screen in the middle of the straps, protecting it for transport and storage.

Apple Watch magnetic strap patent protection mode

A second mode would let the strap roll up behind the Watch, letting it stand upright, which could be useful to engage the Watch's nightstand mode, letting you use it as a bedside alarm clock. The magnets could, of course, also attach to a variety of metal surfaces, with the patent showing diagrams of the Watch sticking to a fridge, a laptop and a desktop monitor.

Apple Watch magnetic strap patent stand mode

Of course, there's no guarantee that Apple will bring this design to the Watch 2 or any version of the Watch, but it does show the company's desire to change strap design and be a little more innovative than traditional watch companies. 

Apple Watch 2 - Untethered mode

The Watch will connect to the same wireless network as your phone, letting you make calls, for example, while your phone's connected to the same network. With the Watch 2, Apple is said to be looking at improving the Wi-Fi, so that the Watch can be used untethered more easily. This would let the Watch do jobs that you'd usually be able to do over Wi-Fi, such as emailing, sending and receiving text messages and getting app updates. It should mean that the Watch will use the 'Find my' service, so you'll be able to locate it using the iOS or web apps. I hope this means that you'll also be able to manually join a wireless network directly from the Watch.

Apple Watch 2 - FaceTime camera

You can already make calls from the Watch, but the Watch 2 may also include a FaceTime camera, according to 9to5mac. This will let you make video calls straight from your phone and will feel as though the future is finally here. However, if Apple can't make the camera fit neatly into the existing design, then this feature stands a high chance of being scrapped.

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