The Apple Watch Series 2 was announced at Apple's event on 7 September 2016, where the new watch brought new features like GPS, a dual-core processor, water-resistance and a brighter display. The Watch Series 2 is a healthy step forward and we're really fond of it. Also see: Apple Watch Deals 2017.
However, there are some features we still would have liked to see, especially with Apple patents floating around the internet. In this article we discuss what we would like to see in the Apple Watch Series 3, alongside any rumours.
Latest update: A newly discovered patent reveals a potential Apple Watch strap with an extra battery built in.
Apple Watch 3 release date and price: When will the Watch 3 come out and how much will it cost?
Expected release date: September 2017
We expect the Series 3 to come out in September 2017, a year after the Series 2. This would fit a natural upgrade cycle in Apple's product line, and is supported by a report in China's Economic Daily News predicting a third quarter release for the next hardware iteration.
It's highly unlikely that we will see any new watches prior to September 2017, however new straps might be a possibility in March 2017 - though some rumours even suggest we won't see anything until 2018!
We do have a hunch that Apple might release a Series 2 'S' in March 2017, with the new S version adding extra storage options to the current 2GB Apple Watch Series 2 line-up. We would expect 4GB and 8GB models, to help runners be less reliant on their iPhones. There are no suggestions that this might happen, but it would be a logical step forward in Apple's portfolio.
We expect the Series 3 to start from £369 for the 38mm and £399 for the 42mm. These are the current prices of the Series 2 watches. We would also expect a price drop of the Series 2 line by around £100 in September 2017, where the Series 1 watches would be then discontinued.
Apple Watch 3 design and build: What will the Apple Watch 3 look like?
We expect the Watch 3 to look and feel like the current Series 2 watches, with the Hermes, Nike+ and Ceramic variants to be alternative options for buyers. There are also some that expect different straps, a new FaceTime camera and even a circular design.
We could also see no change to the design, apart from new colours added to the line-up, but below are some rumours and radical designs we might see incorporated in the Watch 3.
Apple Watch 3 design rumours: Modular straps
Apple might be considering a new multi-function band. As first spotted by AppleInsider in 2016, Apple filed an interesting patent by the name of “Magnetic Wristband”, and details a magnetic wristband for the Apple Watch that offers additional functionality.
According to the patent, the magnetic wristband will, obviously, feature a set of magnets embedded into it, allowing the two sides to join together. For consumers, this means that when worn, the magnets would hold the Apple Watch in place (much like Apple's Milanese Loop) - but it's when the watch is taken off that the new band comes into its own.
The strap could be wrapped around the watch, which would suspend the screen in the middle of the straps, ideal for protection when being stored or transported. As well as offering additional protection, the strap could also double up as a stand (ideal for Apple's nightstand mode) as it's been designed to roll up behind the Watch, propping it up.
Following the original 2016 report, a January 2017 patent gives us a better look at the multi-function Apple Watch straps, which seem to have come along quite some way when compared to the above patent. According to the patent, the strap will be modular with each link performing a separate function, with users able to swap them out depending on their requirements.
The patent states the following: "In one or more embodiments, a method for utilizing functional components of band system for a wearable device may include: receiving identifiers at a wearable device from multiple modular functional band links connected to the wearable device, determining functionality available via the multiple modular functional band links utilizing the received identifiers, and communicating with one of the multiple modular functional band links to utilize the determined functionality."
The patent uses broad terminology and leads us to believe that the links can provide anything from extra battery power to a camera (which is also coined as a feature for the third-gen Watch), but we think Tim Cook has already announced the purpose of the strap.
Back in 2015, Cook said that while Apple had a keen interest in health-focused products, it decided against adding sensors to the Watch to avoid FDA approval as it "would hold [Apple] back from innovating too much, the cycles are too long", although Cook hinted at an accessory or app that could sit alongside it. "But you can begin to envision other things that might be adjacent to it - maybe an app, maybe something else." he teased.
Apple might also be considering using a new strap design to improve the Apple Watch battery life. A recently surfaced patent, originally filed back in 2015, shows off the design for a battery band - a variation on the Watch strap that includes its own battery to keep the device running for longer.
The band would be charged inductively using the same charger as the Watch itself, and would also include apertures so that the Watch's heart rate monitors could continue to work even with the battery band on.
One of the most curious elements of the patent is that it shows a round Apple Watch face, but it shouldn't be assumed that this means a round Watch is on the way - Apple often uses very generic images for its patent designs to ensure a broad scope, and this doesn't necessarily mean the company is considering a round design.
Apple Watch 3 design rumours: Front-facing camera for selfies & FaceTime
Apple has patents for a wearable device that features a front-facing camera. It was rumoured to appear in the Series 2, but the feature wasn't announced. It's likely we could see this feature being included in the next iteration.
Opinions differ on whether this is intended to cater for FaceTime or selfies (or both), and whether it will offer video or just stills photography. The new camera would be integrated into the top bezel of the watch.
This feature does sound interesting, though we're not too sure how many people would actively FaceTime via a watch. It would get annoying holding up the wrist for more than a few minutes, for one thing.
Still, Apple has already made its watch partially FaceTime-ready: watchOS 2 brought support for FaceTime audio calls. Does that indicate that it'll soon move on to video calls? Perhaps.
Patently Apple, meanwhile, has spotted an Apple patent that appears to support the inclusion of a selfie camera - a front-facing stills camera, in other words; not necessarily one that's capable of FaceTime video - in an Apple Watch in the future.
Patent 20160174025, which pertains in seemingly broad terms to methods for 'facilitating access to location-specific information using wireless devices', but actually focuses on wearables, contains a reference to digital photography:
"Camera 229 can include, e.g., a compact digital camera that includes an image sensor such as a CMOS sensor and optical components (e.g. lenses) arranged to focus an image onto the image sensor, along with control logic operable to use the imaging components to capture and store still and/or video images. Images can be stored, e.g., in storage subsystem 204 and/or transmitted by wearable device 200 to other devices for storage. Depending on implementation, the optical components can provide fixed focal distance or variable focal distance; in the latter case, autofocus can be provided. In some embodiments, camera 229 can be disposed along an edge of face member 104 of FIG. 1, e.g., the top edge, and oriented to allow a user to capture images of nearby objects in the environment such as a bar code or QR code. In other embodiments, camera 229 can be disposed on the front surface of face member 104, e.g., to capture images of the user. Zero, one, or more cameras can be provided, depending on implementation." Also see: How to write apps for the Apple Watch.
Apple Watch 3 design rumours: Circular display
There are two visually different kinds of smartwatch currently on the market: square and circular. The former is the form factor that the Apple Watch has adopted, and while it looks stylish and has the fashion industry excited, we hope that Apple creates a circular variation for those of us that appreciate the design of a traditional circular watch.
Smartwatches like the Moto 360 and LG G Watch R look like traditional watches with completely digital, circular displays and are extremely popular - we doubt that's a coincidence.
There are UI issues with a circular display, namely getting the text to fit on screen properly. Ironically, this is an issue that Huawei showcases on its Huawei Watch page. We think this is more due to Android Wear being used by a variety of smartwatches, all with different sized and shaped displays. If Apple were to create a circular display, we think the UI would reflect the decision because it's designed specifically for that hardware.
Apple Watch 3 new feature rumours: What can we expect from the third-generation Apple Watch?
Despite being so far from launch, there are already rumours circulating about the next-generation Apple Watch.
In mid-2016, it was rumoured by Taiwanese website DigiTimes that Apple will be using an OLED display for their next Apple Watch - however the suggestions led for a 2017 release, meaning we didn't see new displays included in Apple Watches released in September 2016.
The new Micro LED panels are lighter, thinner, do not require backlighting like the current LCD panels, have a better brightness and are capable of higher resolutions.
Given the state of production and the acquisition of Micro LED specialists, LuxVue Technology in May 2014, we expect to see new displays added to the 2017 Apple Watch 3.