Apple Watch 2 release date, UK price and specs rumours
Design and build
New features wishlist
When will the Apple Watch 2 launch in the UK? What new features and specs should we expect from the new Apple Watch?
When Apple announced its much-anticipated Apple Watch back in September 2014, people got very excited about the concept of an Apple-designed smartwatch. Fast-forward 21 months: the Apple Watch has been on sale for well over a year and people are wondering about the next-generation Apple Watch 2. When will the Apple Watch 2 launch, and what new features can we expect?
The Apple Watch 2 didn’t get a mention at Apple’s 21 March press event (although the Apple Watch did get some love at that event, in the form of new straps – more on that below). Then in June, the Apple Watch 2 wasn’t announced at WWDC 2016, but there was lots of news about watchOS 3 and what that means for your Apple Watch.
In this article, we round up all the rumours we’ve heard regarding the so far unannounced Apple Watch 2: when it’s going to launch, the specs and new features to expect, and likely design decisions. And we list the features and tech specs we’re hoping Apple will include in the second Apple Watch – particularly an ARM Cortex A32 processor – and why they’re essential to improving users’ experience.
Updated 4 July 2016 with GPS rumours.
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New Apple Watch 2 release date, price and specification: Release date
Update 20 June 2016: Digitimes reckons a recent increase in supply of Apple Watch components is a sign that the launch of the next watch will be in September 2016, alongside the next iPhone. This is based on analysis of Apple’s famously complex hardware supply chain and can’t be taken as gospel – but we hope these rumours are true.
Although there is no solid release date for the second-generation Apple Watch 2, we now expect it to be announced in September 2016. We had hoped that we would get our first glimpse at the second-generation Apple Watch at the March 2016 event, but instead Apple used it to show off new watch straps as a ‘Spring’ collection, and surprised us with an Apple Watch price drop. (We also saw a new Phone SE and a 9.7in iPad Pro.)
You can find out more about the new Apple Watch straps and pricing in our Apple Watch buying guide, or continue reading for all of the Apple Watch 2 rumours we’ve seen so far.
Another rumour regarding the release date of the Apple Watch 2 comes from China – more specifically, the chairman of Quanta, Barry Lam. Quanta manufactured the first-generation Apple Watch, and we expect it’ll also be the manufacturer of the second-generation device, so when the chairman announced a general release date window at an investors meeting, people paid attention.
According to reports, Lam claims that we’ll be seeing limited stock of the Apple Watch 2 near the end of Q2 2016, with more stock becoming available in Q3 2016. Based on this, it looks like the Apple Watch 2 will have a possible June 2016 release date, which falls in line with the analyst claims above.
Apple launches new Apple Watch straps at 21 March event
Although the Apple Watch 2 didn’t get a mention at Apple’s March 2016 event, but the smartwatch didn’t go entirely unnoticed. Apple announced that the Apple Watch was the number one selling smartwatch in the world, and that people loved the fact that changing the strap changed the look of the watch. With that being said, Apple announced a flurry of new Apple Watch bands including £39 nylon bands available in seven colours, some of which can be seen below.
Update, January 2016: Reports claim that the upcoming Apple Watch 2 may feature the much-rumoured front-facing FaceTime camera… but not much else. As first noted by Tech Crunch, citing several sources, it appears that the Apple Watch 2 may not be a complete redesign with major changes to its design and features, and may be more of an ‘S’ update similar to the iPhone refresh cycle. It’s also claimed that Apple is still unsure of the Apple Watch refresh cycle, as its more of a companion for your smartphone rather than a standalone device (for now, anyway).
Apple Watch 2 features: New health sensors
In an interview with The Telegraph, Tim Cook hinted that the company may make a medically approved device, but it wouldn’t be the Apple watch. Cook explained that the disruption that FDA accreditation would cause to the product release cycle, which ultimately put him off having the Apple Watch vetted for full-blown health use. Although with this being said, it hasn’t completely put him off the idea of building a product for use in the medical world:
“We don’t want to put the watch through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) process. I wouldn’t mind putting something adjacent to the watch through it, but not the watch, because it would hold us back from innovating too much, the cycles are too long. But you can begin to envision other things that might be adjacent to it – maybe an app, maybe something else.”
Ahead of its official launch, there was a lot of talk regarding the Apple’s wearable and specifically, that it’d be loaded with health sensors. So far that’s not proven to be the case, with heart-rate and activity tracking offering a standard level of fitness tracking, but nothing more. Even though Cook has stated that it’d be a different device, is this just a way of throwing us off the scent of the upcoming Apple Watch 2? It looks like it could come with a full suite of health sensors, which is something we’d welcome.
Following the interview, a number of Apple job listings have come to light and with them, a look at what Apple may be currently working on. In December 2015 and January 2016, Apple posted two listings looking for biomedical engineers with a background in “medical, health, wellness and/or fitness sensors, devices and applications”. Although there is no mention of the Apple Watch in the listings, it’s widely assumed that the roles are related to the listing for a fitness software engineering manager, which went up in November and is specifically for the Apple Watch.
BuzzFeed News also reported that over the last three months, Apple has stolen employees from all over the medical field. An example given by the news outlet is Anne Shelchuk, who has a doctorate in biomedical engineering. Shelchuk left the ultrasound software company ZONARE Medical Systems back in November to work with Apple’s health technology team, according to her LinkedIn. Along with Shelchuk, Apple has reportedly snapped up medical engineer Craig Slyfield, system design engineer Nathan Clark, who has a patent for a device that separates cells, Jay Mung, who worked on sensor algorithms for Medtronic’s continuous glucose monitoring systems and Jennifer Hillier, a former exercise physiologist at the University of California.
Apple Watch 2 features: Less reliance on iPhone
Update 4 July 2016: There are increasing rumours around the Apple Watch 2 featuring a built-in GPS. This would allow it to provide better tracking abilities and further distance itself from having to run side-by-side with an iPhone.
With its GPS functionalities, the Apple Watch 2 could be considered as a serious contender for those who want to use it for fitness tracking. This is due to the watch having better capabilities of accurately tracking your progress.
Apple plans for the second-gen Apple Watch to have more functionality when it’s separated from an iPhone, and has apparently named the project “tether-less” internally. As it stands, the Apple Watch can only support activity tracking, music playback and mobile payments without a paired iPhone, with many other features including text messaging, emailing and using third-party apps impossible without an iPhone for the Apple Watch to communicate with. The release of watchOS 2 brought the ability for third-party apps to run natively on the Watch, but the apps still require an iPhone to send and receive data.
However, the with the Apple Watch 2, Apple is reportedly looking to make it more capable when your iPhone isn’t connected, simply by adding a new wireless chipset into the wearable. What difference will this make to the Apple Watch experience? While it probably won’t be able to handle data-heavy requests (such as software updates), other tasks could be handled without the assistance of an iPhone.
The new wireless chipset should also enable a heavily requested “Find my Watch” feature similar to “Find my iPhone” which is said to utilise Wi-Fi router triangulation technology, as opposed to GPS.
Update 10 June 2016: There are a few rumours suggesting that the Watch 2 will be able to run on its own, allowing it to run independently from an iPhone. In this respect, it’s rumoured that the Watch 2 will have an untethered mode, allowing you to directly connect your Apple Watch 2 to a network, directly from the watch itself. We don’t think Apple will allow this, due to the battery impact it will have on the device.
There are even more rumours surrounding the inclusion of a 3G or 4G-enabled Apple Watch 2 that will bring a lot new connectivity options to the upcoming watch. However, this might raise concern for those wanting a better battery life.
According to a blog post from Apple, all apps developed from 1 June for the Apple Watch must be ‘native’ – that is, apps that can operate from the Watch instead of the user’s tethered iPhone. This may have a positive impact on speed, given that apps will now all run right there on your wrist.
This also ties in in part to another report from the Wall Street Journal that the Apple Watch 2 may get cellular connectivity. We’ve seen smartwatches from Samsung that ship with 3G connectivty, and allow users to make ans receive calls without their phone. It complicates things slightly for mobile operators as Apple will have to make it clear how the user is billed for cellular usage over two devices.
However, potential cellular connectivity for Apple Watch 2 is exciting, as severing the tie between the Watch and iPhone is an important technological step to the Watch being the all day every day personal assistant Apple is clearly dreaming of. Being able to bring up native apps over a network connection without your phone might unlock new possibilities for watchOS developers.
Apple Watch 2 rumours: Macworld poll
That’s all the rumours we’ve seen so far about the Apple Watch 2’s features, but rest assured that we’ll update this article when more emerge. And we discuss plenty more potential new features in our Apple Watch 2 wishlist, on the next page.
Design and build
New features wishlist
Apple Watch 2 rumours: New features wishlist
The thing is, with pretty much every Apple product, the first generation has always been a bit disappointing when compared to its second generation. Take the original iPhone, for example; it couldn’t record video or even copy and paste when it was launched. It wasn’t until its third generation that the iPhone got video-recording capabilities.
It’s the same story with the original iPad – once the iPad 2 and iPad 3 came out, app support for the original iPad started to dwindle before Apple eventually pulled the plug on the device and its OS updates altogether.
With this in mind, we started to wonder about what potential features could be included in Apple’s second-generation Apple Watch. Waterproofing? Smart straps? We’ve come up with ten features that we’d love to see on the Apple Watch 2, which you can find below.
Apple Watch 2 wishlist: Qi wireless-charging capabilities
The new form of wireless charging used by the Apple Watch is a great feature; it snaps into place using magnets and leaves no unattractive port on the watch. The only issue is that if your battery runs out while you’re away from home, Apple Watch chargers will be hard to come across.
An ideal situation would be for the Apple Watch to support Qi charging, a wireless charging standard that’s becoming increasingly popular, with companies like Samsung including the technology in its latest flagship phone, the Galaxy S6. While wireless charging pads aren’t as popular as cables, there’s more chance of you coming across one on your travels – McDonalds, for example, has said it is instaling 600 Qi hotspots in 50 restaurants for the public to use.
Apple Watch 2 wishlist: Smart Straps
Smart straps are a fantastic idea, which Pebble realised and implemented in the Pebble Time and Pebble Time Steel. Pebble are letting developers and manufacturers alike create their own smart straps that connect to the watch via a smart accessory port.
What’s the big deal? Smart straps have the potential to make a good smartwatch great; from a battery pack strap that gives your watch extra battery power, to a strap that has built-in LEDs that flash whenever you get a notification. You could even go one step further, and cover the strap in LEDs for a truly unique design.
Fitness fans could have a workout strap with extra sensors that improve the health and fitness functionality of the Watch. The possibilities are there: Apple just needs to allow the manufacturers the freedom to create!
Apple Watch 2 wishlist: Built-in GPS
One feature that’s missing from the first generation Apple Watch is built-in GPS. Apple has dictated that the Apple Watch can’t really be used without the support of an iPhone, and one of the reasons for this is so that it can piggyback on the iPhone’s GPS.
For health and fitness tracking purposes, you can take the Apple Watch out with its accompanying iPhone and after around 20 minutes of steady running your Apple Watch will learn your stride length. (We explain how to do this here: How to make the Apple Watch a more accurate fitness tracker.) Thereafter it will be able to produce a reasonably accurate representation of your workout without the need of an iPhone.
This is an effective solution for fitness fans, but it doesn’t really help other applications that benefit from GPS – what if your iPhone runs out of battery and you need to use the Maps app? It doesn’t seem very practical to us, and it’s a feature that we really hope to see in the next generation of Apple Watch.
Apple Watch 2 wishlist: Manual calibration for Workout app
While we’re on that subject, here’s a simple tweak that would enable fitness fans to make the Apple Watch a more accurate tracker without having to calibrate it with the iPhone’s GPS.
If you open the Workout app and select an indoor run, the Apple Watch knows that you’re on a treadmill, and treadmills do their own tracking. Wouldn’t it make sense for the Apple Watch to ask you at the end of an indoor run if its measurements are accurate?
If the estimation is way off, you could easily tap ‘no’ and enter the distance you’ve covered according to the treadmill. This would be valuable data to help the Apple Watch to learn your running style and stride length, without the minor inconvenience of taking the iPhone out for a run.
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.
See also: 26 Apple Watch rivals compared
Apple Watch 2 wishlist: Thinner design
The current Apple Watch measures in at 10.5mm thick, and while this is pretty impressive compared to other smartwatches, watch blog Hodinkee complained that “the Apple Watch doesn’t fit under my shirt cuff without serious effort, if at all”.
After comparing the thickness of the Apple Watch to the Asus ZenWatch, which has a 9.4mm depth, we’d have to assume that Apple would shave some precious millimetres off the Apple Watch for a second-generation device.
Apple Watch 2 wishlist: Gold-plated option for Watch Sport and Watch
Last but not least, we’d love to see a gold-plated option on the Watch Sport and Watch models of Apple Watch. Gold is a great, striking colour that looks gorgeous on the Apple Watch, but seems to be limited to the seemingly “rich with money to burn” category.
Apple may be dubious about including a cheap Gold plated option, especially as it takes value and exclusivity away from the Watch Edition collection. While this may be true, we think that the hype around the Edition will die down soon after launch, leaving Apple to launch a more affordable Gold counterpart in later generations.
See also: Apple Watch buying guide and price list | Best Apple Watch apps | Best Apple Watch games