In April 2015, the Apple Watch finally became available for sale. It became, simultaneously, one of the finest smartwatches in the land and, at least according to the perception in some quarters, a relative disappointment for the company.
Why the ambivalence? Apple hasn't released sales figures, but it hardly seems like a flop -- IDC ranks it second in the wearables market, behind only Fitbit, which has sold more than 20 million of its namesake devices. Any other company would be celebrating that as a breakout freshman product. But this is Apple, after all. You know, the company that sold roughly 75 million iPhones in the first quarter of 2015.
Still, wearables appear to be a market poised for big time growth and, as such, sustained attention from Cupertino. In October, Apple updated its Apple Watch software to let apps run on the watch itself instead of working as iPhone extensions, mitigating the absolute interdependence of the initial scenario. Since then, it has also released new watch faces, improved third-party apps and better overall performance. The 2.2 update, introduced at Apple's March 21 event, added a couple of new features along with minor bug fixes and even more performance improvements. All in all, pretty incremental updates so far.
After some fairly meaty price cuts at mainstream retailers like Best Buy during the 2015 holiday season, Apple also used the March 21 event to lower the price of the 38mm Apple Watch Sport to $299, down from $349. (In the UK, it's listed starting at £259, and in the Apple Australia store it's listed starting at AU$429.)
We expect the introduction of the second-generation Apple Watch to come sometime in 2016. In the interim, we will count the minutes, obsessively glancing at our wrists for news, all the while curating the most interesting predictions, best guesses and rumors about what the future holds.
Editors' note: This story was originally posted on December 24, 2015, and last updated on May 26, 2016.
Announcement and release dates
On March 21, in addition to introducing the 4-inch iPhone SE and smaller iPad Pro, Apple cut the starting price of the Apple Watch to $299, offered up some new bands, and announced updated software. (In the UK, it's listed starting at £259, and in the Apple Australia store it's listed starting at AU$429.) Earlier rumors had suggested that Apple would use the event to introduce the Apple Watch 2. That didn't happen.
So, when will we see the followup to the original Watch? The timing remains unclear. Apple analyst Brian White has predicted that a new Apple Watch could arrive in the next few months , possibly at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, scheduled to begin June 13, 2016. The other plausible debut would be an as-of-yet-announced event expected to come in September, featuring the introduction of the iPhone 7.
Months ago, Quanta Computer chairman Brian Lam remarked that mass production of the device would start in the third quarter of 2016.
What's new and different about the 2016 Apple Watch?
The current consensus is that the next Apple Watch won't diverge much, if at all, from the original's rectangular, iPod Nano-ish form factor. Perhaps that's for the best; according to CNET's Scott Stein, "in terms of craftsmanship, there isn't a more elegantly made piece of wearable tech" than the Apple Watch.
Apple analyst Brian White has stated that the next Apple Watch could be 20 to 40 percent thinner than the current model. Countering this, veteran Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has predicted that the Watch won't undergo a substantial refresh of its external design until 2017. According to Kuo, a new version of the watch is coming in 2016, but the focus will be primarily on internal enhancements with "limited changes to form factor design." Some have predicted that Apple will adopt its iPhone "S" refresh cadence for the Watch, releasing modest updates between more significant redesigns.
One particularly hot topic of conjecture has been the enhancement of the watch's capabilities when not connected to an iPhone. In April 2016, The Wall Street Journal published a report suggesting that Apple is working on adding cellular network connectivity to the Apple Watch 2, in addition to a faster processor.
Though the recent Watch OS 2 update has improved the original Apple Watch's capabilities when away from a phone, a second-generation could enable much more functionality independent of an iPhone. And there is evidence in support of this: Apple paved the way for Watch independence when it required that all Watch apps submitted to the App Store after June 1 be required to be "native apps built with the watchOS 2 SDK."
Many folks are hoping for better battery life. With the first generation Apple Watch, even moderate use can burn down the battery in less than 24 hours. In fact, one of the earliest Apple Watch 2 rumors to surface, back in July, characterized LG and Samsung as working to produce a thinner OLED display for the second-generation model, which would allow for a larger battery in a similarly sized device.
And though Apple has sometimes sacrificed functionality for best-in-class aesthetics -- the merely adequate battery life of the iPhone 6 and 6S would serve as one example -- it seems unlikely that Apple would want to deliver another Watch equipped with anything less than 24 hours worth of run time. Especially with competitors like the Pebble Time Steel capable of going more than a week between charges.
There is speculation that Apple could add a camera to the Watch 2. According to 9to5mac.com, the company is considering building a camera into the top bezel, ostensibly enabling users to FaceTime via the device. The debut of Watch OS 2 has already made it possible to pick up or hang up calls using the watch's controls. (This notion has received some additional support from a recent TechCrunch article.)
Other possibilities being discussed include the ability to track sleep and smart straps that would include extra sensors for tracking fitness. In fact, Apple CEO Tim Cook hinted in an interview that the company could build "something adjacent to the watch" that would be more medically focused and would require US Food and Drug Administration approval. That could be an app, he said, or "something else."
And here's an oddball one. As reported by 9to5mac.com, in February, 2016, Apple filed a patent application for a wearable device that could measure ambient sound levels and adjust the volume of alerts (or Siri) accordingly.
The original Apple Watch was priced along a rather remarkable spectrum, starting at $349 and soaring to $17,000. On March 21, 2016, Apple announced a slight price drop for the entry-level Sport model. The 38mm Apple Watch Sport now starts at $299, down from $349. In the UK it starts at £259 and in Australia AU$429. Is the price drop a trial balloon for a revised strategy? Or are retailers merely clearing "old" first-gen inventory in anticipation of the next generation?
Time will tell.
Scroll down for a reverse-chronological look at the latest rumors.
May 24, 2016
Sources report that the company is working on adding cell-network connectivity and a faster processor to the next-generation Watch.
May 3, 2016
One year after the wearable's release, we talk about its strengths and weaknesses.
April 28, 2016
Apple's earnings were down across the board, but do they have anything that can turn things around? Plus, get lunch with Tim Cook...for over $200k.
April 23, 2016
Apple says third-party Watch apps for the App Store must be able to run without the help of an iPhone.
April 21, 2016
Apple is working on including cellular network connectivity and a faster processor in the Apple Watch 2.
April 19, 2016
April 14, 2016
Will the company adopt the iPhone midcycle refresh?
April 11, 2016
Don't expect any big design changes to Apple's smartwatch in 2016, says a keen-eyed analyst. But do expect sales to tail off significantly.
March 22, 2016
Apple joins the ranks of companies failing to introduce a new watch this year, signaling that 2016 may be more about refinement than new products.
March 21, 2016
So far it's just a slightly cheaper entry price, new bands and updated software, but more exciting news will come later this year.
March 21, 2016
March 15, 2016
A smaller, cheaper iPhone and an update to the iPad Air 2 are likely to headline the announcements for next week's event.
February 27, 2016
Apple's first media event of 2016 will occur one day prior to the company's March 22 showdown with the government over a motion that would compel it to help hack an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists.
February 27, 2016
Attention Apple nerds, investors, media and everyone else who needs to know when Tim Cook's next product event is going to be held: It's going to be the week of March 21.
February 18, 2016
Fans are now treated to a very low price for the company's smart timepiece.
February 15, 2016
The original Apple Watch is pretty good, but it could be so much better if Apple adds these five features.
February 12, 2016
Apple is currently on target to start selling its next iPhone and iPad alongside new Apple Watch Sport Band colors.
February 11, 2016
A patent application published today describes how an Apple Watch could periodically measure ambient sound levels, adjusting notification volumes to an appropriate level.
February 2, 2016
Apple's smartwatch is leading to the popularity of wearable devices as a "lifestyle trend," says research firm Gartner.
January 22, 2016
In addition to launching a new iPhone, Apple plans to announce new Apple Watch models in March.
January 15, 2016
Reports of rumors suggesting that Apple might ship a minor revision of the Apple Watch that includes a FaceTime camera.
December 16, 2015
The tech giant likely will update its current gear, but don't hold your breath for a.
December 11, 2015
If Apple's live TV service doesn't launch in 2016 it will be a major fail. We'll be as nice as possible when we talk about that iPhone Smart Battery Case, and we talk MacBooks.
December 8, 2015
December 3, 2015
Wearables sales are booming, with Fitbit and Apple leading the way and Chinese companies not far behind.