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Apple Watch 3: Everything we know about the launch date, specs and price

/ Updated: August 8, 2017 3:00 PM PDT
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In the wake of the infamous HomePod leak, the Apple rumors are coming at a torrential pace. And the Apple Watch 3 has now been swept into the flood.

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Apple accidentally released firmware for its forthcoming HomePod speaker, scattering clues about the next versions of the iPhone, iOS, Apple TV, and the Apple Watch.

Apple

With about four weeks to go until the first anniversary of the Apple Watch 2, the internets are buzzing with reports of a majorly redesigned Watch 3 that could debut in just a few weeks. Though the exact time frame for an announcement remains unclear, the most aggressive rumors suggest that the new model could appear alongside a new iPhone during the first half of September.  

Whether or not the company can even deliver the next iPhone on time has been a major topic of debate this summer. But the company's August 1 earnings report seems to have quelled the postponement talk (for now). Apple offered a bright forecast for the current quarter, suggesting that a new iPhone (or three) will indeed launch on schedule. 

With an iPhone announcement once again on track for early September, the volume has increased on talk of an imminent launch for the new Apple Watch. As we count down the days until the introduction, we'll continue to assemble the most significant Apple Watch 3 rumors below.

Apple Watch 3 specs we might see

  • Standalone LTE connectivity via SIM card 
  • FaceTime camera
  • Micro-LED display
  • Glass-film touch technology
  • Slimmer, more lightweight design 
  • Water resistance
  • Confirmed: WatchOS 4 operating system (see preview)
  • Sleep tracking
  • Glucose monitoring 
  • Respiration sensors
  • Integrated power meter
  • Smart bands
  • Improved and/or faster "wireless" (aka inductive) charging
  • Starting price around $349, £349 or AU$499
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Announcement and release dates

According to Bloomberg and noted Apple pundit John Gruber, Apple plans to release the Watch 3 before the end of the year. But an expanding pile of evidence points toward a September debut, in tandem with the next iPhone.  

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Apple WatchOS 4 is coming to Apple Watches this fall via a software update.

James Martin/CNET

Apple usually unveils its new flagship phone during the first week or two of September. After months of rumors about grave production challenges -- a recent Fast Company report described a "sense of panic" at Apple -- it appears as though the company will in fact deliver the new phone on time in 2017. Given that Apple has scheduled the official release of WatchOS 4 for the fall (more on that below), it would be natural to introduce it with brand-new hardware. 

Of course, whether the company has the bandwidth to simultaneously develop a new Apple Watch alongside a new iPhone line remains to be seen. Apple, as usual, has declined to comment.

An 'all-new' design

John Gruber has also passed along an unconfirmed rumor of an "all-new" form factor on deck for this year's Watch. This breathes new life into last year's report, published by veteran Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, of a major redesign slated for the third edition. Until recently, however, most of the rumors pointed toward a modest, iterative update for 2017, focused mostly on improving battery life.

Looks like LTE support is coming 

This one is starting to look like a slam dunk. Both Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal have published articles reporting that Apple's next Watch will be able to connect to cellular networks, freeing the device from its dependence on an iPhone for data connectivity. The Journal suggests that, like LTE-enabled iPads, the new Watches can be rolled into existing wireless plans for an additional charge.

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And Apple itself may have confirmed this rumor. At the end of July, the company prematurely released a firmware update for its HomePod speaker, due out in December, inadvertently dropping clues about a range of upcoming products. Developer Jeffrey Grossman discovered a reference in the firmware to the Apple Watch (codenamed "Gizmo") and SIM connectivity. In March, Barron's published an article citing a semiconductor analyst's research on this topic, claiming that the next Apple Watch would come equipped with a SIM card and support for LTE. 

None of this is definitive evidence in and of itself, but it's looking pretty likely that the next Apple Watch will be a gamechanger. A cellular connection would catapult the Apple Watch 3 into a different category. But a note of caution: there was similar chatter about this feature in the run up to the introduction of the Apple Watch 2; reportedly, Apple could not solve the related battery drain problems. 

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George Jetson's video-enabled watch.

martianwatches.com

FaceTime from your wrist

Since the run up to the second edition of the Watch, there has been (hopeful) speculation about a camera. According to 9to5Mac, Apple has considered building a camera into the Watch's top bezel, making it the smallest device capable of running FaceTime. 

Aside from giving the Apple Watch yet another competitive advantage in the market, this feature would finally fulfill the decades-old promise of George Jetson's watch.

WatchOS 4

We learned quite a bit from Apple's preview of the next version of its wearable operating system at WWDC in June. Highlights of WatchOS 4 include a new Siri watch face that provides a feed of contextual notifications; new branded watch faces (but no dedicated Watch Face store); a more capable Music app; workout and fitness enhancements; and Bluetooth connectivity for sports and health gear. All of these features sound great, but we suspect that Apple excluded the most exciting upgrades from this early look.

Watch face upgrade

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A major redesign could feature new display technology.

CNET

There are a few changes potentially coming to the Apple Watch's display. One is a shift from the Apple Watch 2's OLED display to Micro LED -- a brighter and more efficient variation of the technology. Nikkei Asian Review has reported that Apple is piloting Micro LED technology for wearables, though it's unlikely that the new panels would find their way into a final product until 2018. And DigiTimes has reported that Apple will move to glass-firm touch panels for the third edition of the Watch, leaving behind the touch-on-lens panels onboard the Apple Watch 2.

New health and fitness features

We know that the next version of WatchOS will offer a slew of new features on this front, but there are also some potential hardware-based upgrades said to be coming. CNBC has reported that CEO Tim Cook has been testing a blood sugar tracker paired to his Apple Watch, and that the company has dedicated a team to develop a noninvasive, continuous glucose monitor

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Apple CEO Tim Cook is testing a glucose monitor for the Apple Watch, according to a report.

Stephen Lam, Getty Images

BGR has also reported that Apple is exploring glucose monitoring capabilities for the next version of the Watch -- and that Apple plans to introduce interchangeable "smart watch bands." These bands could support the glucose monitoring feature as well as other capabilities such as a FaceTime camera or perhaps extra battery capacity. 

And BikeRadar reports that Apple has filed a patent for a device to use wind resistance to measure power. The device described in the application calculates estimated power output -- that is, how hard you're pedaling -- using your speed, wind speed and road gradient in addition to your heart rate.

Price

The original Apple Watch started at $349 for the 38mm model and $399 for the 42mm edition in the US. In March 2016, the company slashed prices by $50, dropping the entry-level price to $299. Today, the Watch Series 1 starts at $269 (38mm) and $299 (42mm) and the Watch Series 2 at $369 (38mm) and $399 (42mm). Barring a bombshell redesign, featuring cellular connectivity or an integrated camera, the consensus is that Apple will stick pretty close to the current pricing scheme with the Watch 3.

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