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Wearable Tech

​Apple Watch 2: What I'd like to see Apple announce on September 7

There's still room to grow.

The Apple Watch has been around for a good long while now. It was unveiled almost exactly two years ago, and has been on sale since April 2015. Since then it's been finding its way onto a lot of wrists and frustrating a lot of people at the same time.

Those frustrations -- and declining shipments -- haven't fallen on deaf ears.

Back at WWDC in June, Apple already showed the world the next version of the Watch's operating system, WatchOS 3. It's about as close to a complete reboot as you could imagine. The function of the side button totally changes (it's now an app dock) and apps will now totally live on the Watch (instead of "streaming" from a tethered iPhone). There are also new social fitness features, better watch faces...and it's faster.

By itself, WatchOS 3 will give existing Apple Watch owners a good reason to pull their watches out of the drawer and give them a second chance.

But with strong signs (price cuts on current models, plus published reports pointing to the announcement of an Apple Watch sequel on September 7) it's time to look at what Apple could bring to the table with new hardware.

There's a lot of room to grow. The current model is an imperfect product, in a landscape of imperfect watches and fitness trackers. It's still not a must-have. And it lacks a few key features that are already in other smartwatches and fitness trackers. (One of those missing features is built-in cellular connectivity that would allow you to go iPhone-free, but it's apparently not on the docket for 2016.)

I don't know what's coming, but here's what I would like to see.

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Better battery life. Even if it means a few more hours, or hopefully an extra day, the Apple Watch could use a battery boost. Mine lasts a day and a half, roughly. But many fitness trackers last a week or more (Fitbit Blaze and Charge 2 last around five days), and some smartwatches like those from Pebble go for up to seven solid days or more. Samsung's upcoming Gear S3 is bigger but offers more battery, too. The new Apple Watch could go a similar route with a battery-boosted model. Apple's history suggests that the sequel would also be slimmer.

More serious water resistance. Being swim-friendly would be great. The Apple Watch is water-resistant enough to run it under water or dunk it in a tub, but it's not recommended for showering and definitely not for swimming. Bumping water resistance at least up to IP68 (the same as the new Samsung Gear S3) would be welcome. Even better, go for 3ATM or better, which would allow swimming and swim-tracking. Pebble, Misfit and Withings, among others, already can do it.

Smarter automatic fitness. Fitness trackers now tend to engage in automatic activity recognition. Fitbit, Pebble, Samsung and others can track exercises and even sleep automatically. The Apple Watch should be able to recognize and record exercise modes automatically, too. Some of WatchOS 3's Fitness features, like a new meditative Breathe mode and socially-connected fitness options, help a bit. Most people buy wrist-tech to track fitness. The Apple Watch -- for a lot of people -- is a essentially a fitness tracker, but it needs to be even better at what those dedicated trackers do. And, maybe, Apple can apply machine learning to offer up better fitness insights; it's an area that some fitness trackers and apps have dabbled in, but few have mastered.

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There is a lot of room for improvement should Apple debut a new watch.

Sarah Tew/CNET

GPS and barometer. Speaking of fitness, the Apple Watch could use GPS to track runs away from the iPhone. Many other fitness watches already do this, and so does the Gear S3. Rumors also report that the next Apple Watch will have a barometer, which could allow stair-climbing data like the Fitbit does.

Sleep-tracking. A better battery could mean doing things the Apple Watch hasn't touched yet. Sleep is an obvious omission. Most fitness trackers now log sleep. Apple Watch should, too. Another bonus to tracking sleep is the ability to gather a more accurate resting heart-rate measurement, something Apple Watch also doesn't do yet.

Lots of new watch faces. More specifically, a watch-face store. Sure, that's not a Watch 2-specific feature, but the Apple Watch has had a glaring lack of third-party watch faces compared to the Android Wear, Samsung Gear or even Pebble platforms. Watch faces are fun. Apple can obviously marshal big-name designers and brands to make watch faces, so where are they?

Improved touch control. On the iPhone, I don't often use 3D Touch, the pressure-sensitive technology that allows gentle presses on the screen to activate different functions. But I could see it being useful on the Apple Watch. The original Apple Watch has Force Touch, not 3D Touch. The difference is that the Apple Watch's entire surface is less pressure sensitive: you can't gently press on certain parts and expect the level of fine control which 3D Touch allows. The Watch could use expanded pressure-sensitive design for a more elegant way to look at and launch apps, for instance, or act as a smart-home remote.

Price cut. Apple Watch has already been heavily discounted at many retailers for as low as $250 in the US, but an even lower official price for the Sport model (say, $200) would be a lot easier to justify for many people, and would be a better competitor versus the Fitbit, Pebble and Withings devices of the world -- many of which now cost $150 or less. Or Apple could simply drop the price of the first-gen Apple Watch models and keep them around, like Apple does with previous-year iPhones.

We'll know more soon enough.