‘All His Life Has He Looked Away, to the Future, to the Horizon. Never His Mind on Where He Was. What He Was Doing. What’s Coming Out Just Next Month.’

Mark Gurman, in his Power On column for Bloomberg last week:

Because of the Apple Watch’s slow evolution over the years, the design has remained largely the same since the Series 4 launched in 2018 — aside from the Ultra model.

The cause and effect is backwards here: Apple Watch has evolved slowly because the original design nailed it so well. There was a gentle form-factor change with Series 4, but at a glance, today’s Series 8 (and, almost certainly, next month’s Series 9) looks nearly identical to the original “Series 0” models. It’s almost criminally under-remarked-upon just how good the original Apple Watch design was. 1993 Macs didn’t look like the 1984 original Macintosh, except for the gimmicky Color Classic that almost no one bought then and even fewer remember now. The iPhone underwent multiple major form factor revisions in its first decade: iPhone 4, 5, 6, and X. Yet here we are on the cusp of the 9th generation Apple Watch and the original design still looks fresh and remains band-compatible with the original models. But, says Gurman:

But that’s poised to change. Apple is planning a “Watch X” model to mark the device’s 10-year anniversary, and it promises to be the biggest overhaul yet. (The category was unveiled in 2014 and released the following year, so Apple is planning to launch Watch X either in 2024 or 2025.) With the X model, Apple designers are working on a thinner watch case and have explored changing the way bands are attached to the device.

Starting with the original Apple Watch, bands have slid into the sides of the chassis and attached with a locking mechanism. Keeping that design the same let the bands stay compatible with old and new models, but it has downsides. People involved in the development of new Apple Watches say the system takes up a considerable amount of space that could be better filled with a bigger battery or other components.

To that end, the company has explored a new magnetic band attachment system, though it’s unclear if it will be ready or used in the Watch X revamp. Even bigger changes are coming as well: a microLED display that tops the color and clarity of the current OLED screens, as well as a technology for monitoring blood pressure.

Surely the band connectors will break backwards compatibility eventually, but it’s worth noting that even the Apple Watch Ultra is band-compatible with the regular “large” Apple Watches.

If Apple goes with “X” in lieu of “10”, a la iPhone X, I’d still bet on “Series X”, not just “X”. And we can take it to the bank that all this will happen, just like we could when Gurman reported, two weeks before it was announced in 2021, that Series 7 would have both a flat display and flat-sided case. (Series 7 watches in fact had rounder displays and the curvature of the cases didn’t change a whit.)

Saturday, 19 August 2023