Update: An Apple patent points to the ability for future wearables to measure your respiration rate. Plus, the Apple Watch 3 might switch to a new screen technology. Read on below for everything we think we know so far about the rumored wearable.
The Apple Watch 3 is surely coming, as we've seen that the brand is testing new ideas for the third generation of the wearable.
Sure, the smartwatch market isn't exactly on fire, but Apple is still a leader in the space and a new effort to make the Watch more health focused will surely pay dividends in terms of being more than just another phone screen to become obsessed with.
The rumors are trickling out for the Apple Watch 3, but we're still not seeing anything concrete that the device will appear alongside the iPhone 8… however, there's a really good chance that an all-new Watch would gain a huge halo alongside this massive phone reboot Apple is planning.
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This guide will keep you up to date with all the latest news and rumors, along with our own analysis.
And if that's not enough we've put our heads together and worked out the features we think you want to see – let us know if you want to see something else too.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The next wearable from Apple
- When is it out? Late 2017 or early 2018 probably
- What will it cost? More than most smartwatches
Apple Watch 3 release date
We can be fairly confident there will be at least a year between the Apple Watch 2 and the Apple Watch 3, which means we're not likely to see the Apple Watch 3 before September 2017 at the earliest.
WatchOS 4 will launch at some point in the fall/autumn this year, so that may add to the evidence it's the time we'll see a third Apple Watch.
If it arrives in September, it will probably launch alongside the iPhone 8. But the original Apple Watch launched in April, so perhaps we'll be waiting until April 2018, or maybe Apple will choose another date altogether.
All we can say for sure is that you've got a long time to save, as we don't really expect this to be a yearly-refreshed device from Apple, as it would create too many variants with not a lot to actually put in as an upgrade.
The latest rumor does suggest Quanta Computer will no longer be the sole manufacturer of the Apple Watch 3 and it will now share production with rival Compal. The rumor also suggests it will launch in the second half of 2017, so alongside the iPhone 8 may be a possibility.
TechRadar's take: Apple doesn't seem to see the Apple Watch as a device which needs refreshing every year, so don't count on seeing the Apple Watch 3 before 2018.
Apple Watch 3 screen
- A Micro-LED display
We wouldn't expect the size or shape of the screen to change for the Apple Watch Series 3, so expect a square 1.65-inch display.
It's likely to still be OLED too, especially now that Apple is rumored to be moving towards that tech for the iPhone 8, and it offers such great technological benefits.
On the other hand, it's also been rumored Apple is considering Micro-LED panels for its next generation wearable. These are brighter and more power-efficient than OLED, but they also tend to be more expensive.
That would solve one key issue (or at least help): improving the battery life of these devices.
Whatever the technology, there's a good chance that the resolution will remain at 390 x 312, as Apple rarely seems in any hurry to up the resolution of its devices.
Saying that, this is one area which could stand to be improved, as while the Apple Watch 2 has a fairly crisp display it's not quite pin-sharp, which isn't ideal given that analog watches don't have to worry about this issue, and Apple would love to be the equal (or better) of anything in that market.
TechRadar's take: Apple is sure to improve the screen in some ways, be it a jump in resolution or changing the display technology, but don't expect big changes.
Apple Watch 3 design
- A platinum or Liquidmetal case
- A smart band
- A modular design
While the general shape and style of the Apple Watch 3 probably won't be much different to the Apple Watch 2, certain aspects of the design could change substantially.
For one thing, there's an Apple patent detailing a smart fabric wristband that could act as an extra display, showing the time or simple notifications. We're wary of patents as they often don't turn into anything, but this would be a clever way to extend the otherwise small screen of the Apple Watch.
We could also see new materials used in the case. Apple added a ceramic option for the Apple Watch Series 2, but there have been whispers of a titanium or platinum case, as reported by Apple Insider, and there have long been rumors of Apple working with Liquidmetal, which would be excellent for a timepiece.
It's also possible that the Apple Watch 3 will be smaller and slimmer than current models. One rumor suggests the Apple Watch 3 may achieve this thinner design through Apple moving the haptic sensor to the strap of the watch.
Another patent even details a plan to include modular functionality on the strap of the watch. You could potentially add extra battery, biometric sensors, speakers, cameras or even solar cells to charge the device when out and about.
It would also let you swap out features to make sure your device doesn't age so quickly.
On the other hand, the Apple Watch 2 is actually marginally thicker than the first generation, so Apple might choose to pack more tech in instead of slimming it down.
One thing that probably won't change is the fact it's water-resistant. This was a major new feature for the Apple Watch 2 and we'd be very surprised if Apple removed it for the Apple Watch 3.
TechRadar's take: One or more new case materials are likely to be added, but most of the current ones will probably remain. The overall look of the Watch is unlikely to change much. We also don't expect a modular design, as no-one seems to have cracked this yet.
Apple Watch 3 camera and battery
- A FaceTime camera
- An improved wireless charger
The Apple Watch Series 2 doesn't have a camera, but the Apple Watch Series 3 might. It's a feature which was at one point rumored for the Apple Watch 2, allowing you to make and receive FaceTime calls, so it's possible that the idea will be resurrected for the Apple Watch 3.
Battery life on the Apple Watch 2 is close to two days – much improved from the daily charge of the original Apple Watch, and while there's no news on the Apple Watch 3's battery life it seems unlikely that it would be any worse.
With multiple firms getting involved with e-ink or monochrome LCD displays for smartwatches, we can only hope that Apple might do the same by fusing a low-power screen with a high-resolution display, getting the best of both worlds.
And when it does come time to charge there might be a more convenient solution this time, as an Apple patent has been unearthed, showing a wireless charging stand that would charge the Watch no matter how it's placed on the base.
This would not only make it easy to connect to the charger, but also mean you could charge the Watch while it's lying at an angle, so you could for example use it as a bedside clock.
TechRadar's take: A FaceTime camera doesn't seem like it would be a priority feature, but may be included if Apple can fit one in without sacrificing much else. Expect at least two days of battery life, possibly longer.
Apple Watch 3 sleep tracking
We're poised to see an official Apple Watch sleep tracking app simply because Apple just bought Beddit, described as the 'Fitbit of sleep tracking.'
Beddit has an comprehensive iOS and Apple Watch app, but it currently requires an expensive, sensor-filled piece of fabric that slips under your mattress. Not ideal.
The bigger issue is battery life. Apple really needs to extend the Apple Watch 3 battery to three days to make it ideal for wearing a Watch while sleeping.
watch OS 3.2 Theater Mode feature was step one. Buying Beddit was step two. Now adding two-day battery life is step three to an official sleep tracking app.
Apple Watch 3 OS and power
Depending on when it launches, the Apple Watch 3 will likely run either the freshly announced watchOS 4 or even watchOS 5. New features in watchOS 4 include improvements to the fitness features, the ability to pair other Bluetooth devices and brand new watch faces too.
That should also be helped by a new processor, which will probably be called the S3. It's likely to be a dual-core chip, much like the S2 in the Apple Watch 2, but will presumably be significantly faster.
The key things we've noticed in the new software – which could point to the new Watch hardware's form and function – include machine learning (so the Watch will be more of a digital assistant than ever), smarter connectivity through improved Bluetooth support and a deeper ability to work in water… all of which sit nicely with the idea that the Watch 3 will be a more health-focused device.
TechRadar's take: The Apple Watch 3 will run whatever the latest version of watchOS happens to be when it launches – probably watchOS 4. You can expect snappier performance too.
Apple Watch 3 other features
- Phone-free cellular capabilities
- Ability to measure your respiration rate
Apple added GPS to the Apple Watch 2, so you can track your runs without a phone, but with the Apple Watch 3 the company might go one better and allow it to work completely independently of an iPhone.
We're not just talking fully standalone apps, but also potentially its own SIM card, allowing access to mobile data and the ability to call and text even if you've left your phone at home.
Supposedly Apple considered these sorts of features for the Apple Watch 2, but found them too much of a drain on the battery. If the company can overcome that problem this could become the main selling point of the Apple Watch 3.
One possible feature is the ability to measure your respiratory rate, as has been revealed in an Apple patent. It doesn't mention the Apple Watch 3 by name, but does say the system could be wrist-worn.
BGR has also reported information from a source that claims the Apple Watch 3 will come with a glucose monitor. It will help those who suffer from diabetes monitor their blood sugar levels easily.
It still sounds like a future piece of tech considering the main way most diabetes patients monitor their levels is through blood samples, which can be painful and irritating to do.
Tim Cook was spotted wearing a glucose monitor recently – sparking widespread rumor that the next Watch would have this functionality built in.
Another interesting fitness angle was spotted by BikeRadar as a new feature in the updated Apple Watch, where it could function as a power meter for cyclists.
The watch, detailed in a patent application, would be able to take into account elements like speed, wind resistance (somehow), hand position and angle… all making it possible to determine a rider's power output.
What's most interesting about this application is the wider fitness capabilities Apple seems to be imbuing the Watch 3 with, showing that the brand sees this as a key battleground for its wearables.
TechRadar's take: Cellular capabilities could be the big feature the Apple Watch 3 needs to really stand out from previous models, so this is likely to be something Apple will try to include.
Apple Watch 3 price
The original Apple Watch started at $349/£299/AU$499 when it launched, and the Apple Watch 2 upped the prices to $369/£369/AU$529.
So far there aren't any price rumors for the Apple Watch 3, but it's likely to stay at roughly around the same price as the Apple Watch 2, as although the prices went up between the first and second generations we'd think the Watch 3 might struggle to sell if it starts much higher.
The Apple Watch 2 was a big upgrade on the original Apple Watch, but some big rumored features also failed to materialize, so there’s certainly things left to be added. Here’s what we want to see in the Apple Watch 3.
1. Fully phone-free features
The single biggest feature of the Apple Watch 3 could be the ability to get cellular connectivity without being tethered to a phone.
This was rumored for the Apple Watch 2 and hopefully for the next model it will actually happen, as it could turn the Apple Watch from an accessory into a standalone device.
2. All week battery life
The Apple Watch 2 can easily last for two days between charges, which is a big improvement on the Apple Watch Series 1, but it still pales in comparison to the Pebble range, which can last for a week or more.
Those watches are also far lower spec, so the difference is understandable, but if Apple can find a way to further stretch out the battery life of the Watch 3 the company could have the first truly essential smartwatch on its hands, or wrists.
3. A sharp screen
The Apple Watch 2 already has a fairly sharp screen, but the fact that it has a screen at all means it doesn’t look as crisp as an analogue watch and that’s one hurdle that may need to be overcome before smartwatches become the norm, so we’d like to see a sharper display on the Apple Watch 3.
4. More health and fitness features
The big selling point of the Apple Watch 2 over the original Apple Watch is GPS, marking it out as more of a fitness tracker.
But while that works well the watch as a whole still has a way to go before it can replace the best fitness trackers on the market. For example, there’s a heart rate monitor built in, but it’s not very accurate, so we’d like to see this improved for the Apple Watch 3.
A selection of more feature-packed health and fitness apps would help too, as currently they tend to be quite basic.
5. Super strength
With the Apple Watch 2 being waterproof and seemingly built with athletes in mind it would make sense for the Apple Watch 3 to gain some extra durability.
Taking the Watch on runs, rides and swims makes it more exposed to the elements and accidents than if you were just wearing it around the house, and the increased fitness focus could see climbers, skiers and other extreme sports enthusiasts make use of it. As such it would be reassuring to know that it’s built to last.
The Apple Watch 2 isn’t weak, but the Apple Watch 3 could be stronger still.
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