While originally positioned as a luxury device, Apple has more recently focused on the fitness credentials of the Watch.
Untethering it from the iPhone would open up a range of new functionality – such as allowing users to download songs on the move, even if they do not have their smartphone with them.
However, there will be concern about the battery life of the device. Most of the computational heavy-lifting on the current Apple Watch is done via the paired iPhone.
According to Bloomberg’s report, the new Apple Watch’s modem will be manufactured by Intel.
The Apple Watch would come on to the market several years after Apple rivals Samsung and LG launched their own cellular-enabled smart watches. However such devices have tended to be too large to gain any kind of mainstream popularity.
Aside from iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, Apple unveiled a new version of its smartwatch, which it described as the “ultimate fitness device”.
The company said the Apple Watch Series 2 is water resistant to164ft, meaning it can be used while swimming or surfing.
It also introduces:
a built-in GPS location tracker, letting running routes be tracked without carrying a paired phone
a more powerful processor, letting it show more detailed graphics in apps than its predecessor
a brighter screen
Image source Apple
According to IDC, the original Apple Watch is the best selling smartwatch on the market, but shipments of the device dropped more than 50% between the April-to-June quarter of 2016 and the same period the previous year.
Apple said it thought the device would have particular appeal to runners, and may be able to stoke interest through a partnership with Nike.
Nike has created an app that lets its owner share details of their runs with others, and has also launched its own bands for the timepiece.
Although many of the details of the new devices had leaked in advance, there was one major surprise at the start of the event.
Video game character Mario’s creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, appeared to announce that Nintendo’s plumber would appear in his first iPhone video game before the end of the year.
Shigeru Miyamoto confirmed that the running-themed adventure would be an iOS exclusive at launch.
It follows the success of another Nintendo franchise, Pokemon, on the platform.
It was also revealed that the Apple Watch would soon gain the ability to tell owners how close they are to nearby monsters in Pokemon Go, and to show which characters have hatched from eggs in the augmented reality title.
Evidence that Apple has been working on a smart watch concept since at least 2011 has emerged in a US Patent Office filing.
The document describes a flexible touchscreen display which would communicate with a smartphone or other electronic device.
It coincides with a report from a tech consultancy suggesting there is huge pent up demand for such a gadget.
But ABI Research warns that battery life issues still need to be addressed.
It says assuming such problems can be resolved, about 485 million wearable computing devices might ship by 2018, providing a significant growth opportunity for Apple and the wider consumer electronics industry.
The US Patent Office only revealed Apple’s filing on Thursday, but the document dates back to August 2011.
The mooted device is likened to a “slap wrap” – a thin strip of metal covered in fabric which snapped around the user’s wrist to form a bracelet.
The toy was popular with teenagers in the late-1980s, but fell out of favor after complaints that it lost its ability to retain its shape over time,. There were also complaints that some users had experienced injuries after the fabric wore away to reveal a sharp metal edge.
Apple puts a hi-tech spin on the idea proposing a “slap bracelet” featuring a flexible circuit board and display, a touch sensitive user interface and a two-way communication chip, which would curl around the user’s skin.
It suggests the gadget could detect which part of its surface was covered so that its readout would be limited to the exposed screen, with information flowing over the join.
Evidence that Apple has been working on a smart watch concept since at least 2011 has emerged in a US Patent Office filing
Apple suggests lights along the device’s edge could be programmed to blink when the user receives an alert, before displaying the details on its screen.
It says the user could then provide a brief response or use the bracelet to command a wirelessly connected smartphone, tablet or laptop to carry out another function such as adjusting the order of a song playlist or reviewing what recent calls had been made.
Apple acknowledges that the relatively thin nature of a wrist band would limit its uses, but suggests a wider armband could also be developed.
“At the width of a few inches the display can function to temporarily view and manipulate the screen of the portable device it is in communication with,” says the paper.
“This might be desirable when the portable electronic device is stored in an inconvenient location such as a cargo pocket, or the bottom of a backpack.
“A larger display is also more desirable for map viewing… as a traveller or explorer can easily reference the information with a flick of the wrist while exploring.”
ABI Research notes that several companies already sell smart watches – such as Fossil, Pebble and Sony – while others (including Samsung and Martian) are known to be working on such products,
For the time being, however, it says the sector is dominated instead by activity trackers – such as Nike’s Fuelband and the Garmin Forerunner – which account for an estimated 61% of the wearable tech market.
Some of these devices do tell the time, but they only offer limited functionality beyond monitoring exercise or the owner’s sleep pattern.
The consultants instead suggest a much wider range of uses giving the example of linking the watch to a home automation system so that “a quick shake of your wrist can turn off/on room lights”.
The idea of a smartwatch has been around for years – but the firm says technology only recently caught up with our imagination.
“Moore’s law has driven silicon to the point where it’s small enough and powerful enough to drive applications that mean things to consumers,” said ABI’s chief research officer, Stuart Carlaw.
“Bluetooth Smart has also brought us high-bandwidth, low-energy connectivity at a less than a dollar a chip and takes up little space while offering robust performance.
“But one note of caution is that when we look at wearable technologies the use of power becomes an issue. You don’t want to have to be plugging in four or five products a night to recharge – energy harvesting or wireless recharging technologies are going to become incredibly important.”
Apple’s patent confirms the company is aware of the problem.
It suggests harvesting energy from the movement of the user’s arms and only coming out of standby mode when a sensor detects the device has been rotated to face a certain way.
It adds that the use of an AMOLED (active matrix light emitting diode) display would also help since it can allow individual pixels to be turned off, allowing the watch to only activate the parts which are facing the owner’s eyes.