We’ve grown accustom to new Apple Watches debuting alongside iPhones each fall since the Series 1 and Series 2 launch in 2016, but does Apple Watch need a ‘Series 5’ this year to stay competitive? Probably not, and Apple waiting until 2020 to introduce the next generation of Apple Watch doesn’t seem impossible.
No Series 4 upgrade?
I’ve bought a new Apple Watch each year since the original in 2015, and I would be first in line to buy the latest upgrade if that happens this fall. But I’m also preparing myself for the possibility that there’s no upgrade to the Series 4 this year.
Apple Watch Series 4 is really good. Apple shipped a fast Apple Watch that doesn’t feel slowed down by the watchOS 6 software beta, and the new design makes it age especially well.
Series 4 has also evolved over time with new features like ECG and advanced heart rate detection that are still rolling out across the globe. This echoes the first year of Apple Watch which took time to roll out and lasted 18 months.
Series 3 has also held up well over for what could be a two year life cycle for being sold new in stores. Series 3 was the first Apple Watch with optional cellular connectivity, and it still stomps on whatever competition you can find in the smartwatch space.
Fall lineup possibility
So how could Apple refresh the Apple Watch lineup this fall without taking us to the next generation? One possibility is what we saw three years ago with Apple Watch Series 1 and Series 2.
Apple Watch Series 2 was a compelling product, but Apple needed a lower priced option that wasn’t held back by the speed of the first generation chip.
That’s how we got the Apple Watch Series 1. Just like the first-gen Apple Watch, but with a faster chip called S1P that compared to the Series 2 chip minus GPS connectivity.
If the Apple Watch Series 4 is untouched this fall, would it make sense for the Apple Watch Series 3 to see a speed boost for the sake of longevity?
Another option would be dropping the Series 3 from the lineup and lowering the price of the Series 4. The problem with this scenario is priced would almost certainly need to rise again for the Apple Watch Series 5.
And while the Apple Watch has virtually no competition, customers still expect the product line to stay fresh. Apple could address this point by introducing new aluminum case colors that match the newest aluminum iPhone colors.
Apple could also revive the ceramic white and gray versions at the high end, and remix the entire lineup with new band options — especially for stainless steel gold.
Why consider this now?
Maybe there will be a Series 5 this year as generally expected, but rumors about what that upgrade might include are virtually nowhere. Cellular was widely expected for Apple Watch Series 3, and a physical redesign was rumored for Apple Series 4.
Reliable supply chain analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of TF International Securities predicted the return of the ceramic Apple Watch this fall, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a next-gen watch. Kuo also predicted that the ECG feature would reach many more countries, but that’s already happened quickly with Apple Watch Series 4.
There are rumors for what we should expect to see from the Apple Watch in 2020. Bloomberg reported that native sleep tracking could come to the Apple Watch as soon as next year, and recent reports predict the LED screen could be replaced with a microLED screen.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t more features that people want to see from the Apple Watch now — like an always-on display — but we just haven’t seen reporting on what’s coming this fall for the watch.
Good or bad for Apple Watch?
We do know Apple Watch Series 1 and newer will be enhanced with the watchOS 6 software update — one that further advances the Apple Watch as an independent device from the iPhone — but could we also see the Apple Watch launch also move away from the iPhone event in the fall?
Personally, I would take any speed enhancements and whatever other benefits that could ship in a year-over-year update to the Series 4, but I have to admit that the current lineup is also very advanced.
If it turns out there is no new generation of watch this year, I wouldn’t consider that a warning sign for the future of the Apple Watch. Rather, it would show that Apple is pulling the arrow even even further back in the bow before it releases the next major Apple Watch.
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