Apple Watch 2 Keynote September 2016 GPS thin battery LTE

Tomorrow is Apple’s annual marque event to launch new iPhones. The keynote usually focuses mainly on the phones and the software that drives them. This year though, it looks likely a new Apple Watch will make an appearance. A quick browsing of Apple’s online store shows that nearly every model is sold out (all of the stainless versions are no longer available). There have been very few supply chain leaks about the wearable. This could mean that the smartwatch isn’t hitting the market immediately (often Apple uses their September event to announce items that will ship sometime before the holidays) or that Apple has simply done a better job managing leaks. There are a few tidbits that have bubbled to the surface though.  

Besides updated bands featuring refreshed colors and materials for the Fall/Winter season, we fully expect to see new Apple Watch hardware tomorrow. Based off of information circulating, it seems that the inclusion of GPS is a shoo-in. It has been one of the most requested features for the device and we would be surprised if it isn’t added. Perhaps the only feature more requested than GPS is cellular connectivity, allowing the wearable to operate without being tethered to a phone. Unfortunately, we would be shocked to see an LTE radio in this year’s Apple Watch. Cellular chips use a lot of power and the battery life just isn’t there yet. GPS, on the other hand, would only require a modest boost of battery capacity to be viable.

Speaking of which, a leaked battery allegedly for the Apple Watch 2 is said to be 334mAh in size. By comparison, this is over a 35% increase over the current 246mAh battery in the 42mm Apple Watch. This increase would provide longer battery life and provide the boost needed to power a faster chip and GPS.

Where is this larger battery fitting? Well, it would be very un-Apple-like to increase the thickness of something (after all, the company seems happy to place product thinness as their number 1 priority). It seems Apple is solving it’s space issue by shrinking the display components. A leak from British repair shop Byte shows a display with integrated NFC and relocated touchscreen controller. They also measured the new screen and found it to be 20% thinner than the original Apple Watch (perhaps Gorilla Glass SR+).  While a thinner display could mean a thinner watch, we believe that the Apple Watch 2 will maintain the exact same form factor as the original, using the extra space for the new larger battery.

We would be surprised if GPS, a longer battery life, and a faster chip were all that Apple has planned for the first update to the Apple Watch hardware. They need something compelling enough to make existing owners want to upgrade, and I am not sure GPS is that. Also with rumors that Apple might upgrade the original watch’s chip and sell the updated Apple Watch and Apple Watch 2 concurrently, they need to have a meaningful differentiator between the two models. We will be interested to see what Apple does with the first hardware refresh to their wearables tomorrow!